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December 19, 2003

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How can anyone follow up on the excitement from a golden rock balancing on a strand of Buddha's hair? We don't try. Instead we return to Bago and explore its streets. During the Mon dynasty, circa 10th-16th centuries, Bago dominated as a major seaport and capital of lower Myanmar. When the Bago River changed its course and cut off the city from the sea, Bago lost its lifeline and became a dusty provincial town that remembers greatness in the form of old temples and Buddha statues.
Light up a cheroot, a cigar wrapped in the bark of the betel palm. Women work for 8 to 10 hours every day in the factory, hand wrapping 1000 cheroots per day for a few dollars pay. Somehow they keep smiling and even give away a few free cheroots.
Bago couldn't call itself a city without a Buddha reclining nearby. This one claims to be the Southeast Asia's second biggest (after the one in Dawei) but it also claims to be the most lifelike. Buddha's eyes regard visitors and his feet lie splayed rather than parallel. A Mon King built this Buddha in 994 (restored in 1903). It's 180 feet long (a finger stretches to nine feet). We wonder who keeps track of the the biggest Buddha. The kids couldn't answer that question. Will the largest Buddha please stand up.