Day trip to Golden Rock and excursion in Bago

13-14 October 2014 

The Golden Rock is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Myanmar and consists of a large granitic boulder laminated with gold leaf, impressively located on the edge of a cliff. Also known as Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, getting to Golden Rock requires a long drive from Yangon via Bago, an attractive city home to Burma's highest stupa, a giant reclining Buddha statue and other interesting attractions.

Golden Rock
The destination for this day excursion from Yangon, is the Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda), an important place of Buddhist pilgrimage in Myanmar. Reaching this place at 1100 meters above sea level, along the mountains of the Eastern Yoma, it is not easy or fast...
Getting to Golden Rock
How to get to Golden Rock? After a long journey by car from Yangon, I reach the town of Kinpun at the foot of Mount Kyaiktiyo, where the trip to Golden Rock continues by open-air truck, the only vehicle permitted to travel along the winding road to the top of the mountain. It's very interesting to know that the rate of 3000 or 2500 kyat (about US$3) includes life insurance, as explained by this sign at the truck station.
How to get to Golden Rock Open air truck to Golden Rock
The open air trucks to Golden Rock leave from Kinpun only when they are completely full, with tourists and locals compressed all together like sardines in a can. Getting to Golden Rock during the rainy season may be uncomfortable and difficult. The trip in the truck takes about 45 minutes and covers a distance of 16 kilometers.
Shortly before arrival at destination, the conductor reaches the "survivors" on board to collect the ticket price.
Street food

On top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, near the sanctuary, there is a small village that also include some spartan hotel where to spend the night and where to buy local food.
Buddist monk
The Golden Rock is a large granitic boulder laminated with gold by the faithful who go there on pilgrimage from all parts of Burma, to pray. The Golden Rock, which has a height of about 7 meters and a circumference of 15, is balanced precariously on the edge of another large granite rock, along an inclined.
Golden Rock
Rocks in balance
Photo of Golden Rock. The contact surface between the Golden Rock and the inclined plane below is very narrow and it is believed that the rock is actually retained by a hair of Buddha.
Pilgrim praying Stitching gold leaf
Surface of Golden Rock

The faithful on pilgrimage to Golden Rock , pray and pay homage to Buddha by sticking gold leaf on the rock, which is now completely covered with many layers of this precious metal. Access to the close proximity to the Golden Rock, as well as in all other places particularly sacred of Myanmar, is reserved to men only.
The sun goes down and "sets" behind the Golden Rock.

In the immediate vicinity of the Golden Rock there are numerous small shrines where the pilgrims pray.
Kyaiktiyo paya
A shrine on top of a hill offering a beautiful view on the stupa approximately 7 meters tall mounted on top of the Golden Rock.
Meanwhile, some stall is selling crepes made with pasta from rice.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Golden Rock photos. The Golden Rock is especially impressive at sunset and, since the shuttle service between the sanctuary and Kinpun is not active at night, you may want to sleep in one of the few hotels available on top of the mountain, instead of visiting the quickly during daytime.
Monte Kyaiktiyo
Golden Rock at night
Burning incense

During the night, the Golden Rock is illuminated while the faithful light candles and burn incense.
Road to Golden Rock Road to Kyaiktiyo
The next morning, the long journey back to Yangon begins, starting with an open air truck bound for for Kinpun that travels along the narrow, winding road down from Golden Rock.
Sheets of rubber
While driving from Kinpun to Yangon, I visit a rubber plantation, where there are sheets of rubber exposed to dry.
Rubber tree
Rubber tree plantation

The rubber plantation consists in a real forest, where the trunks are engraved to let the latex to escape.
Giant grapefruit
This region of Myanmar is also known for the production of large grapefruits, very tasty and quite sweet.
Shwemawdaw temple

Bago is a city in Myanmar located about is a 2-3 hour drive from Yangon, which is home to a number of interesting attractions such as Shwemawdaw Paya, known to be the highest stupa in Myanmar.
Shwemawdaw Paya
With its height of 114 meters, the Shwemawdaw Paya is the tallest pagoda in Burma. Dating back to the tenth century, the structure has been damaged several times by earthquakes, restored and modified over the centuries.
Shwemawdaw Pagoda
Walking with sun umbrella

Walking barefoot during the middle of a hot day in late summer, is not really comfortable, but the pilgrims look to be accustomed (access to all the sacred places Burma is permitted only with no shoes and no socks, even for tourists).
This brick structure was originally located on top of the central stupa, but collapsed and falled down in 1917 during an earthquake.
Python Sacred python

The tour continues in Bago visiting a temple where the monks live together with a python of 26 years, that is considered sacred.
Kanbawzathadi royal palace
Then I visit Kanbawzathadi royal palace, originally built for the king Bayinnaung in the 16th century, but a few years later destroyed by fire and rebuilt between 1990 and 1992.
The special feature of Kanbawzathadi was to be supported by hundreds of pillars made ​​from a single piece of teak wood , some of which (pictured right) were extracted during archaeological excavations and put adjacent to the modern concrete pillars.

Photos of Kanbawzathadi Royal Palace in Bago, Myanmar.
Reclined Buddha Shwethalyaung Buddha
The trip in Bago continues with a visit to Shwethalyaung reclined Buddha statue, that is 55 meters long and 15 high (this is currently the second largest Buddha statue in the world). Originally dating back 10th century, the statue has recently rebuilt.
Sitting Buddha statue Kyaikpun Paya
In Bago I visit also Kyaikpun Pagoda, where there are four 27-meter high statues of seated Buddha, oriented to the cardinal points.
WWII Memorial in Myanmar
Just before reaching Yangon, I visit a memorial dedicated to World War II.

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