Rising at 5:30 for sunrise I made my way back through departing pilgrims to the rock. The rock glowed to a purple and orange backdrop. The rituals and chanting continued and the offerings were cleared and renewed. Many monks completing their pilgrimage came from Thailand and massed in groups to take photographs in the rocks shadow. Once again an awesome experience and a highlight of the trip.
Another hour passed and I returned to the hotel, we climbed aboard the trucks for another eventful journey this time down the mountain. Our next stop was the ancient town of Bago were we had stopped for lunch the previous day. Formerly known as Pegu, Bago was founded in the sixth century and served as a capital city for both the Mon Kingdom and the Myanmar Empire during various periods from the 14th to the 17th century. First we visited the Shwemawdaw Pagoda, which is actually the highest pagoda in Myanmar at a height of 375 feet (many people credit the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon with this distinction even though it’s a fib.
Originally built in the 10th century to a height of 70 feet, it has been restored several times due to earthquakes (three in the 20th century alone), and is said to hold hair and tooth relics of the Buddha. The stairways leading to the pagoda are guarded by huge white mythical beasts which are half lion and half dog.the Kyaik Pun Pagoda, which is home to the Four Seated Buddha shrine, a 90 foot statue with images of the four Buddhas sitting back to back facing four directions. This shrine was reported to have first been built in the 7th century and renovated in the 15th century. We took the short ride to the diss appointing concrete edifice of the Palace Complex before taking lunch. Bago is also home to the Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha….this 180 foot long and 56 foot high Buddha rests its head on mosaic glass pillows. It was first completed over 1000 years ago, and was rediscovered by the British in 1881, when it was restored. It sits in a ramshackle aircraft hanger of a building so that from many angles the lattice columns kill the views, in saying this it’s an incredible monument.
Finally we arrived at the Kyaik Pun Pagoda, which is home to the Four Seated Buddha shrine, a 90 foot monolith with images of the four Buddhas sitting back to back and facing off to North, South, East and west. This shrine was reported to have first been built in the 7th century and renovated in the 15th century. The area was awash with fruit sellers and puppies claiming to their vastly undernourished mamas.
Returning to Yangon on this last leg of tour some of us headed to 19th street in China Town for street food and a “couple” of beers before returning for a monumental sleep.