Pilgrimage to Golden Rock

Golden Rock or Kyaktiyo is is one of the prime tourist sights in Myanmar. It is literally a golden rock (because of all the golden stickers countless pilgrims attach to the rock for good luck and what not) with a stupa on top of it positioned on top of another rock in a funky way. According to the legend a hair of Siddharta Gautama inside the stupa is what maintains the delicate balance. True or not, Golden Rock is a major pilgrimage destination, which draws thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. Now he rock itself was a huge let down and would not recommend anyone to visit it, unless if you are a hardcore Buddhist. The main problem with it was the rock looks tons better on pictures than in the real life. What promotional pictures do not show is the surroundings of the rock, which are quite built up with shops, hotels and all things commercial. After you make it through all this crust, the rock looks rather disappointing. However, the point of the pilgrimage is not the destination, but the journey, which was quite interesting indeed.

The idea to visit Golden Rock was born spontaneously. Sometime on the way out of Inle to Hpa An by night bus, we decided to do a small detour to Golden Rock. So upon arriving to Yangon just before the sunrise, a friendly local guided us to the bus to Kyaikto (whether it was for a small fee or totally gratis remained undetermined). Another four hours in the bus and we were finally in Kyaiktiyo, where they put us we on a taxi going to Kinpun, a village in the base of the mountain hosting the rock. In Kinpun we left our backpacks at a hotel and immediately proceeded to take a truck leading to the rock. Some words should be said about trucks, which for whatever reason are the only allowed form of transportation to Golden Rock itself. Trucks are of a regular kind with an open platform used more commonly for transporting cargo. In order to transport people there are benches that can fit around 50 people. The driver really made sure the truck was filled up to the max and squeezed more people against the loud protests of white passengers until the platform was completely full. The benches did not have back support, so having the platform filled up with people doubled as a safety precaution. The ride was intensely scary and half an hour spent in the truck was arguably the most exciting part of the journey. The notice about life insurance included in the ticket price started really making sense during the ride.

Anyhow, we spent an unremarkable hour at the rock and took a truck back to the hotel, where we immediately booked tickets to Hpa An. Half an hour later a guy on motorbike appeared to take us to the bus stop in Kyaiktiyo. We expressed our concerns about fitting three people and two backpacks on motorbike with no helmets, but after a short, but fierce discussion they assured us it was totally safe and the promised travel time magically halved. Well, they turned out to be right about the safety part, half an hour later (instead of the promised 15 minutes) we made it safely to the bus stop. The bus never showed up though (whether there was a bus in the first place remained another mystery), instead the motorbike driver put us on a pick-up shared taxi and gave instructions to the taxi driver what to with us. Three hours later we made it to Thaton, where friendly locals guided to another taxi and finally arrived to Hpa An just before the sunset.

The end result was 24 hours of travelling with almost no waiting between changing vehicles and minimum effort on our part. In a way it was the most difficult, but at the same time the easiest journey I have ever taken. As if, the whole journey was predetermined and we were just going with the flow. Even if the rock was unremarkable, the journey was one of the top highlights of adventures in Myanmar.

This is what Golden Rock looks like in promotional pictures.

This is what Golden Rock looks like in promotional pictures.

A less flattering view over the rock. Going through a metal detector and leaving any bags outside is mandatory.

A less flattering view over the rock. Going through a metal detector and leaving any bags outside is mandatory.

Completing the last part of the journey to Golden Rock in a sedan chair being carried by four people is one of the options. We chose traditional walking over this option.

Completing the last part of the journey to Golden Rock in a sedan chair being carried by four people is one of the options. We chose traditional walking over this option.

Inside a Golden Rock truck. This one had back supports, though[

Inside a Golden Rock truck. This one had back supports, though

Life insurance is included in the truck ticket price. A threat or an opportunity?

Life insurance is included in the truck ticket price. A threat or an opportunity?

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