Golden Rock

 

Departed Yangon early this morning for a journey by road to Kyaikhtiyo, the Golden Rock. Late morning, arrived at Kyaikhtiyo base camp (approximately 5 hrs). Bago was where we made the necessary stop en route. We also had a look at the local fishermens' stalls where they sold fish caught in the river and dried in large numbers en site.

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Golden Rock is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State. Kyaikhtiyo attracts huge numbers, with an estimated 2 million people visiting every year. It is a small pagoda built on the top of a 7 meter high granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees. According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha's hair. The balancing rock seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. The rock and the pagoda are at the top of Mt. Kyaikhtiyo. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and the Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay. We had now seen all three. A glimpse of the "gravity defying" Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism

Nothing other than specially licensed lorries are allowed on the road beyond base camp - the road has a good surface, but is very narrow in places, and the lorries are hated at strategic points, before being allowed to progress over walkie-talkie in convoy. So we traveled from there by the local, open-air truck along a winding road (45 minutes). The truck takes about 50 people, crammed in like sardines. You can, as we did, pay extra for a seat in the cab so we got a bit more room and (perhaps) a bit more comfort.

From the truck drop-off, it was a 10 minute walk to our hotel, and from the hotel a further 20 minutes to the Golden Rock. On this approach, there are numerous other granite boulders on the mountain, perched in precarious condition. And near the top of the mountain, there are two large lions guarding the entrance to Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda. From this location, pilgrims and visitors have to climb to the Golden Rock barefoot, after leaving their footwear behind, as per Burmese custom.

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Novice monk initiation rites : During long school breaks, boys are inducted into monkhood with this ritual. On the day itself, the boys are brought to the monastery by parents and relatives dressed in gowns, crowns, flowers, sequences & glitters, stockings, and make-up. A big audience is gathered. The place itself is colourfully festooned. A small show consists of songs by hired singers accompanied by ensemble music, a pep talk by a layman and some rituals. After some photos with their parents, the boys are brought to the monastery to be stripped, head shaved, and bathed. Finally they are assembled in the hall in front of the abbot for some prayer recitation, oath taking and robe-blessing ceremonies after which they are totally stripped and dressed in their new robe vestment by their parents. They will usually stay the rest of their school holiday in the monastery.

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Mountain Top Hotel. The truck eventually drops you off at the final stop. From here you have a 10 minute walk to the hotel. Be warned, Golden Rock is a popular pilgrimage site for the Burmese, and the place is a heaving throng of people (very few Westerners)



From the hotel to Golden Rock itself is a further 20 minutes walk. Golden Rock was worth the journey for me. The balancing rock itself is incredible, and if you get to the right position you can see it totter. And the whole area is alive with pilgrims, food stalls, people sleeping on the ground, people praying, people adding more gold leaf to the rock (note women are not allowed to add gold leaf to the rock!)

The hotel is basic. The rooms are basic but clean. Our room actually looked onto the Rock in the distance. The hotel restaurant also looks towards the Rock, which is lit up at night. Wifi is confined to the reception area. Our bathroom again was basic but clean. We were happy with their breakfast and dinner. Nothing fancy, but like the rooms perfectly acceptable. I think that any Western tourists stay at this hotel. It is not overpriced. So although by no means a luxury hotel, is a very acceptable place to stay for a night when you come to Golden Rock. I would happily stay here again

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And so, back down the mountain by truck, and back to Yangon, via a rubber tapper's village and a Grapefruit Stall

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We then had to overnight in Yangon, in order to catch the flight to the far south of Myanmar - the Mergui Archipelago

On to Burma Boating

Burma Holidays