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Golden Rock Stupa, Myanmar (Burma)
The incredible balancing stupa at Kyaiktiyo, or "Golden Rock", is one of the
holiest sites in Myanmar. Pilgrims from around the country travel great distances
to visit the site and press gold leaf to the rock as an offering.
Good Luck Getting There The
journey to Golden Rock follows a classic Myanmar recipe:
Take one dilapidated public bus that has no a/c and needs a push-start
Pack bus well beyond capacity; use plastic children's chairs in the
aisles to accommodate extra passengers
Place bus atop narrow tracks of soft dirt and sand
Gouge dirt track every 2-3 feet with large cracks and potholes
Sprinkle bus interior liberally with exhaust, dust, and sand
Bake at 90° F for 5-30 hours
Big Guns in the Village The village at "base camp" had charm enough to compensate for the journey.
Oddly, several shops in the village sold enormous bamboo replicas of AK-47's
and RPG missile launchers, all stamped with USA or RAMBO.
The Journey Continues From base camp, the Rock is still a 30-minute truck ride and 45-minute climb
away. The trucks are pickups with bench seating; they managed to cram 44 people
into the back of my truck. The roads up the mountain are amazingly steep, but
our driver handled them with amazing skill.
Does it Always Rain on Me? The cloud cover was heavy as we hiked up the remainder of the hill. It didn't
actually look threatening, but it was definitely bad light for photography.
Spectacular in Any Light Enormous, precariously perched, and gleaming proudly, the rock is spectacular
in any light. My first glimpse validated the whole journey.
Behind the Rock Legend has it that a hermit had a hair from the Buddha. He gave the hair
to a king who had supernatural powers. The hermit told the king to find a boulder
the shape of the hermit's head and then enshrine the hair inside a stupa at
the top of the rock. The king found the boulder at the bottom of the sea and
used a ship to bring it to the top of the mountain. It's cargo unloaded, the
ship promptly turned to stone.
It's best not to sweat the details or inquire any further into the story.
"I'm Converting to Buddhism" Miraculously, the clouds parted fifteen minutes into our visit, and the
morning sun hit the rock at a perfect angle. This window of sun lasted for about
20 minutes just enough time to take some video and photographs. "This
is a sign," said Dave, a fellow Chicagoan I'd met in Yangon. "I'm converting