Pilgrims and foreign tourists that visit Kyaiktiyo spend the night at or near to Golden Rock. As it is logical a lot of personal items must be carried (blankets, food, kids!! etc).
We saw a lot of locals carrying these huge baskets in their back, where you can put anything you want to be transported. It's a tiring and hard earning money job and I can't determine if money can buy the harm done to someone's spine and joints by doing this several times a day.
An embarrashing experience
Where the trucks drop you off, it's another 45minutes (at least) walk up to reach Golden Rock. As we decided to visit the area at night and during daylight, that meant double effort.
It was ok for the night ascent, but the next morning I felt my feet joints bit bruised and aching me. So we decided to take the lazy option which I admit it was one of the most embarrashing memories in my life. We were transfered in specially designed carriages carried by 4 men. I wanted to hide my face from the eyes of people for using this sort of transfer rather than walking up, but my foot and time saving was a good excuse to myself. But never again (unless I grow too old)
Reaching Golden Rock
Now if you think that getting to Kinpun base camp (where the buses end up their trip) is enough to take you to Golden rock, then you're totally mistaken. Best things are to come!! From there it's a 35 minutes ride in the pumpy back of a truck along with 50 other travellers (mainly local pilgrim). It feels like a train ride in an amusement park, on your way up it's great fun, returning was a bit more painful specially if you end up with nasty bruises like I had. As the road is two lane only in some part, you have to spend some time waiting for other trucks to come up or down (extending your pleasure or torture). Luckily Kyaiktiyo is a popular place and the trucks fill up instantly! In fact you have to act fast if you want to get a goof seat. But remember Myanmaris are not too tall and the space in between the wooden benches is narrow. Price is around 0.5euro per ride. I am sure you can reserve a more relaxed seat next to the driver at a different price.
Getting to Kyaiktiyo
You have two options to get to Golden Rock:
1. You can rent a taxi either in Yangon or in Bago. This is a pricey solution. In fact our travel agency asked for 160$ each for a 2 day trip!!! In Bago which is almost half way, the price if you shop around can be at least 40$
2. Public bus. This is fun and cheap. The ticket costs around 4-5$ each way and the journey takes about 5.30 hours with stops that are very unpredictable. Advice: book a seat or else you might stand up the whole journey. Second, break your journey on your way to or from Kyaiktiyo to visit Bago (I strongly advice you to get the 8am bus to Bago, then sightsee the town and pick up the 1pm bus to Kyaiktiyo to arrive there just before sunset). Another interesting thing is that while in the bus you'll watch all recent musical VCDs with local artists which in fact was a great surprise.
If you don't wanna walk yourself, use this service. I strongly recommend you do use this service though, give something to the locals! It costs 12000 Kyat which only 6000 Kyat goes to 4 guys that carry you. The normal tip is 1000Kyat for each one of them. It takes about 20 minutes but that depends on your weight too :)
These guys tend to stop along the way to get something to drink. Don't let them. They make you pay but they instead drink water that they were offered for free and they would sell those soda!
- Religious Travel
HIking up to the Golden Rock
The trucks take you up the mountain from 6 to 6. I arrived late, around 7pm so I had to hike up the mountain. Luckily one of the guesthouse in Kinpun (Pann Myo Thu) employees offered to guide me. Ask for Aung. The hike in total is 4 hours. It is much better to do it when it's dark as it is not hot. I was fine with long pants and a t-shirt, until I got to the top. It gets chilly there in the dry season so you should take a sweater and a hat.
You can stay at the hotel at the top of the mountain. I had to come right down because I had to catch a flight the next morning.
In the picture, we picked up some torches, although you will need flashlights because the torches do not last 4 hours. A headlamp is best. You can also try hikiing in early hours of the morning to catch the sunrise. If you want to catch the sunrise your only options are really to go up the night before (probably by truck), and stay the night at the hotel up there . Or you can hike up early in the morning.
If you want to catch the sunset, I assume that you can catch a truck down right afterwards although that would be after 6 so I don't know for sure.
- Mountain Climbing
- Hiking and Walking
The last part of ancent to Golden Rock is mostly done on foot.
It is socially interesting to see monks, elderly, youth, families all climbing up the whirling road to the pilgrimage site
Do It On Your Own
I think the best way to enjoy the beauty of Kyaiktiyo is to walk from the Kinpun base to the top of the Kyaiktiyo and vice-versa. You can enjoy lots of fun and brilliant views along the way.
What A RIDE
If you're willing to spend a big money. You can enjoy a very special service when you're in Kyaiktiyo.