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el2995 Kyaikto - A travel report by USC
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Kyaikto,  Burma - flag Burma
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el2995's travel reports

Kyaik-tiyo Pagoda

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Kyaikto travelogue picture
The Kyaik-tiyo Pagoda, often referred to as the Golden Rock, is about a six hour journey by car from Rangoon, in Northwestern Mon State. The roads are laid out as such that one must first travel Northeast to the town of Bago and then Southeast towards Thanton. The Kyaik-tiyo Pagoda is an 18-foot tall shrine that sits atop a large head-shaped boulder gilded in gold leaf which sits precariously balanced high on the crest of a steep ridgeline; local lore has it that the balance is maintained by the powers of the Buddha’s hairs which are enshrined in the pagoda. Many make pilgrimages to this famous pagoda to pray and make offerings of flowers and incense to the Buddha, though only the male pilgrims and male visitors are allowed to venture onto the platform at the base of the Golden Rock to make offering of gold leaf, which are rubbed onto the rock’s surface to gain merit for the family of the donor.

Favourite spots:
Kyaikto travelogue picture
It has been said that getting there is half the fun; this is certainly the case with a road trip to Kyaik-tiyo. The road from Rangoon, which is best hit by 5 a.m., takes you past some military garrisons and then through scenic farmlands and vast stretches of paddy fields (which are visually stunning when illuminated by the rising sun), across the Sittoung River and up through stands of rubber trees which transitions into lush jungle as you switch from car to open flatbed trucks with rustic wooden bench seats that negotiate the steep one-lane concrete road that hairpins its way up to the summit. Due to an earlier vehicular accident which involved foreign tourist fatalities, all foreigners must exit the trucks at the upper base camp and either hike uphill for about 90 minutes, or be hand-carried by two-man sedans. I purchased a bamboo walking stick and straw hat at the base camp and made the trip on foot.

What's really great:
Kyaikto travelogue picture
At one point during the hike to the pagoda, foreigners even have to leave the concrete road used by the trucks and take a dirt footpath the follows the ridgeline; it is here where you see the most unique vendor stalls in addition to the numerous village huts that cling to the hillside. One was selling toy guns made of bamboo that said RAMBO USA along with some Burmese script on the stocks and receivers that my brother-in-law later translated to “IF YOU DON’T LOVE ME, SHOOT ME!” and “IF YOU WANT YOUR VILLAGE INHABITED BY ONLY WIDOWS, COME OUT NOW!” There are also shops selling traditional medicine (bear entrails, goat heads, dried snakes, bear claws, monkey skulls, elephant molar, tiger bone and centipede!)

Kyaikto travelogue picture
There are shrines dedicated to two of the famous Nats (spirits) that live in the area that feature colorful statues of the Nats in shacks with small diarama back-drops at the stopping point before the bridge where traffic to the summit becomes alternatingly one-way and you may have to wait in your truck 15 or 20 minutes for your turn on the road. While you wait, there's a scenic little creek with a small waterfall and some large rocks below the bridge that makes for a nice photo backdrop. When we were there, some village toddlers were bathing while their mothers were washing clothes in the creek.

Kin Pun village food vendor.
Kin Pun village food vendor.
We brought our own food for the journey, but there are lots of food stalls at the lower base camp hamlet called Kin Pun (use good judgement when choosing), and there are stalls on the road/trail that sell bottled water (purified by ultraviolet light and fairly safe if the sealed wrapper is intact) and snacks.

Other recommendations:
Kyaikto travelogue picture
Kin Pun was rather interesting. It is the starting point for those who want to make the full hike up to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (I've been told it is about 4 hours each way) or those who want to catch one of the white Hino trucks for the drive up through the jungle to the higher camp for the short (90 minutes) hike up to the ridge. A constant stream of hikers moves in both directions along the camp's wide earthen main drag, and the shops are full of people buying straw hats and walking sticks, or rations of snacks and bottled water for the journey from the numerous food stalls. If you have time, stop in Bago to see the Reclining Buddha and the British War Memorial Cemetary (South of Bago), though for us the trip just to Kyaik-tiyo alone took the whole day; it's best to do Bago separately, as you would need at least half a day to see Bago (minimum) if driving up from Rangoon.

Published on Sunday June 30th, 2002

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