Visiting The Golden Rock, Kinpun & Why You Shouldn't Bother
Every long term traveller has a low moment or three along the way. It can happen at any time throughout your trip, often with little warning that the hot rage simmering away in your belly is about to explode. This 'rock bottom' moment could culminate in sitting on the floor of a train station in India and sobbing, for no other reason than being insanely frustrated. It may not, that might just be me.
I thought said train station blip was my rock bottom. Until I came to Myanmar, the country with a turbulent history and ripe for adventurous travellers to revel in semi-undiscovered freshness. A country with a distinct lack of tourists, but with much to see and do.
We loved Yangon. The people were friendly, the food divine (yes, really!) and the sights astounding. The guidebooks were right! Then we started travelling and quickly realised that Myanmar is one of the most expensive countries we've ever been to. Long, pricey buses coupled with extortionate entrance fees for attractions as well as to get into an area ($15 each for Bagan, $10 each for Inle) meant that we were feeling less than enamoured with the country.
By the time we got to Kinpun, we were a bit bruised by disappointment and battered by consistently overspending our budget despite having little to show for it.
We came straight from Inle, on the dreamy 'Joyous Journey Express' bus (more on that another time) into Yangon at 7am then hopped straight onto another 4 hour bus to Kinpun. We were knackered. Luckily, Kinpun is home to about 2 guesthouses so we easily checked both out (See Sar & Pyin Maw Than) and moved ourselves into PMT (yes, I'm aware of the irony of this abbreviation) quickly.
Mount Kyaiktiyo, or The Golden Rock is best seen at dawn or dusk so despite only having about 3 hours (upright, bus) sleep in the past 24 hours we hotfooted it out to catch the truck to the top. You can totally hike it, it's about 7 miles to the top, but we aren't really hikers and did I mention the 3 hours sleep?
The first thing you should know, and we did courtesy of lonely planet, is that the trucks don't leave till they are crammed full of paying customers. Happily for us, we arrived to find a very full bus with room for 2 little ones. Winners! The second thing you should know, is that it's an uncomfortable but insanely fun ride to the top. No sarcasm, it was my fave part.
The Truck to the Rock, Kinpun.
The Golden Rock itself is a really short walk from where you are dropped off, but be sure to stop at the Foreigner Collection Point for your very own Foreigner lanyard. Then you are able to roam the pagoda precincts freely. except if you're a woman.
It's actually no big deal as you can still get as close to the rock, and take some good pics -- you just can't get really holy with it. Shame.
The Golden Rock, Mt Kyaiktiyo, Kinpun, Myanmar.
I guess we were expecting something a bit more......I don't know, reverential? But the atmosphere wasn't special, nobody seemed that fussed by the rock and people were mostly playing football or chinlon. Maybe it's because it's low season, and hardly any locals are heading up. I don't know. All I know is that we were disappointed again, and had just spent approx $24 (transport $12, entry $12). Due to the insane pricing, we were skipping meals -- but had a 2 hour wait until the next truck left for Kinpun so we had a cup of tea in one of the many little tea shops.
The condensed milk had gone sour. Just not our day......
It's Tea, but not as you know it.
So in summation, we wouldn't recommend going to the Golden Rock, but if you're a glutton for punishment (or you've been shamed into it by The Lonely Planet) then here are some top tips:
#1 Try to be the last person in the truck. If there's a few people in it already. chances are you'll be eating for an hour.
#2 Take some snacks and things to do at the top. The likelihood is that you'll be waiting another hour to come down.
#3 The last truck down is 6, full or not. Time your visit so you're coming down then.
#4 Seriously, don't go.
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