Like the Pyus (predecessors of the Myanmar people), the Mon people arrived from the north a little earlier. But, instead of Ayeyarwaddy, they ventured down Salween (Thanlwin) River and their capital was the “Golden Land of Suvanabumi (now Thaton) on the east side of the Sittaung River.
At that time, Pegu (Bago) was a tiny island off the coast in the Gulf of Martaban (Moattama). In 825 A.D, this seaport was found by two brothers from Thaton which later was never recovered from the conquest King Anawrahta of Bagan in 1057. In 1287 when the first Myanmar Empire fell down after 250 years, at the hands of Kublai Khan, the new Mon Empire was established at Martaban (Moattama) near Moulmein (now Mawlamyaning as its capital to Bago (Hanthawaddy) in 1365. In the golden era of Bago that lasted until 1635, many sacred monuments were left behind.
Bago is frequently mentioned by early European visitors as an important seaport. In 1740 the Mons, after a period of submission to Taungoo, reestablished Bago as their capital, but in 1757 King Alaungpaya sacked and utterly destroyed the city.
Hinthagon Gone Pagoda
It is the foremost site of Bago area, Hintha means “Mythological bird” (looks like water geese) and gone means a small hill.
According to legend Bago was a tiny island and was so small that there was only room enough on the island for one bird Hintha. The mythological story has it that the male and female birds flying over the sea could not find land to rest, and so the water geese’s mate had to perch upon his back. Buddha saw the condition of the two birds and prophesied that after many long years of his demised a new city would be founded and named Hanthwaddy (the land of Hintha birds). And thus you’ll find the statue of two birds one on top of the other in front of the Pagoda. And also it became the symbol of Bago City. Even today, the people are joking that they do not dare to marry “Hintha”.
Shwe Tha Lyaung Buddha
It is a popular Temple with the most beautiful reclining Buddha and is another sight for tourist to see in Bago. Though it is not as large as Yangon’s Chauk-htat-gyi Buddha built in 1907, but is much better known and loved.
Bago’s reclining Buddha was built in 994 AD by king Miga-Dippa of Bagan. But it was left and neglected for many hundred years. It was overgrown with weeds, shrubs and trees until 1881 when the British colonialists were building a railway line nearby. They found the image of Buddha in a shape of severe damage. Later it was renovated by the Myanmar devotees. After Independence, the statue was renovated, regaled and given a new coat of paint up to its present form by the Union Government and the People. It is 180 feet long and 52 feet high at the shoulder.
Mahazedi (Great Stupa)
After passing a wall on the left of the road near Shwethalyaung you’ll come upon the Mahazedi of Bago. Unlike most of other large stupa in Lower Myanmar, the Mahazedi has steep stairways winding two-thirds of the way up its exterior. It was built by king Bayint Naung who enshrined the sacred Tooth relic in 1559 A.D.
Kalyani Thein (Kalyani Sima)
Kalyani Sima or Hall of Ordination lies near Shwethalyaung Pagoda. It was built in 1476 by King Dhamazedi, for the purpose of cultivation and development of true Buddhism. On the premises of the hall of ordination there lie ten large stone slabs containing detailed information of the history of Buddhism in Myanmar. There stone are inscribed in Pali while the other seven in Mon. The Portuguese de Brito destroyed it first in 1599 and the same fate followed during the earthquake of 1930. It was rebuilt in 1954.
Moneyingyi wetland, covering 40 square miles, is located in Bago and Waw townships of Bago division, It was established in 1986. It is 70 miles(112)km from Yangon and easily accessible by car. It is one of the best birds watching places in Myanmar.