The Golden Rock in Myanmar is one of the most important religious sites in the entire country. While often known and called the Golden Rock, it is also known as Mount Kyaiktiyo (pronounced Chai-Tea-Yo), which is the mountain that the Golden Rock is situated on.
Individuals come here from all over the country, and in fact the world, to add gold leaf to the rock and worship. The rock itself seems to somehow defy gravity by being delicately balanced on the edge of the 1,100 metre high mountain. It's quite impressive but has to be witnessed to appreciate.
The site is said to have welcomed Buddhist pilgrims for over 2,500 years. Legend says that the Buddha visited the area and gave a hermit a strand of his hair. This hermit then went to the King and asked him to enshrine the hair in a boulder. The King in turn found a suitable stone and, using his magical powers, bought the rock to Kyaiktiyo. It is the Buddha's hair inside the rock that is said to prevent the Golden Rock from toppling over the mountain edge.
For tourists, the attraction is not only the Golden Rock, but also the panoramic views that stretch out in all directions. From the summit of Mount Kyaiktiyo, it is possible to see for miles across the Mon State landscape, with the best views unsurprisingly happening at sunrise and sunset.
How To Get There
Mount Kyaiktiyo is around a 4 hour drive from Yangon by car. If you wish to take the bus, then the journey time stretches out to about 5-6 hours. It's also possible to reach the site from Hpa-an, and this again will take about the same time as from Yangon.
Once you reach the town of Kyaiktiyo, which is the base camp, you then have three options to choose from when deciding how to get up the mountain.
The first option is to take a typically crowded open-top truck, which drives up the 3km road to the summit of the mountain. The trucks go at a quite alarming speed around the tight bends, and the space is limited, but this is the quickest way to ge to the top, with buses starting at 5am and finishing at 6pm in the evening.
The second option is to take the bus halfway up the mountain, before disembarking and hopping on Myanmar's first cable car which opened only last December (2017). This the mode of transport costs just over $10 for a return trip, and is proving a very popular way to get to the summit.
Finally the last option is certainly the most strenuous, but also the most rewarding. It is possible to hike from the base camp of Kyaiktiyo to the summit, walking along the pilgrimage path that has been cut into the mountain. This will typically take around 6 hours, and it is fairly steep with a lot of steps for you to take in. As mentioned though is it a highly rewarding experience, and allows you to appreciate much more this religious site. The route is very easily signposted and also allows you to take in some of the amazing views and stupas along the way.
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Festival
The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Festival takes place late in the year, often in the middle of October, and features food offerings and a candle lighting ceremony at night, which illuminates the mountain. If you are in Myanmar during the festival, it's well worth a visit as the atmosphere is very friendly and joyous.