March 8, 2014
Back to Summit Parkview's wonderful breakfast buffet. So many choices after Mrauk U. However, I go back to my usual of juice, coffee, fruit, toast and 1 egg. Now my husband also goes back to what he likes-salad, noodles or rice. I'm feeling much better this morning and eager to start our trip to Golden Rock. Leaving our bags with the hotel we have what amounts to an overnight and my camera gear. We meet Kyaw at the appointed time of 8:30 am. I tell him would it be possible to stop at a money changer first and we go to a place right around the corner from our hotel. There I change $100 for 97000k.
|Breakfast at the Summit Parkview|
As we're driving through town Kyaw explains to us what is happening across the street from us. There is a guy who has just bought this car and he has taken it to this place. Another guy is checking it to see if it's a smart choice. Then the owner who is in the car will back out, drive forward. He does this 3 times. The other guy kind of blesses the car.
|This is the guy "blessing" the car|
|Owner pulls forward and backs up 3 times|
Not far from Yangon is the ALLIED WAR CEMETERY. We will be here for at least 30 minutes. I am so moved by this place. It is so beautifully maintained. Sad to see so many graves of those who gave their lives fighting for freedom. I really recommend stopping here even if you're not heading to Golden Rock as it's not that far from Yangon.
First is KYAIK PUN PAGODA which is the 4 sitting Buddha images. They're huge! The images are out in the open with no covering from the weather. Built in 1476 by King Dhammazedi of the Mon Kingdom of Hanthawaddy. An active worship place. The images are supposed to be of the 4 Buddhas who have reached Nirvana-Kassapa, Kakusandha, Konagamana, and Gautama. They sit back to back facing the 4 directions. They all have gold robes and slightly different facial expressions. They are in the Bhumisparsha pose-calling the Earth to witness. There's a statue of King Dhammazedi. There's a pole with the symbol of Bago-a Hintha bird-on top.
|Pole with the Hintha bird|
SHWETHALYAUNG PAGODA Built in 994 by King Mingadeipka. Renovated in the 1400s. Forgotten after Bago defeated by the Mon Kingdom in 1757. Overgrown by jungle. Rediscovered by accident when British building a rail line between Yangon and Bago in 1881. During clearing found under a mound. There are murals that tell the story of its origin. One of the largest reclining Buddhas. Shows the Buddha just before death and entering into Nirvana. Similar to the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha in Yangon. Entrance is through a large hall decorated with murals of Buddhist stories. At the end is a stairway going up to the Buddha image. On the balustrades is the Naga snake believed to protect since it was this animal that protected Buddha under its hood against heavy rain. Italian marble on the floor. Scenes from the Jataka on the walls. This Buddha has a serene smile, wearing a gold robe, his head on a pillow of caskets decorated with mosaics. His feet are apart (unusual) and the soles have images that represent the 108 characteristics of the Buddha. There are also guardian Nats.
|Hall with murals and vendors leading to the Buddha|
|108 characteristics decorate the soles of the feet|
|One of the murals telling the story of the origin of the Shwethalyaung Buddha|
|Buddha's head resting on a pillow of caskets inlaid with mosaics. Italian marble floor can be seen here also.|
|Stairway looking down|
|Looking up the stairs and Naga snake|
|Approaching the pagoda|
|They will check that you have paid your zone fee|
|Old Hti of pagoda after the 1917 earthquake|
|Souvenirs for sale|
|Original brick foundation|
A reconstruction of the original royal palace built during the 16th century. Based on original drawings of the buildings. Most of the original furniture lost when palace destroyed in 1599. Palace built by King Bayinnaung, one of Burma's greatest rulers. He had many white elephants which were a sign of his power and wealth. He built a new capital of the Burmese empire called Hanthawaddy which was started in 1553. This is present day Bago. The city had 20 gates and walls surrounding it.
|7 tiered roof-pyathat|
Palace museum which has items found during the excavations and information about this second empire. Displays of original teak pillars, pottery, weapons, etc.
|Reproduction of Royal Coach|
|There are so many places along the road selling watermelons|
|A tree farm/plantation|
Story is that the pagoda was built over a hair relic more than 2500 yrs. ago in the lifetime of the Buddha. Buddha gave the hair relic to a hermit who kept it in his own hair knot until he found a boulder that looked like his head. There he built the pagoda. Kyaik means pagoda. Yo means to carry on the head. Ithi means hermit. Combining Mon and Pali language the name Kyaiktiyo comes from Kyaik-Thi-Yo: the pagoda carried on a hermit's head.
