A whizbang two and a half hours of siteseeing!

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Apr 08, 2006

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Flag of Myanmar  , Bago,
Friday, January 20, 2006

I left Kyaikhtiyo at about 8:30am for the two hour journey to Bago. I wanted to spend some time here as there were a number of large buddhist statues and pagodas, including the tallest in the country. My next stop after Bago was Kalaw, and I was hoping I had a enough time for siteseeing before boarding the overnight bus for the fifteen hour journey.

The ride to Bago was somewhat confronting for two reasons as I began to see, on a very small scale, how the military government oppresses the people of Burma. On no less than three occasions did the bus stop and everyone except the few foreigners on board had to get off to register at a checkpoint. Even more disturbing was the sight of some forced labour just off the side of the road. I could see that the military's presence was everywhere, although it frustrated me a little that I didn't know more about exactly what was going on. I guess a few books and four days in the country is far from enough time for that though.

Upon arrival in Bago I picked up a ticket for the 2pm bus, which gave me just over two and a half hours to have a look at some of the sites. A young moto driver, Aung Ko Lwin, found me pretty quickly, and it seemed he had my time in Bago planned before I did! "We've got enough time to see five sights and eat lunch before your bus" he told me, and that sounded just perfect.

To begin with we went to a small cigar factory, where local women rolled cheroot leaves for the small cigars. After seeing a cigar factory in Havana I didn't find this all that interesting, but as we were leaving Aung Ko Lwin made a small proposition. He explained that there was a $10US fee to see the sites of Bago, and every cent of that went to the military junta. I was aware of this and not happy about paying it, however I did want to see the sites. Aung Ko Lwin proposed I instead pay him $5US (plus $3US for the hire of the motorbike of course!) and he would show me where to get a good view of the sites without having my ticket checked. This sounded like a great plan, so I agreed.

During the next hour and a half we visited a buddha park at Anadar Pagoda, a huge reclining buddha that was currently under construction, the giant Shwethalyaung reclining buddha, the huge 114m high Shwemawdaw pagoda and one of the three largest monasteries in the country. I was hurried along by Aung Ko Lwin at Shwethalyaung, and was actually spotted by a guard as I took photos at the Shwemawdaw pagoda! I actually found myself bolting back down the stairs of the side entrance to get away! Despite these rushed visits, I was happy in the knowledge that none of my money went into the hands of the junta.

I would have liked to have spent more time in Bago, but with only 23 days remaining on visa I knew I had to keep moving. Bago seemed like a nice quiet town and it would have been great to explore at my own pace and fully appreciate the sites, but there were bound to be more interesting places to see! Unfortunately the three hour bus ride from Kyaikhtiyo followed by the rushed the siteseeing and lunch left me mentally unprepared for the huge journey ahead, being the overnight bus ride to Kalaw.
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