The town of Bago lies to the northeast of Yangon, and is often still known by its British name, Pegu. Although its modern profile is diminished, in part because the river which gave rise to its status as a seaport has since changed course, the old city was the onetime capital of the Mon Kingdom, founded in 573 AD, and was then known as Hanthawaddy.

One of Bago’s main visitor attractions is the 55 metre (180 feet) long Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha, dating back to the 10th century. Almost unbelievably, this colossal and seemingly unmissable monument was lost to the world when the Mon Kingdom was finally defeated by the Bamar (Burmese) people of northern Myanmar, whereupon the great statue was absorbed by the jungle, and later rediscovered by railway workers.

Reclining Buddha, Bago, Myanmar
  
Another prominent feature of the town, and of similar vintage, is the gilded Shwemawdaw Paya, the tallest pagoda in Myanmar, standing at 114.5 metres (376 feet), eclipsing the better-known Shwedagon Pagoda of Yangon.

Once the seat of power during the brief domination of the northern Taungoo kingdom, Kanbawzathadi Palace is a beautifully ornate reconstruction of the original teak building, a surviving remnant of which can be viewed in its museum.

Just to the south of Bago, another colossal statue depicting the four sitting Buddhas of Kakusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa and Gautama, each facing the cardinal points, stands at an impressive 27 metres (90 feet) tall.

Beyond Bago, further north, the Moeyungyi Wetlands Bird Sanctuary is a good spot for spotting waterbirds, of which there are 125 species, including Sarus Cranes, Swamp Hens, White Storks and Egrets.

To the east of Yangon, across the delta, Pathein is famed for its brightly coloured handmade Parasols, fashioned out of silk and waterproofed cotton, and provides an interesting sightseeing break for travellers heading to the beaches from Yangon, with a pleasant waterfront, colonial buildings and fine local structures, such as Shwemokhtaw Paya.

Reaching the coast, west of Pathein, the beach of Chaung Tha offers the opportunity for a swim, and is popular with the locals. Further south, Ngwe Saung beach is a 13 km stretch of fine white sand, highly developed at its northern end and typically endowed with clearer waters than that of Chaung Tha.

Ngwe Saung beach, Myanmar

Offshore, Bird Island is a good snorkelling spot, as is the closer Lover’s Island, which is accessible by foot at low tide. Myanmar's premier beach resort, Ngapali is further north up the coast at Thandwe.

Ngapali beach, Myanmar

Within the southern delta, Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary offers a chance to imbibe the atmosphere of the timeless local life upon the delta, explore its mangroves and wildlife, including estuarine Crocodiles and Irrawaddy Dolphins. In the winter months, large numbers of migrating water birds are also partial to a stopover in the area.

 

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