Mar 29, 2015

Myanmar's amazing Golden Rock

John and I have been to Myanmar many times but the most
amazing site in a country of many amazing sites is the Golden Rock.  On our recent trip we stayed at the Park Royal Hotel in Yangon.  The hotel is wonderful with great service, a bountiful multi-ethnic breakfast, and a wonderful staff. 

We booked a two-day one-night tour to the Golden Rock.  Our driver picked us up in an air conditioned car for the five-hour drive. We passed farmland, rice paddies, and villages.  It was time for picking watermelon so there were many roadside stands selling them.  Visiting the Golden Rock is very popular as it is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site.  When we arrived in
Kyaikto, the small town at the base of the mountain that is home to the Golden Rock, the driver dropped us off where trucks were lined up to take people up the twisty nine-mile mountain road.  It was very organized. We climbed into the back of a truck with rows of narrow, padded benches - six to a bench and ten rows. Luckily I had an outside seat so the view was great. Some people walk up the mountain but it takes hours. The ride takes about 30 minutes.  I thought we would end at the top
where the Golden Rock is located but no such luck.  After we climbed out of the truck it was still about a 15-minute uphill walk to our accommodation, Mountain Top Hotel, and then more walking uphill to the flight of steps leading to the Golden Rock. The Golden Rock is at an
altitude of 3600 feet. I didn’t hesitate to hired a sedan chair with four porters.  They were excellent. They waited while we dropped our overnight bags at the hotel and when we got to the bottom of the steps I thought that it was the end of my portage; but, no; they went up the long flight of steps.  Truly amazing!  And, well worth the $20!  

The Golden Rock is amazing and defies the laws of nature as it balances precariously on a table rock and has for more than two thousand years.  It is said that Buddha gave one hair to a hermit
who carried it until he found a suitable boulder.  Upon this boulder the hermit built a pagoda in which he enshrined the sacred Hair, and there the hair of Buddha, the pagoda and boulder remain after more than 2,500 years and several violent earthquakes.  We had a magical view of the rock during dinner.  Many of the pilgrims spent the night sleeping on mats near the rock. On our return to the Park Royal Hotel we saw a new Myanmar tour bus with the side professionally painted with the logo of Las Vegas.  It is especially incongruous consider there are no gambling establishments and/or western chain restaurants in the country – yet.

By the way, the official name of the country is Myanmar and has been since 1989. It was called Burma by the English during the time of British colonization. The Burmese are just one of over 136 ethnic groups in the country. They are the largest group so the British called the country Burma.  In 1989, in order to be more inclusive of all ethnic groups, the country officially reverted to the historical name of Myanmar; however, many Americans and British are still unfamiliar with the name change.