Activity: Overland Travel from Yangon to Bago, Myanmar

Activity: Overland Travel from Yangon to Bago, Myanmar

“A visit to Bago, Myanmar allowed a quick visit into the heartland of the Yangon Division of Myanmar. With access to a private car and a guide, we were able to get around to see many of the local sights with excellent local interpretation.”

For our next day, I had arranged for a car and driver through the hotel to take us on a private trip to Bago – about 90 minutes drive along a very bumpy 4 lane highway North East of the City. Our travel schedule didn’t allow for a more intensive trip up to Mandalay but I wanted to get out to see a bit of the heartland. It’s also worth noting that, at the time of our visit, like some other countries, the entire country is not open for exploration. Similar to North Korea, you’re only permitted as a foreigner to travel to specific areas. Military check points on the highways kept people in check. The highway itself was in terrible paved but rutted condition, having been built by military engineers. It made for a very bumpy ride at highway speeds.

Today’s route in dark blue

The Lonely Planet guidebook described Bago as a collection of gaudy religious sites – and there were quite a few. They were spread out over a large area, so having a private car and driver was very handy indeed as the public transport to and from the sights was almost non existent.

However, the charm of Bago was the in fact local kids and their surprise of seeing westerners that was the most entertaining part. The children at the school next to the Buddha probably hadn’t seen a digital camera with a screen for a while because they were super excited to see us and have us take their picture. If you look closely, you can see the thanakha– sunscreen made from local tree bark that they use on their faces since they don’t buy or have access to any for purchase.

Shwethalyaung Buddha:

We made it through several other religious sites, including a 2 km walk across a religious complex barefoot where Ms World Traveler 73 got bitten by some red ants. The foliage was so green and leafy, from an era gone by.

Kha Khat Wain Kyaung Monastery:

We also visited the Kha Khat Wain Kyaung Monastery complex where the monks were in the process of writing their final exams. The Kha Khat Wain Kyaung Monastery is one of the three largest monasteries in the country. It was a lot like B-School back home with everyone studying except these guys had more determination than I did and my other fellow students. 

Bago Market:

The red ants situation was quickly forgotten when it was time to go shopping. A stop at the market was another local’s interaction. Ms World Traveler 73 was able to get a metal stackable container for her lunch materials back home that were common in Myanmar. Of course, everything is for sale and the locals were interested in us foreigners as much as we were interested in them. For me, it was the spices that were the most interesting part of the market.

Taukkyan War Cemetery:

On our way back to Yangon, we stopped at the Taukkyan War Cemetery. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The War Memorial was for all the British and Allied soldiers that passed in the Burma and Assad campaigns of World War II. There are some 6,374 graves honoured here, in addition to the 27,000 soldiers that are commemorated with no known grave.

The next day we boarded our return flight home: MI 511 RGN-SIN. As we were dropped off at the Yangon airport, we cleared customs again with no one in the foreigner’s line. I was surprised to see a Thai Orchid Lounge there that looked to be a room with about 6 chairs in it. Surprisingly, we didn’t run out of money, having paid cold hard cash for absolutely everything except the hotel for the last 4 days. 

Reflecting on our Visit:

I really enjoyed our visit there and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. The country did feel like it was Asia 75 years ago. Except that when I was 6, I wasn’t able to tell that there was an excitement amongst the air with the people as the country developed a-new. There is a renewed excitement amongst the people there. They were full of hope and wishes for a new future. Its always strange explaining to people that you just traveled 25 hrs in a plane to visit their country when many of them haven’t traveled 2 hours up the road and perhaps know no different in their lives. Yet these people seem much happier than the stressed out commuters back home. Perhaps that is what the attraction is about places like these. 

Editorial Note: Since we took this trip, the military junta government that governed for 39 years has installed a civilian government. They have followed with reforms to allow for the release of political prisoners and these reforms have led to a seat on ASEAN. I would believe the country to grow like any other as it matures into a new nation. 

Till our next adventure. . . Visit Myanmar soon while it still has its charm.

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