We are at what is known as base camp-Kinpun. Lively atmosphere, lots of places to eat and shops to buy crafts/souvenirs here. But we have no time for that. Kyaw parks and we go to a large building where there are several trucks waiting to take us and others up to the top. We are squeezed into the open back of the truck. We are the only foreigners in the truck. Almost everyone is looking at us. Probably because we are so much bigger than they are! LOL!!! Cost 2500k per person. One lady was having a lively discussion with the guy collecting the money but I have no clue as to what was being said. I do know it had something to do with money. Kyaw will stay behind here and will wait for us when we get back tomorrow morning. We don't set a time. He will find us or we will find him. We are bounced back and forth, side to side. Almost like being on the Crystal Beach Comet roller coaster I loved from my youth. It is a most uncomfortable, bumpy ride. I do notice the drop offs but most of my attention is to just remain upright in the truck. After a while we stop briefly-I don't know why. Then we start up again. There were times when I didn't think this truck was going to make it as the climb is steep and the road curves. What an experience. There was no way to take as many pictures as I would have like. I can only imagine some of the expressions on our faces. My husband was not happy with this ride at all. He said he felt like his back/spine was being broken. But he survived. After what seems like forever we are at the top and everyone piles out. You have no option to wait until the others are out. You have to go with the flow. We start walking in the same direction as others figuring they know where they're going. You can have someone carry your belongings if you want. I think the amount charged was not much. But in no time at all I see our hotel sign-after only a few minutes walking.
Life insurance included!!
MOUNTAIN TOP We check in and ask if a deluxe room is available as One Stop had only been able to reserve the standard room for us. Unfortunately now, as it was many months ago, the hotel is full and no deluxe room for us. We are taken to room #401 but have to go down several flights of stairs. Great I think. My legs will get a workout for sure! The room is small but very adequate for our needs and we're only here for 1 night. It's clean and has good hot water. There is a view of the mountains. No A/C but fan will do just fine.
|Reception sitting area|
|View from our room|
We decide to venture up to GOLDEN ROCK to see what all the fuss is about and to catch the sunset. Before we go we make dinner reservation for 8:00 pm at the hotel restaurant. We leave the hotel and go to the right and there it is-have to pay zone fee 6000k per person. We are given a card to wear as a necklace. OMG We stand out as the ribbon on this is a bright lime green!! I don't see anyone else with this as we walk toward the "rock". Later we see maybe a group of 10 or so who are tourists also but the crowd is mostly made up of locals. At one point you must take off your shoes and continue to climb up stairs and walk. You can carry your shoes with you which may be a good idea. There are THOUSANDS of people here. I feel like a sardine in a can. We have to walk forward sideways to get through this crush of people. Now I'm not too keen on being in the midst of crowds so.......... There is almost a party atmosphere going on. Families with kids. Blankets and mats on the edges where they will sleep, eat, etc. Kids running around in one open area with balloons, toy guns, toy horns. Lots of noise. Food being cooked and sold. Lights everywhere. Areas of best viewing the "rock" off limits to ladies. Men applying gold leaf to the "rock". How does it manage to not topple?? Lots of flowers and food offerings. Incense, candles being burnt. People in prone positions or sitting praying, meditating. I've never seen anything like this before. We stick out like a sore thumb. My husband is tall and my hair which was a medium brown at the start of our trip now looks bleached blonde!! A monk come up to us just around when we decide to return to the hotel and get ready for dinner. He wants to take pictures of us. He wants to introduce us to his friends, his family, another monk. He invites us to dinner with his group but we thank him and explain we've already made plans. Everyone takes a turn getting his/her picture taken with us. The women have their arms around my shoulders. They are the nicest, most friendly group. Wish we hadn't made those dinner plans.
|This is not the "rock" but one you see before you get to the one on the edge of the cliff top|
|Gives you an idea of the amount of people that were there.|
|We ended up having our picture taken separately with each one of the monk's family and friends|
|The monk on the right is the one who approached us.|
|Pork curry with potatoes?|
|Chicken curry with potatoes? They look so much alike that I'm really not sure which is which. Despite the boring appearance the food was very good.|
|One of the diners at the table near us had a birthday and this was the cake. We all sang "Happy Birthday".|
|View from the hotel's restaurant|