The city of Bago, Myanmar is a well known tourist destination for its many archeological sites. Tourists, experts and dig enthusiasts come to these exotic destination in a country that is as equally mystical. It is only two hours away by car from the major city of Yangon (formerly Rangoon). Myanmar or Burma is still relatively growing its tourism industry having been separated from the rest of the world for many years. Today, its major cities of Yangon and Mandalay are steadily developing as important cities in Southeast Asia, while its ancient cities, such as Bago, are gaining popularity as important tourist sites.
The Mon people were first to settle in Bago or Pegu. This ethnic group was one of the first to occupy many areas in Southeast Asia, but primarily Burma. They were also responsible in spreading Theravada Buddhism in the country and in Thailand. Myanmar shares borders with Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, Bangladesh and China. The ancient city of Bago was established in 825 by two Mon brothers, Thamala and Wimala, and became the capital of the Mon Kingdom. It was first mentioned in 850 as a major region by an Arab geographer named Ibn Khudadhbin. Also known then as Hansavati or Hanthawaddy, Bago became a flourishing port city of ancient Mon Kings and the Second Myanmar Empire founded by King Bayinnaung. It was so popular that the Gautama Buddha himself knew about it. According to popular beliefs, the Lord Buddha and his disciples visited this important Burmese city eight years after his enlightenment. Legends say that as he was crossing the nearby Gulf of Martaban, which was at a low tide at that time, he saw two golden sheldrake ducks sitting on top of each other. The Buddha interpreted this as a prophecy that someday this country will embrace his doctrines and philosophies.
The Mon people abandoned the city for Thaton and in 1056 the Burmese people from Bagan occupied it. After a few more centuries later, the Burma took control of the Mon Kingdom of Hanthawaddy, which is now Lower Burma. In 1539 and again in 1613, the seaport city of Bago was declared as capital city and was used as military and economic base. Europeans regularly visited its coasts and documented the magnificence of this province. In 1634 the capital was moved to Ava and in the early 19th century the river shifted its course and thereby cutting off the region of Bago from the sea. Since then, the former capital lost its glory and political importance and never regained it. Today, the province is a laidback tourist destination, known for its historic significance and ancient landmarks. Its two main districts are Hanthawaddy and Henzada. There are no hotels in Bago.
Three of the major places of interest here are the Reclining Buddha, Kanbawzathadi Palace and Shwemawdaw Paya, among many others. There are a number of reclining Buddha images in every Buddhist country because it is an important figure symbolizing eternal bliss. This one in Bago, Myanmar is called Shwethalyaung Buddha. It is the second largest Buddha in the world, measuring 55 meters long and 16 meters tall. It was built in 994 during the Mon Kingdom under King Migadepa. It was lost in 1757 after the city was pillaged, and was discovered only in 1880 under the cover of jungle growth.