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The South of Myanmar

BAGO

Global Mark : 11.91

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
3 3 1 5 2 3 2 2 2 10.22

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
10 90% (9) 10% (1) 100% 12 to 20 13.60


Description :
A noisy main street in the center, some record-breaking religious sights in the periphery and greeting people all over town.

Comments : As soon as arrived, you may wish to leave. This would be a mistake as the place is dotted with religious sights, some quite impressive...

What to do ? Wear your gas mask & earplugs while walking the main street / Walk along a covered pathway from the big gold pagoda (Swemawdaw) to a flowered hilltop shrine (Hintha Gon Paya) with fine perspective / Meet a 54.88m reclining Buddha with a 2.29m noise and 4.57m ears / Enjoy great panoramic sunset (or sunrise if courageous) on the top of a big white pagoda (Mahazedi) / Accept food or bicycle ride from local people / Negotiate pedicab (K50), horse cart (K20) or yellow three wheeled vehicle's rides / Buy wood carved souvenirs / Cross a bamboo bridge to or from the market (K3) / Watch Indian movies in one of the small local cinemas / 

What you may not like ? The noise, pollution & ugliness of the main traffic street / The unfortunate location of the GH & Hotels accepting foreigners : all on that street ! / The entrance fees to the sights / The 994AD Buddha which really does not look his age / The additional photo (K50) & video fees (K200) / Some pushy pedicabs drivers / The insects at night / The electricity short cuts / The usual bad Indian movies

How long ? Half a day is enough. 


Where to stay ? 

  • Silver Snow GH (22113), 527 Main Rd, near the clock tower / Room w. fan & mosquitoes net $3(1) or $6(2), w. shower $5(1) or $7(2) / No breakfast / Go there for the rather big wooden rooms with some charm & view, the slightly more quiet environment & to negotiate the prices down / What you may not like : the basic rooms at too high prices
  • Myananda GH (22275), No10 Main Rd, west of the river / Room w. AC $3(1) or $5(2), w. HW shower $4-5(1) or $6(2), w. local TV & fridge $6(1) or $8(2) / No breakfast / Go there for the cleanest and most comfortable rooms in town at good prices & to get tips from helpful Kyi Kyi / What you may not like : some days having electricity until 10pm only
  • Emperor Hotel (22108), No8 Main Rd / Room w. HW shower $4(1) or $8(2), w. AC $5(1) or $10(2) / No breakfast / Go there for the acceptable rooms, the powerful generator (so they claim) and the little extra (water, soap,...) / What you may not like : the lack of freshness & the cost of the little extra...
  • San Francisco Motel (22265), No14 Main Rd, near the railway bridge / Basic rooms $2(1) or $4(2), w. HW shower $3(1) or $5(2), w. AC & light breakfast $4-5(1) or $6-7(2), nice Trpl w. all the above $6(1), $8(2) or $9(3) / Go there for the cheapest bed in town and the acceptable rooms on the top offering good view / What you may not like : the very basic & grotty downstairs rooms, some very noisy upstairs rooms

Where to eat ? The street leading to the train station is busy at night with food stalls & small restaurants. A good fish curry with rice, veggies, soup & atmosphere can be found here for as little as K100... 

The entrance fees ? It cost $2 to visit each major sights (Swemawdaw, Shwethalyaung, Mahazedi & Kyaik Pun) and $4 for the museum. Alternatively, you can buy a global ticket for $6 "only". But you also have ways around : at Swemawdaw & Mahazedi, only the main entrance has ticket booth while the staff at Shwethalyaunguse stop bothering foreigners at around 17:30 (and at other time, it is possible to spot the Buddha from a distance)

 << Discover a few temples


Backpacker's Tips : Lai Nam Khim, Singapore (Dec 04)
i. I took the Phyoe Express from Yangon from the Thakhin Mya Park bus station (about 2km west of Sule Paya). I was there at 8:30am about the counter was closed and I was told that their first bus was at 11am! (I was told there was a bus at 9am) I met an English couple who arrive 10 mins after me. They also thought there was buses at 7am and 9am based on the information they had! It was only K800 to Bago and it was the most comfortable bus ride I had throughout Myanmar!

ii. The entrance fees structure has changed. Instead of individual fees at each temple, it is now a universal charge of USD$10 irregardless of how many temples you actually visit.

