Day 3 in Myanmar: Bago Road Trip!

Road trips. I used to love road trips when I was young. My dad would bundle us all three kids into his car and he would just drive to random destinations along the countryside, telling us stories, and stopping at random places to let us explore. It was good times, and I certainly got my love of adventure from there.

So when the opportunity for us to have a road trip to a small town called Bago came up, I jumped at the opportunity. Three of the groom's friend joined us for the trip to act as our local guides, and at precisely 8 am Tuesday morning, the six of us, including our driver, bundled together in one taxi and began our close to two hour journey from Yangon to Bago.

Like in Yangon, our trip for the day revolved mainly around pagodas and religious points of interests. There were several spots in which we can visit around Bago, and you have to pay a one time entrance fee of 10000 kyats (around 14+ USD) for all of the sites around Bago. The fee is not inclusive of the 300 kyats camera fees though, if you are bringing a DSLR camera, which is why I say the Burmese have an excellent way of making money of tourists.

Our first shrine visit was the Four Face Buddha, which is a relatively smaller shrine as compared to the rest that can be found in the town, featuring a large statue of Buddha in the middle of the shrine.

the four sides tower above visitors

Like other religious sites, visitors can offer their praying or donation towards the maintenance of the shrine. Or if you happen to be the curious tourist like me, take a lot of pictures of it too.

i have no idea what pose should i strike, so i went with that

Our next stop would be another larger than life replica of Buddha, this time in a lying position.

the sleeping Buddha shrine

While I didn't take the time to jot down the name of each of the shrines (it either eluded my mind or it was simply too complicated for me to remember), I could see that the shrines themselves are quite popular even with foreign tourists. Google tells me that the shrine's name is Shwe Tha Lyaung, an one can see that it is lined with donation plaques from around the world (primarily Thailand), and the have local tourists officers on standby, ready to swoop in when they find out that you are a foreign tourist.

This shrine itself has an interesting history about how a king built it after his daughter in law broke all his idols in his palace when she refused to worship the idols, but chose instead to worship Buddha. Interesting, huh? There was another reclining Buddha statue outdoor that was nearby to this (Google once again tells me it's Mya Tha Lyaung) but our driver did not bring us there for some reason, which I guess must have been the sun as the other one was out in the open.

the story behind shwe tha lyaung

The next pagoda that we went to was the Shwe Maw Daw pagoda, which I felt was somewhat similar to the Shwedagon pagoda back in Yangon.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda

According to Google (again), it is the tallest pagoda in Myanmar (which I did not know at that point), and also houses different relics from Buddha too. It was a shame that I didn't really know about the pagoda before visiting it (note to self to always do research before visiting a place), or else I would stayed a little longer.

Like Shwedagon however, the pagoda is surrounded with different smaller shrines and also faithful pilgrims. One difference is that it is not as crowded as Shwedagon, and it has several different religious items too, like a rock in the middle where the faithful planted their incense on.

only later did i found out that this was not a rock

It turns out that the rock that I was describing was in fact part of the temple that collapsed during an earthquake (thanks Google), and people put their incense on it as a form of good luck. Like I said, not having a guide who is well versed in English and not knowing Burmese can really put a question mark in your travels. And it was here too where a angry looking man chased me away because I did not pay the 300 kyats for the camera fees (which I just paid in the reclining Buddha shrine).

Of course, pagodas were not the only place that we visited during our road trip. In fact, we even dropped by a palace.

ladies and gentlemen, the Kanbawzathadi Palace

Built in 1556, the palace was much bigger than this originally but had burnt down and was reconstructed as a place for tourism. Like most iconic buildings in Myanmar, most of the interior are in gold. It's a shame that I did not get to see the real arrangement of how the palace was like though, as the palace now is more like a museum that what it had been like in the past.

The throne room was the only thing that remains, if I am not mistaken, and it was the closest that I could get to being a king myself. Like the other pagodas in Bago, you must have paid the foreign tourist fee before entering this place.

welcome to my crib

Along the way from Yangon to Bago, we also dropped by the Taukkyan War Cemetery, which looked more like a high class European garden than a cemetery.

excuse the tarp, but the actual place looked much nicer

The place was constructed as a memorial for the 27000 soldiers that gave their life during the World War 2 period, and one cannot help but to feel the haunting feeling as you walk across the plaques and read their inscription.

one of the example

It was kinda surreal to see that every plaque there symbolized a young soul (some even younger than me) who was gone too fast, too soon. It was hard to imagine too, how their life must have been, how the war must have been, for them to lose their life in a foreign soil. Scary, if you ask me.

Still, the place is a calm place to visit, and you could walk amongst the row of memorials there just pondering about the sheer number of people who lost their lives during the war. Entrance is free, by the way.

Last but not least, we also visited a wood carving place, where tons of amazingly detailed wooden statues were up for sale. Like tons. From the smallest Buddha replica, to some life sized ones. The amount of skill that accompanied each of the artwork was simply breathtaking.

even the frogs have better luck at love than me

this strangely reminded me of skyrim

the amount of sculptures here is not even half of everything

guess how small this fella is?

I wanted to buy one as a souvenir, but that would have costed me an entire month worth of salary.

Of course, visiting the different places was not the only thing that I got to see from the road trip itself. Getting up close to the normal Burmese and watching another culture at work was also very enlightening too.

a smiling baby who was excited to see the camera

a woman with thanaka on her face, playing with her minion strapped smartphone outside of a pagoda

trishaws was one of the many ways schoolchildren travel to school

one of the favorite type of public transport in myanmar

three children enjoying after school

I guess it's suffice to say that while our culture may be different, deep down inside we are not that different after all. And that was how my third day of trip went.

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Day 2: Yangon
Day 4: Wedding and Bogyoke Market Shopping

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