Thursday 2nd Feb – Yangon to Mt Kyaiktiyo
We left really early to beat the traffic of Yangon, but needn’t have worried as our new driver was the reincarnation of a past rally driver and hit every speed bump with gusto, getting us to our check in at the Eternity Resort Hotel in the Kyaikhto Township in record time.
After lunch and a wander we regrouped to catch the local transport up the mountain to the Golden Rock of Mt Kyaiktiyo. The local transport is basically a pick up truck with a roof, with rows of narrow seats with a small amount of padding. The seats are so close together your knees are poking into the butt of the person in front.
They normally pack 6 people per row but being fat westerners we booked 3 whole rows for 12 of us, paying for extra space so we could fit. The route is up a steep hill that winds the 7 miles to the religious site, but honestly the journey is a fairly religious experience in itself as the driver throws the truck up around the switchbacks and tests the brakes on the downhill.
Once at the top, its a 15 minute wander through the usual souvenir stalls and food sellers to the religious site. The monument is a huge boulder balanced precariously on the edge of the mountain, legend has it that the boulder stays in place due to a precisely placed Buddha hair in the stupa on top… it is of course completely covered in gold leaf and only men are allowed to cross the small bridge to add more…
On a nearby peak there is the “boat” that bought the rock and a mystical king to its precarious position which also transformed into a boulder on arrival. Yes you guess it… it’s also gold.
It’s a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists and lots of families were making their way up the mountain to spend the night on the platforms surrounding this holiest of shrines. For those unable to make the walk, porters transported them in bamboo sedan chairs while other porters carried luggage in bamboo baskets.
We endured the bone shaking journey back down the mountain in our truck – which was probably even more terrifying than the journey up – and then calmed our battered coccyxes with some cold beers