iii. It appears to be a regular thing for rickshaw drivers to help tourist avoid the USD$10 fee. My rickshaw driver was honest with me. He told me I could
either pay the government $10 or he could help me avoided the payment and I could tip him whatever I wish. I chose to avoid the government charge and in the end gave my rickshaw driver the full $10 I would have otherwise pay the government. Note that you should tip the rickshaw driver if you choose to avoid the entrance fee, because at some temples, you can't avoid the officers and the rickshaw driver would have to bribe the officers. However, not all rickshaw drivers are honest. The English couple I met told me that their drivers told them they could either by the tickets through the government or through "private company". They asked them to give their $20 (for 2 person) to them and they would buy the tickets for them.

iv. the rickshaw charter for the day was US$5. You could bargain it down to US$4, though I didn't have the heart. The drivers make a hard living. Their rickshaws are rented for K800 a day. Apparently, this year (2004) has been a dry year for tourist arrivals. Even at the peak season, my rickshaw had not managed to get a tourist for 4 days and was just gratefully happy I had decided to hire him. (I found out these as I chatted with him along the way after I hired him). However, a general advice would be to bargain such services down, and then later give back as tip if you find it worthwhile.

v. If you can wake up early, catch the impressive sight of a few hundred monks walking in procession for their alm rounds. They would come by via the slip road that is between San Francisco hotel and Emperor hotel and cross the main Yangon-Mandalay Rd about 5:45 to 6am. I bought a few packages of biscuit the night before and offered to them as they came around. These are the monks from the Kha Khat Wain Kyaung.

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
With Rickshaw drivers Tuntun and Kin (you will find them in the coffee shop) you can visit in one day - or two times 1/2 day - some pagodas, a laying Buddha, the monastery, the steam train, ... You pay these very funny guys (Their hobby is to make sure you pay NO admission for whatever) what you want !


Leaving Bago ?

To Yangon, an interesting option is Phyoe Exp Buses (23344) as they do not stop at the north Highway Station but further south (see below story). They leave from the office next to Shwemawdaw but passes the GH. Pick-up leave regularly until around 7pm but go to Hsimmalaik Station. Finally, trains leave at 7:50, 9:40, 10:30, 16 or 19:20. The 2 hours ride cost $2 ordinary or $5 upper class. 

To Mandalay by road, you will have to catch a bus coming from Yangon. Emperor Hotel can book any company for a K200 commission's fee and half a day notice. Also, a few companies have representations in town : Toe Exp has an office near Bogyoke Aung San Equestrian Statue (K1800, pass at around 20:30, 13 hours). Four trains a day (7:50, 18:50, 21:20 & 22:50) also do the trip in 13 hours trip for $11 ordinary or $26 upper class. 

To Mawlamyine, buses also have to be booked from Yangon. They pass at around 10pm. 

 

Bus Schedules :

To Company Tel Cost Type Time D
Yangon Phyoe Exp 23344 180/150 ordi/pick-up 6:30,7:30,8:30/na 1.5/2
Kinpun na na 500/300 AC/pick-up 8:30/na 2.5/3
Kyaito na na 400/300 AC/pick-up 10:30,13:30,15:30,17/na 2/3
Pa-an na na 600/400 ordi/pick-up 8/na 5/6
Mawlamyne na na 900/700 AC/pick-up 21 to 22/na 8
Mandalay Toe Exp ? 1800 AC around 20:30 12

Notes : D = duration /  To Mawlamyine from Yangon


Trains Schedules :

To Deluxe Cost Ordi Cost Depart Arrive
Yangon $5 $2 7:50,9:40,10:30,16,19:20 10,11:35,12:30,18,21:30
Mandalay $26 $11 7:50,18:50,21:20,22:50 21:10,7,10:35,11:30
Mottama $11 $4 9:55,23:50 17,7
Bagan $28 $10 11:50 5
Kyaikto $5 $2 10 12:30


The trip to Yangon : SS / L / K180 / 2 hrs / AC Bus
The bus stopped on time in front of Emperor Hotel and the ride went smoothly, with not much to see except a few temples and a war cemetery just before reaching Yangon on the left side. The fun started upon arrival...
When buying the ticket, I had been told that the bus would go all the way to Sule Paya. Indeed, we passed the North Highway Bus Station at 8:10 and continued south. We reached destination at 8:40 but there was no Pagoda in sight. Only an empty field with a few buses. As nobody could tell me where we were on the map, nor if there were buses to the pagoda, I insisted for the Bus Company to pay for the taxi fare (K200). And I got it !
Actually, the Pagoda was not too far away, around 2km to the west on Mahabandoola Street so it was only half a lie to say that the bus was going to Central Yangon. Public buses to Sule Paya should also be available along the road or from Kyone Gyee St (you could also ask to get off before) so, as long as you know what to expect, it remains an acceptable option from Bago. 

See also the trip from Kyaikto