Kyaiktiyo: The Golden Rock
A remarkable example of Buddhist devotion, the Golden Rock is quite literally a huge granite boulder, covered in gold leaf layers which have been continuously added to by pilgrims over the centuries. Balanced, rather nerve-shreddingly, on the jutting tip of a rocky outcrop, the Rock’s apparent anti-gravity is attributed, to a strand of Buddha’s hair. As if that arrangement wasn’t precarious enough, a small pagoda has been built on top of The Rock, and viewing platforms have been built around it and underneath it ensuring that every angle is covered. One of the most important Buddhist sites in Burma. The Rock and its pagoda have survived several significant earthquakes, and visitors steam to the Kyaikhtiyo in pilgrimage between the full moons of October and May, with the traffic reaching its peak in December with 24th December to 5th January a period best to avoid due to the severe shortage of accommodation and transportation.
Women are not permitted to touch The Rock, & everyone must remove their shoes for the final approach.
Reaching the rock is no easy task. From the base camp at Kinpun you have two options. Most will board a truck for the hour drive most of the way up the 3615ft mountain, with the final mile stretch being covered by foot. It is a very steep climb and porters are available to help with any luggage (we advise you leave the bulk of it at the base camp). The alterative for those that want to earn their stripes at The Rock, is an arduous climb up from the base camp. Selective Asia’s Nick claims to have ‘knocked it off’ in 2 hrs 50 mins but he clearly enjoys his own suffering and the pictures of him at the top are not pretty. Most walk up in 4 to 5 hours although we advise that you don’t join the most devout pilgrims in attempting the walk barefoot!
There are several guesthouses at the summit and some near the disembarkation point. There are also a number of restaurants and various shops selling anything and everything that a pilgrim would require, ranging from gold leaf to noodles.
One of the most memorable sunrises on the planet? We certainly think so.