The Golden Rock on Mount Kyaiktiyo is one of the most divided attractions in Myanmar – people either love it or hate it. We didn’t like it at first… find out how it won us over!
Transport to the Golden Rock
Most buses arrive in Kinpun. From there, take a motorbike taxi to Kinpun – the base town for the Golden Rock.
The journey to the Golden Rock begins at the Yatetaung terminal. Here, converted dump trucks wait to take passengers, 40 at a time, up to the site.
- Tickets cost 3,000 kyat (front seat) or 2,500 (back seat) to the top of the mountain and the trip takes 35mins
- To Yatetaung Gate it is 1,500 kyat and a 45min hike.
All fares include life insurance…
The Truck Ride to the Golden Rock
The trucks fill almost instantly, with one departing soon after another, even in the low season.
In rows of steel plank benches, passengers are squeezed in, from every direction. Indeed, it’s not a ride for the faint of heart.
Along with the lack of any personal space, the trip is a precarious one up a steep and winding road.
However, on the back of an open-top, with the wind blow and wind chill as the truck climbs over 1,000m above sea level, it is also an exhilarating reminder of living in the moment.
Arrival at the Golden Rock
Descending from the truck, another interesting transport option is presented – the Golden Rock is only a further 15min walk away, but you have the choice of taking a sedan chair if you wish.
The porters (the chair comes with 4) are only too eager to lift and carry you all the way, ensuring a grand entrance.
Either way, the ticket checkpoint can’t be bypassed.
- Foreigners – 6,000 kyat
- Locals – free
Locals have a choice of many guesthouses on the mountain, foreigners can only stay at a select, and expensive, few.
The first truck departs at 6am and the last truck returns at 6pm, so catching sunrise and sunset at their peak, at the peak, is not usually feasible for most budget travelers.
Legend of the Golden Rock
According to legend, the Golden Rock is said to be precariously perched on a lock of the Buddha’s hair.
It was given to a hermit by the Buddha himself, who kept it secreted in his own topknot, until passing it on to King Thissa in the 11th century.
The hermit commanded the King to find a boulder in the shape of his head, and to then build a stupa on top to hold the holy follicle.
The King, who inherited supernatural powers from his alchemist father and dragon serpent princess mother, located the rock at the bottom of the sea and brought it to the summit of Kyaiktiyo Mountain.
Hanging off a cliff edge, the area of contact between the rock and the surface it rests on is perilously small, supposedly anchored by the hair of the Buddha in the stupa above.
Indeed, in Mon language, the name Kyaik-htiyo translates to “pagoda upon a hermit’s head”, in accordance with folklore.
The Golden Rock
Surprisingly, the Golden Rock doesn’t win any first prizes for first impressions.
“Just” 7.6m high (with a 15m circumference), it is dominated by a massive, surrounding plaza complex, made up of viewing platforms, places, purchases and paraphernalia devoted to prayers and pilgrims.
On the long approach, it doesn’t loom larger, still looking like a replica of the real rock, even at close range. It is this man-made environment, for a (largely) natural wonder, that greatly diminishes not only the visual but also the spiritual impact.
However, the longer you linger,, the more you’re charged with the atmosphere of the space and situation.
Just as the smoky clouds roll over the rolling green hills, as the highland chill sets in with the setting sun, the aura of the Kyaiktiyo is gradually all-consuming.
The first waves of sunset break through, the sky is streaked with orange hues and the golden nugget seems to shine sharper than ever. Mist and mysticism intensifies, as devotion centred on the rock physically and spiritually amplifies.
Ethereal in the floating clouds, the boulder balances in a transcendental purgatory between heaven and earth. In a fine equilibrium that has been in place since antiquity, the Golden Rock continues to stand the test of time, and gravity.
Accommodation in Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)
The Golden Rock is located in Kyaiktiyo, a dive town of zero other interest.
Sea Sar Guesthouse is the most popular choice of budget accommodation.
- Single room w/ fan and ensuite: $8.00-10.00
Air-con room: $30.00
Transport to Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)
Kinpun is the transportation hub Kyaiktiyo & the Golden Rock.
From Mawlamyine, the bus times direct to Kinpun are 7:30am, 1/1:30pm and possibly 10pm. Otherwise, buses to Kyaiktiyo (the town of the same name), in the direction of Bago and Yangon, leave regularly.
This journey took 4.5hrs with a tire blow-out and a repair stop. Tickets cost around 8,000 kyat.
A 20 minute motorcycle taxi from Kinpun to Kyaiktiyo costs 2,000 kyat.
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*** The Final Word – We didn’t like the Golden Rock at first but fell in love with its beauty at sunset ***
What did you think of the Golden Rock – did you love it or hate it?
Easy DIY travel outside city centres using public transport
Visited in June 2014