The Golden Rock in Myanmar (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda).

The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - visiting the Golden Rock in Myanmar.

The slopes of Mount Kyaiktiyo in Myanmar.The Golden Rock and it's small Pagoda in Myanmar.view looking towards the Golden Rock Pagoda in Myanmar.The 2500 year old 24 foot high Pagoda is sat on top of a fairly large gold plated granite boulder - the rock does give the appearance of requiring very little encouragement to fall down the steep sides of the mountain into the valley but so far has obviously resisted doing so. The pagoda is enourmously important to Buddhists since it is said to be the location of a strand of the Buddha's hair - making it probably more or less equal in importance to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and the Mahamuni Pagoda (near Mandalay). The legend is that during a visit to the area the Buddha gave a strand of his hair to a hermit called Taik Tha. The hermit kept the hair within his own hair in a hair knot and searched for a rock which was the same shape as his head. He subsequently gave the hair to his King who along with his mother had located a suitable rock at the bottom of the sea and this rock was taken by boat (the Kyaukthanban Pagoda) to the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo and a pagoda was built on top of the boulder. Incidentally the boat then apparently turned into stone - this is situated close by.

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How to get to the Golden Rock and thoughts on where to stay.

Situated at the base of Mt. Kyaiktiyo, the small town of Kinpun is the nearest location to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. The nearest airports are at Yangon and at Mawlamyaing - note the latter has an exceedingly limited amount of flights - as of March 2015 in fact there is one flight a week to Yangon and one to the capital. Kinpun is around 190kms from Yangon (going via Bago using the NH1 and NH8) and takes around 3 to 4 hours by taxi - you can get this for around USD80. If travelling in from Mawlamyaing it's around 155kms by using the NH8. If going from Yangon to the Golden Rock an alternative to a taxi is to use either the buses or the trains - somewhat more inexpensive but slower and not too convenient. There are a couple of quite expensive hotels situated up at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo - these are in fact only a short stroll away from the Golden Rock. Alternatively visitors could stay at one of the many lodges and guesthouses down at the base of the mountain at Kinpun - these are considerably cheaper to stay in.
Well loaded truck about to leave for the Golden Rock Pagoda in Myanmar.View from the truck as it goes up Kyaiktiyo Mountain in Myanmar.A truck waiting for passengers at the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Myanmar. Visitors and Porters heading up to the Golden Rock Pagoda in Myanmar.

The only way - apart from walking up the 11kms - to get to the Pagoda is by using one of the lorries. In March 2015 the cost one way was 2500 Kyat - same price for tourists and Burmese - however foreigners also will have to find a 6000 Kyat entrance fee at the top. These lorries have tight rows of wooden bench seats and visitors are packed in until the lorry is completely loaded - perhaps it's fair to say somewhat overloaded. Only then do they leave for the mountain top. In reality there are usually so many people waiting that the lorries go every few minutes - especially in the morning and later in the afternoon. It is quite a bumpy trip up the mountain but there are great views as the narrow pot-holed road goes up the side of the mountain via many hairpins. Note if you have back problems this trip might be a bit too much to put up with - however as of March 2015 the mountain road is gradually being repaired and the new surface is considerbly less bumpy - so probably will be fully mended soon.
Walking towards the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda near Kinpun in Myanmar. Perched on it's golden rock - the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Myanmar. The chasm and bridge leading to the Golden Rock Pagoda in Burma. Women are not allowed to go all the way to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - Burma.

You leave the lorry virtually at the top of the mountain and from there it is a reasonably easy walk of just several 100 metres initially down a little and then up a bit of a slope which is lined with stalls, souvenir shops and some cafes to the start of the pagoda complex itself. The walk up really is not too difficult/strenuous even in the hot weather however visitors can be carried all the way up to the Pagoda itself by porters if they wish. Once at the complex it is necessary to remove your shoes (and socks) - you can leave them but most people carry them *** - bringing a carrier bag with you is therefore useful. On this point it is also worth making sure you have plenty of water and a bring a hat too - drinks and food can also be easily purchased from stalls scattered around the area.
There a couple of flights of wide not very steep steps to walk up which take you to an extensive and exposed paved area - The Golden Rock is situated on the far side of this square and to the left. Note that during the day it can be very hot on the soles of your feet whilst walking around here. There is a narrow chasm between the square and the Pagoda which can be crossed via a wooden bridge - note women are not allowed to cross over to the Pagoda.
The Kyaiktiyo Mountain high point - Myanmar. Market area on the far side of the Golden Rock Pagoda Square in Myanmar. On the far side of the square a steep flight of steps takes you down to a narrow and busy market area - if you follow on along here you can then climb back up via a covered walkway to the highest point on the mountain. *** one of the reasons for carrying your shoes is that you can wear them again if chosing to walk on past the square up to the mountain top.
To go back down the mountain just return to the truck-stop and try and pick one which is nearly full so nearly due to leave - they do go very frequently i.e. once full up but maybe sometimes wait until 3 or 4 are ready to leave. The journey down is perhaps even more "interesting" than going up - they drive much quicker and hammer their brakes right on the start of the hairpins - so the trucks tend to sway around a fair bit - perhaps not for the nervous.

A little about Kinpun Village itself.

The village obviously exists just because it is a good access point for visitor going to the nearbye Golden Rock Pagoda. The village is really busy up to around mid morning with trucks and coaches and so on all over the place - and of course many people wandering around. Things do die down a little during the hot part of the day with fewer trucks making the trip up but then from around 4'ish things get going again for a few hours as people head up to the Pagoda for sunset.
A Kinpun Village stall - Myanmar. Kinpun high street artisan shop - Myanmar. Small stilthouse at Kinpun Village - Burma. Some beautiful flowers seen at Kinpun Village in Myanmar.
However by about 6 o'clock the village really does quieten down with just a few people who are actually staying there to be seen. There are a few places to get street food along the high street plus several restaurants and places to get a beer or similar - the guest-houses (which tend to be on the edge of the village) also have restaurants where you can sit down for a meal.
Shop selling bits and peices at Kinpun in Burma. Shop selling local spirits (alchohol) at Kinpun - Myanmar. Houses situated on the edge of Kinpun Village in Myanmar. Kinpun High Street - Myanmar.
The village is of interest for a wander around in the late afternoon - there are loads of stalls selling food and sometimes alchohol plus quite a few sourvenir shops situated up the "main street" - and if you go on past them you reach the often ramshackle houses where the locals tend to live.

Is it worthwhile going to The Golden Rock Pagoda is perhaps a reasonable thought.

Kinpun and hence the Pagoda itself are quite some distance from other locations in Myanmar - obviously if travelling between for instance Yangon and Mawlamyaing then a stop off is quite reasonable to do but going there specifically from say Yangon is quite an expensive proposition. From a tourist point of view - rather than visiting for religious reasons - there is not really much to see there considering what is involved. Also the cost of getting up to the Pagoda is somewhat high for foreigners at USD12 plus accommodation costs all add up. And in the end probably most people will only spend maybe an hour or so looking round at the top. Of course the fact is that the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is unusual and is a very important part of Burmese culture and so visiting it is quite desirable from a tour of the country and seeing as much as possible of it.
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