There's Gold in Them There Hills: Visiting Golden Rock in Myanmar

There's Gold in Them There Hills: Visiting Golden Rock in Myanmar

So, Tara what was your trip to Myanmar like?  Well. There were a lot of pagodas.  This seems to be a very devout country. Most of the people at all of the pagodas that we visited have seemed to be actually praying.  It kind of took me by surprise. I’ve traveled around South and Southeast Asia before and the lack of Western tourists (and Chinese tourists) is very noticeable.  It forces you to remember that even four years ago there was an international boycott on visiting here. 

We drove from Yangon to Golden rock.  The drive took about 5 hours but I didn’t mind because there was so much to see along the way.

We stopped at a memorial for soldiers of the British Empire who died here during WWII along the railroad.  The Death Railway they call it.  There are 27,000 names at this memorial but as many as 100,000 people may have died while building it.  When you see all the names together it is pretty overwhelming.  It is interesting that I don't know more about it but there were very few Americans involved so I suppose that it wasn't part of the curriculum.  I have been doing some reading on the topic and it is brutal.  

When you see all the names together it is pretty overwhelming. 

 We stopped to watch fish being dried and at a pomelo orchard where a young woman expertly dissected the fruit for us so we could have a slice.  Pretty sure I have not had pomelo before.

drying fish myanmar

The highlight of day two was golden rock.  It is farther up a mountain than one would anticipate.  Pilgrims come from all over Myanmar.  Our guide referred to it as a wish fulfilling place. It is not as easy to get to as one might think. Apparently climbing the mountain (hill? Is there a difference) takes about 7 hours.  It is frickin’ steep and about 90 degrees.  I do not think so.  I have hiked on six continents. I have given it it’s fair share of chances. I don’t like it. This is an important thing to accept about yourself.

This is an important thing to accept about yourself.
Golden rock myanmar

The “sane alternative is an open truck. You can’t drive up the mountain yourself. Picture a flat bed, put up a couple of railings and shove 40 or so people onto benches made of metal pipes.  So we started off started out on on hour drive with an hour stuffed into the truck. They drive as fast as the truck allows up what is essentially a roller coaster. Uphill around hairpin turns that are best left to the imagination. We stopped halfway up to collect some young men who then cling precariously to the back of the truck.  Because no one could possible die at any second.  But we made it. Which in itself felt like an accomplishment.

The top of the mountain has kind of built up carnival atmosphere to it. You want for about half a mile barefoot.  The amount of time on this trip that we are barefoot is not to be believed.  On the one hand it is pretty awesome because there is no way that you can get blisters (I am sadly prone to blisters) on the other hand my feet are so dirty I am grossed out.  We have wet wipes to clean up with but my feet are still disgusting. 

The rock itself is impressive. I it is gigantic and completely fucking covered in gold.  Actual god.  That is Myanmar for you.  It is like that old Saturday Night Live sketch where Christopher Walken is producing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” ad keeps interrupting to yell, “Needs more cow bell!” Myanmar’s history has gone on and on and pretty much everyone has looked around and said, “Needs more gold leaf!”

“Needs more gold leaf!”

We have already been to so many Buddhist temples, pagodas, statues, and wish-fulfilling places that I am quickly losing track. You would think that it would get boring. Today alone we saw 3 giant recline Buddhas but everywhere we go, what is is happening around the shrine continues to be fascinating.  We watched a woman pour 84 cups of water over a small statue of Buddha at the Sunday corner of a pagoda today

Goldren rock myanmar

It is interesting to see how Buddhism is practiced here. It is probably the most devout country of any place that I have ever travelled. So much of people’s energy is channeled into their religion. I also found the public nature of their worship unique. Buddhism that I have seen before has been much more private.

Buddhism that I have seen before has been much more private.

These are real religious places and 95% of the people are there to worship. I have never travelled somewhere that feels so off the beaten track. Mongolia? Totally different because I wasn’t travelling but living there. I have continually shocked at how few tourists are here. It has been a could of years since the tourist boycott was lifted and I assumed that things would be packed. We are flying to Bagan today and if there are going to be out of control amounts of tourist it is going to be there.


How do you feel about other tourists?