The city of Bago is a two-hour drive from Yangon and it is one of the major historical cities in Myanmar. It is believed that the city was built in AD 753 by two Mon princes. In the 13th century, Bago was the capital of the Mon kingdom and until the 17th century it was an important port city. Only when the Bago River sought a new riverbed, the city lost its former importance. Nowadays Bago has a population of nearly 500,000. Most of the people here are Buddhists and the city has many historical buildings, famous temples and monasteries.
On the site of the original Mon-city "Hanthawady", King Bayinnaung had a palace built in 1556. King Bayinnaung was a founder of the Second Myanmar Empire. Under his rule Myanmar reached the greatest extent. But most conquered areas were lost under his successor Nandabayin again and the palace was burnt down in 1599. The palace complex measured 1.8 km on each side. The palace consisted of 76 apartments and halls. The foundations were excavated only in 1990 by archaeologists. The buildings were reconstructed according to ancient models and finished in 1992.
About 5 km from the city center, a short distance away from the Bago-Yangon Road, stands the Kyaikpun Pagoda, which was built in 1476 by King Dhammazedi. On a plinth, the four 30-meter high Buddha images sit back to back and point in the four cardinal points. They represent the Buddhas of our era: Gautama in the north, Kakusandha in the east, Konagamana in the south and Kasspa in the west. The figure in the west was destroyed by an earthquake in 1930, and all Buddhas have been restored in recent years.
Taungoo was once a royal capital, and the city flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is 280 km from Yangon and about halfway from Yangon to Mandalay. Taungoo is an important trading center for teakwood from the Bago Yoma and the Kayin State. Among the locals, Taungoo is famous for its areca or betel nut palms. There are still working elephants in the forests between Taungoo and Pyay. The visit to the elephant camp is a very special experience.
Pyay is a small provincial town in the west of Bago Region and is located on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River. The city was already a commercial center in the Bagan era and today it is a port city with an up-and-coming industry. It is an important hub on the way to Rakhine State on the west coast. In the center of the city there is an equestrian monument of General Aung San. There are famous pagodas to visit in Pyay and the surrounding area, and the ruins of Sri Ksetra, a world heritage site, are of particular archaeological interest.
The town of Shwedaung is located about 12 km south of Pyay and it lives from the cultivation of rice and vegetables. Shwedaung is known for the Shwemyatman Pagoda, where the only Buddha statue in the world that wears glasses can be seen. The 6 m high Buddha wears huge, golden glasses, which is slightly tinted. Legend has it that King Duttabaung founded the pagoda in 443 BC. However, at the time the Buddha statue was completed, the king went blind. He had the idea of having glasses made for the Buddha Image to get a healing power for his eyes problem.