I've really enjoyed taking to the bike in Myanmar and Bago is another place that works quite well. I took the 0632 train from Yangon which was full of life and locals. Possibly worth the trip in itself.
My plan was to ride the train to Bago and back and spend the day cycling between the sites. I'd spoken to someone who had already visited Bago and stayed the night, so took the short walk from the train station to Emperor Hotel where the receptionist introduced me to his brother-in-law who in turn rented me my bike for the day for 2,000Ks.
I'd read about the sun-set views over the city from one of the Paya's on the east-side of the city, so headed west first. Back over by the train station and take the right-hand turning at the split in the road got me to my first stop at the Maha Kalyani Sina temple
. This is a living temple which houses many monks and is also home to the Sacred Hall of Ordination
. The temple itself is not really much to look at, though the Sacred Hall of Ordination is quite something (must be entered from the west, approaching the Buddhist shrine face on). It's a really nice place to walk around and a great place to talk to the monks. Most of the tourist buses just drive straight by here making them even more welcoming. Across the road is a small shrine on a water-tank.
Back on the bike and carry along the road in a westerly direction for a few minutes until you reach the next junction where you turn right. On your right-hand-side of the junction you will see the Four Figures Paya and behind this is a group of seated Buddha statues. The four figures aren't much, but the way in which the seated Buddha’s have been placed is quite intriguing indeed.
Across the road you have the Naung Daw Gyi Mya Tha Lyaung
. I met a young man here that was trying to sell postcards and hats. I was sat beneath the shade or a tree eating oranges so not a target for his wares. He was kind enough to sit with me and share his local knowledge all for the price of a few small sweet oranges that I had picked up from the market In Yangon the day before. He told me that the first part of the name tells you what the Buddha is made of; in this case it was an emerald reclining Buddha. I followed his guidance and carried on north towards Shwe Tha Lyaung Buddha
; another reclining Buddha that is housed under a roof. This is part of the $10 ticket and considering it is 70ft shorter than the first, not worth it. Shwe means gold, making this a golden reclining Buddha. Poh explained to me that the best time to visit was before 8am and after 5pm. Foolishly I assumed that this was because of the rising and setting sun. Wrong. He explained that by visiting outside of these hours I would avoid the government charge of $10. I chose not to go in, instead milling around outside enough to get a few choice photographs.
Bike again, continuing along the road and at the junction, take a left towards the unmissable Maha Zedi Paya
. There’s a donation box for tourists that want to climb to the top of the views of the rest of Bago and a small charge for use of your camera. I followed the dirt-road around the south of the Paya and continued south on the rough road towards Shwe Gugale Paya
, virtually constantly responding to the calls of “Mingalaba” of local children. I guess I’d taken a short cut that wasn’t the norm for tourists or just that normally everyone travels on a luxury coach? It’s worth getting off and having a walk around here and if you want to cool off, then hire a rubber ring and lounge in the river with the locals. The small temple at the centre of the “water tank” has 4 paths leading to it and if you’re lucky you’ll get some great shots of the local children or novice Buddhist monks crossing over.
Back north to the junction and then east back to the main road. Back by the train station up towards the clock tower. We stopped at Hadaya Café for a cold drink, warm tea and a chicken-dumpling snack (opposite Emperor Hotel).
At the clock tower, take the right-hand fork and continue for about 10 minutes until you reach a concrete archway/ doorway over a side road to your right. The arch is adorned with a white elephant
and you will have already ridden by the Shwe Mawadaw Paya
. This is the “extremely difficult route” described by the intrepid Lonely Planet guide which to me seemed quite simple? Through here you can get to the Snake Temple
and a rather drab Zedi (called Shwetaungyoe Paya
) that does offer amazing views over the city. For the temple take the first left along the lane as you head south along by wooden huts you’ll no doubt spot the tourist buses. Otherwise a child-like impersonation of a snake is more than enough to get you guidance! The snake is something to see. I would say behold, but I really don’t think I would have the strength to pick it up!
It’s just a few minutes between the Snake Temple and the Shwetaungyoe Paya with the amazing views. At the snake temple look North-west and you should spot it. From the Zedi you will get some fantastic shots of the Kanbawzathadi Palace and Shwe Mawdaw Paya both of which should fall under the $10 ticket that you may or may not have already purchased! I rode back on a parallel to the main road, riding by the palace to a free glimpse.
Dropped off the bike and picked up a few snacks on the way through the market back to the train station.
All in all, a really nice day trip. Next!
PS - Here's a link to the Bago map that The Leaping Lemur tweaked for me! Thanks for putting my route in order. Map of Bago