Visit to Mt. Kyaiktiyo, also known as Golden Rock, in Myanmar
Our first stop after Yangon in our backpacking trip around Myanmar was Golden Rock, or Mt. Kyaiktiyo.
Golden rock is literally a giant rock coated in gold on what seems a precarious balance on a cliff. It’s one of the most popular images of Myanmar, after Bagan, and the most important pilgrimage site for Buddhist of Myanmar.
To get to Golden Rock we took a bus from Yangon to Kinpun, a small town that lies at the foot of the mountain where the site is. We slept there and in the morning we took one of the many trucks that cover the 7 miles to the top of the mountain. They are open trucks with wooden benches; not very comfortable, but the drive isn’t too long, less than one hour.
The trucks take you close to the temple, there are only a couple of chilometers to walk to the rock. Despite this, if you don’t feel like walking you can be carried there on a stretcher or in a basket on the shoulders of a young fellow.
These few chilometers are actually a pleasant walk because you meet souvenir sellers, bbqs offering meat skewers, other kind people selling religious items.
Why you should go to Golden Rock
Some fellow travelers I met told me they didn’t go to Golden Rock because it’s overrated and too touristic. It is true that it is very touristic. Being one of the most important pilgrimage sites there are many worshippers that go there every day. But this is what makes it so fascinating to a foreign eye, in my opinion.
Worshippers spend hours in this place (that is big and includes various little temples and squares), they spend the day sitting on the floor talking, eating, praying. It looks like a family holiday trip. In Italy there are few people that would take this trouble for their belief. So I’m glad I went. Not just because I have a very instagrammable picture of the cool rock leaning on the emptiness, but because I witnessed an important moment for the Buddhist community of Myanmar.
There are some hotels on the mountain, just at the entrance of the area, and it would probably be nice to spend the night there and photograph the rock at sunset, but they are much more expensive than other hotels in Myanmar, and I decided they were not worth it. So we took one of the last trucks that go back to Kinpun, before 6pm.
While we were going back there were people arriving; they were going to spend the night there, sleeping on the floor, in the cold and fog. And even in the rain, if they must. No tents, no roofs on their heads, just a blanket to save them from the bad weather that often occurs on a mountain.