The drive from Yangon to Mt. Kyaiktiyo in Mon State took around four hours. My hotel was in Kinpun, a small town with restaurants and shops, but not much to see. Kinpun serves as base camp for Mt. Kyaiktiyo.
In Kinpun, I climbed the steps of a custom-built platform and hopped into the bed of a large, roofless truck fitted with benches. The trucks seat around 40 people, with five passengers squeezed tightly into each row. While I knew that Mt. Kyaiktiyo is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, I was still surprised at how quickly the truck filled up with passengers. We didn’t have to wait long for our truck to begin climbing the seven winding miles to the Golden Rock. The drive up the steep mountain felt like a roller coaster ride as we dangerously sped around sharp turns. A couple of times I was airborne from bumps in the road, landing painfully on the hard bench. Half-way up the mountain, the driver stopped for 15 minutes to allow the trucks speeding downhill to pass. It took 45 minutes to reach the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo.
The Golden Rock is a huge, gold painted boulder with a small pagoda perched on top. The rock clings precariously to Mt. Kyaiktiyo, the Buddhist legend being that the Golden Rock is held in place by a strand of the Buddha’s hair, stopping it from tumbling down the sheer cliffs below. Men (only) are allowed to walk over a bridge to the boulder and attach gold leaf squares to its surface. While the Golden Rock is unique, for me it was the excitement of the Buddhist pilgrims that made the place special.
Many of the pilgrims sleep overnight on the mountain summit in rest shelters, but foreigners are not allowed to stay overnight. Therefore after spending some time admiring the unusual site and soaking up the atmosphere, I boarded a return truck to Kinpun. The drive downhill was another roller coaster ride, but this time with squealing breaks. I arrived in Kinpun safe and satisfied with the day’s adventure.