Friday, July 25, 2014


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.

Local bus

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.

     BAGO  Located around 50 miles from Yangon.  Had 2 famous cities-Bago and Hanthawaddy.  Bago established in 825 by King Thamala  of Thaton.  Also called Ussa.  Hanthawaddy founded in 1369 by King Banya U.  Zone fee of 10000k per person.  Most places also have camera fees of 300 per camera or 500 pervideo recorder.
     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

King Dhammazedi

      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

Feet apart

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

     SHWEMAWDAW PAGODA  This is the tallest at 375'.  One of the most venerated pagodas in Myanmar.  Golden God Temple.  Built around 1000 yrs. ago by 2 merchants and is a famous Mon temple.  Some hair and teeth relics of the Buddha.  Destroyed many times due to earthquakes.  There is a section of the upper part of the pagoda which collapsed in 1917 at the site.


Approaching the pagoda

They will check that you have paid your zone fee

Old Hti of pagoda after the 1917 earthquake

Souvenirs for sale
KANBAWZATHADI PALACE Even though it's not original it still is a nice difference from all the temples/pagodas we've been seeing.  Excavation of the site began in 1990.  Many mounds excavated and brick foundations of several building found along with hundreds of teak pillars some inscribed with Mon texts and thousands of Buddha images.

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

     What has been reconstructed-Great Audience Hall where the King received his ministers and officials.  Also known as Royal Lion Throne Hall because it had the Thihathana Throne/Lion Throne.  Hall has rows of pillars supporting the roof, interior painted in gold.  Copy of one of the Royal thrones and several of the original 16th century teak logs.  There used to be 9 Royal Thrones in the palace but 8 destroyed by fire and the only one surviving is the Thihathana Throne/Lion Throne due to carved lion figures on it.  This original can be seen in the National Museum in Yangon which we visited.
     Bhammayayarthana Throne Hall also called the Bee Throne Hall which would have been the private quarters for the King.
     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

     We stop at HANTHAWADDY RESTAURANT where there are bus loads of tourists.  We don't normally eat lunch so we just order drinks and some fruit.  We will see many tour buses which I presume are heading to Golden Rock??

     As we drive on towards Golden Rock we see many interesting snippets of local life and the  countryside.  Some of the pictures may be a bit blurry as I'm taking them as we drive.

There are so many places along the road selling watermelons

A tree farm/plantation 

     GOLDEN ROCK/KYAIKTIYO  Located on top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo and one of the 3 most famous sites in Myanmar.  The others are Shwedagon Pagoda and Mahamuni Pagoda.  Appears to defy gravity as it balances on a projecting rock.  It even has survived several earthquakes.  Religious Buddhists say it's the power of the hair relic that keeps it thus.  Only men allowed to touch it.  There are several viewing platforms.
     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


Our room


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.

     We arrive back to the hotel at 7:45 pm so we change our dinner time to 8:15.  We pre order our dinner.  We shower and change.  Dinner-pork curry with potatoes, Myanmar chicken curry with potatoes.  Nothing special to look at but it's really yummy!  Dessert-Myanmar cake.  Myanmar beer, a glass of house red wine and I'm happy.   Cost $30.47 or 30010k.  10% service charge included.   Back in the room we set our alarm (I brought a small portable alarm clock with us on this trip) for sunrise-5:30 am.

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

Dessert-Myanmar cake

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