Myanmar has 3 temples of major importance
In my opinion, every trip must have a quest. Today I have fulfilled mine. Myanmar has 3 temples of significant importance; the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, the Mahamuni temple in Mandalay, and the Golden Rock Pagoda in Kyaiktyio. So today, finally, I reached the latter.
Trying to catch a bus to Chiangaing
Quite an adventure by the way. It all started this morning at the Bago bus station. Tin, my motor driver, took me there. We had to wait a while for a bus to arrive heading to my destination. Every time one of the busses came, Tin rushed to the road with my big backpack, having to return to his steps three times due to the bus being full.
To Chiangaing on a stool between the fixed seats
Eventually, we manage to get a place for me at the bus station itself. That is to say, I have to settle for a mini wooden stool between the fixed seats. And in Chiangaing, I have to transfer to a pickup that would take me to Kinpun in 20 minutes, the so-called base camp for the trip to the Golden Rock Pagoda.
On a motorbike taxi to Kinpun
On the way to Kinpun, I notice that the road we are driving on is mostly the one I already traveled 2 days ago during my detour trip to Bago. Halfway through, however, we are heading in the right direction this time, instead of going to the Thai border. Once I arrived in Chiangaing, I either have to wait an hour for the bus in the right direction or hire a motorbike taxi that can take me to Kinpun in 30 minutes. I opt for the second choice.
Sitting in the back of a truck to visit the Golden Rock Pagoda of Kyaiktiyo
To reach the Golden Rock Pagoda of Kyaiktiyo, you must take a truck that brings you to the starting point of a walking staircase. The ride in the back of a truck turns into an experience I will not forget easily. The vehicles do not leave until they are packed; in other words, until nine rows of six people have taken a seat on a wooden board. Packed like sardines, you have to drive up the mountain for half an hour at a fast pace.
An experience in hardship
You get swung back and forth without any maneuvering space. A hard nut to crack for the – smaller – Asian fellow men, let alone for leggy Europeans. But what makes it somewhat bearable is that you experience this hardship together with the local people. Despite the relatively painful ride, I cannot help to keep smiling while we undergo all of this suffering.
A 45-minute climb to the Golden Rock Pagoda
Once liberated, you have to embark on a really steep climb on foot, a 45-minute trip, fortunately on a very passable road, but more endurance is guaranteed. Moreover, I arrived during the hottest part of the day, so I sweat heavily. Once at the top, you can finally admire this famous Golden Rock Pagoda. You can even touch the rock, which I eagerly do.
A brief encounter with a Muslim girl at the temple site
While visiting the Golden Rock temple site, I notice after a while that a girl is following me. A bit later, she dares to speak to me; she is a Muslim from Bengal. She would like to photograph me – with my camera – in front of the golden rock. That makes her happy. I agree, but it never becomes clear why that makes her feel so good. I ask her, but she is not able to give a reason.
All my quests for this Myanmar journey fulfilled
After about an hour, I decided to start descending again. My knees nod; I have not eaten since this morning. Tomorrow I will still be aware of this effort, I fear. But I also cannot get rid of the thought that I have completed my – albeit strenuous – quest for this Myanmar journey.
No legroom in the truck when driving down to Kinpun again
However, the adventure is not over yet. You have to take the truck down to Kinpun again. It takes almost an hour before there are enough passengers and before the other vehicles have passed from the ascending direction. And the return trip is definitely more painful than the outward journey. I have no legroom at all this time. But along the way down, I enormously enjoy the natural scents.
Kinpun is merely a base camp for the pilgrimage to the Golden Rock Pagoda
The town of Kinpun itself has very little to offer: the village is entirely focused on the pilgrimage to the Golden Rock Pagoda, which is almost exclusively visited by the Burmese people themselves. But my overall conclusion on today`s trip is that I really did not want to miss this day for any gold, straight with my nose (and body and members) into Burmese culture and customs.