Pilgrimage to the holiest of the holy
Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
34Trip End Feb 06, 2013
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We arrive at Yangon airport and take a taxi to Bago, located about halfway to the golden rock. Just to make sure that we are booked on the flight to Bangkok later this week - arranged via telephone with Myanmar Airways International the previous day but confirmed via email - Esther pops in to their airport office: everything is fine, however we have to take their word on it, nothing in writing
Bago turns out to be a very positive surprise. The hotel is basic but fine. After our 'fabulous Galaxy experience' in Mandalay we were a little apprehensive as Bago is the cheapest hotel on our trip. The city has a super relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant (best noodle soup in Myanmar) and the teahouse (surprisingly with free wifi) just across the street are great places. We can book bus tickets to Kinpun (at the foot of Mount Kyaiktyo, with the golden rock on its top) directly at our hotel. But the absolute highlight is a sightseeing tour by motorbike, with two nice gents who show us two reclining buddhas, the highest pagoda of Myanmar and a mysterious snake temple. There is actually a real snake, a 6m long python, who has a very comfy environment here: a team of caretakers, a home with own swimming pool, every two days lots of chicken and a pile of money... You would not like to meet her in the jungle, but here she looks very relaxed. Or maybe that's just her trick :-). On the other hand, she is supposedly the reincarnation of a princess, and princesses wouldn't attack people, would they? We have a nice sunset moment at the highest point of Bago and deeply miss a gin&tonic :-). We try palm fruit instead for the first time, which is delicious.
It's 6 o'clock next morning when we have to leave to catch our bus
Foreigners are not allowed to be transported to the top, which means a firm walk up the steep road in the blazing heat around noon. And what about our luggage? Since we have booked one of the mountain top hotels: The Mountain Top Hotel! It would not be Asia if they would not have a solution for that: they call them carrymen, we call him a gift from Buddha (see photo) for 8000 Kyats only. How this tiny thin man runs up the hill with our 30kg luggage is a mystery. We follow him after a quick lunch for energy.
Climbing up we pass a lot of little shops with food, coconut and coca cola yelling vendors. Very strange and only seen here: bamboo guns, pistols, machine guns and knives from all world wars and labelleld Rambo and USA. Apparently very popular with the monks. Another strange thing we see - photos not allowed - are baskets with parts of goats: heads, bones, intestines and other indefinable things
The golden rock is the holiest place of burmese buddhism, what mekka is to the muslims: you have to go there at least once in your lifetime. We recognize here the photos that we saw in houses during the trekking from Kalaw to Inle: proud couples posing in front of the rock. Of course we want the same picture! I feel priviliged to have a hotel room just 5 minutes from this holy place.
On our way to the golden rock we meet Yves again. He was not able to get a room at the top and is on his way down, back to Kinpun.
There is not only the rock here! It is a big square with lots of people, socializing, praying, playing, having fun. A lot less religious than we thought. And this goes on for 24 hours. The closer you get to the rock, the more religious it gets. Until you cross the bridge to the rock itself - men only - where you can paste goldleaf and ring the bells. At night the place looks like a carnival. So many coloured lights and people hanging around. But even here they have issues with power supply: suddenly everything goes black and we get a view of the incredible starry night. Around the rock there is much more intens praying at night, lots of candles, incens and singing monks (see movie).
Back in our hotel we have a hell of the night, because Esther has a case of food poisoning and we don't know how to get of this mountain the next morning
Frank arranges a taxi but after 5 minutes waiting for the taxi driver to return we get out and into a different one with a nice driver and two nice passengers from Yangon. They invite us for tea in their home and present us to their mother. But in these circumstances we need to decline and get on to our hotel, the same hotel where we started 18 days ago.
We had plans for a nice dinner on our last night in Myanmar, but we stick to a bowl of noodle soup from the supermarket and the lights go out for Esther at 20.15 h and for Frank at 20.30 h.