The holiest site in Bago, Shwemawdaw Paya, around 2km east of the centre, is the tallest pagoda in the country at 114m. It’s said that the original stupa was built here during the lifetime of Gautama Buddha, but it has been destroyed many times (most recently by an earthquake) and the current one dates back only to the 1950s. A column of bricks on the south side is all that remains of a fourteenth-century gateway.
A five-minute walk east from Shwemawdaw is a smaller pagoda, Hintha Gon, most notable for its nat (spirit) shrine in which ceremonies are often performed to bring good luck to worshippers. Look out for the buffalo-horned female nat, Nan Karai, worshipped by the Mon alongside the usual 37 nats.