We stayed at the village of Kin Pun the night before we visited Kyaiktiyio Pagoda, more commonly known as the “Golden Rock”. The village was a little bit special, it looks like it was set up just as a stopover place for tourists and pilgrims. There are plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants on the main road, but we hardly noticed any tourists there.
The golden rock is a well-know Buddhist pilgrimage and one of the most sacred religious site in Myanmar. There is a legend that says that the rock, which is dangerously balancing on the edge of the cliff, is actually kept on balance by a hair of Buddha.
From Kin Pun to the Pagoda, the ride was a true roller coaster and we are not exaggerating! We left early in the morning and headed to the bus station down the main road. We were guided to one of those trucks which was full:
Squeezed at the back, we waited a few minutes before the driver turned on the engine. Just after a few meters on the road we looked at each other laughing, thinking we were in for a fun ride. The entire drive to the top of the mountain was crazy: it was fast, bumpy, we were shaken from one side to the other at every turn… it was a lot of fun (and a bit scary too…). Every person who wants to see the Golden Rock has to hop into one of those buses, it is an experience on its own!!
Once at the top of the mountain, we meet two other foreigner tourists who kindly gave us their entrance pass (the entrance is free for locals but cost around 6USD for us). We walk the last 500m to the rock. There were people offering to carry visitors in a chair all the way to the Pagoda, others to carry luggage for those staying at the hotel next to the Pagoda, and plenty of little shops for souvenirs.
We finally reached the Pagoda. The way this giant golden boulder is defying gravity is impressive! It is actually a granite boulder covered in golden leaves that people continuously add on the rock. There were very few foreigners which made us also one of the attractions for the locals. Several people asked us to pose with them in front of the rock or with their children…
The return bus ride was just as crazy downhill as uphill! We were back in Kin Pun around 12pm, and took a mini van to Bago. We arrived at 4pm and had 2 hours to kill before the night bus that would bring us to Kalaw. We had decided not to stay overnight in Bago although there are a few things to see there, but when we arrived at the bus station a man offered us to take us by motorbike to see 3 of the main attractions of the city during these 2 hours! So for 10000 Kiat each, we hoped on our driver’s motorbikes and went for an express guided tour and saw: Mya Tha Lyaung reclining giant Buddha, Kyait Pun Pagoda, and Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the tallest stupa in Myanmar.
It was an express visit, but we had enough time in each site to appreciate them. In the end we didn’t regret our decision not to stay in Bago, it is a busy and big city. This two hours motorbike tour was enough for us to enjoy what the city has to offer.