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Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda
The Golden Rock
One of the countryís most important religious pilgrimage site the Golden Rock of Kyaikhtiyo is a huge gilded boulder teetering on the edge of a cliff and topped by a golden stupa, located on top of 1095 meter-high hill 160 kilometers northeast of Yangon. Traditions relate that beneath the small pagoda on the rock lie relics supposed to be the hairs from Buddha head.
In the Mon language Kyaiktiyo means "the pagoda carried on the hermitís head", the hermit that according to legend enshrined Buddha hairs in the rock.

Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda

Myanmar stock photographs

We reached Kyaiktiyo in the late afternoon after a 3 hours car ride from Yangon, followed by a 50 min absolutely crazy truck ride. We stayed in a hotel near the shrine to catch both sunset and sunrise.
The area surrounding the rock, it can be visited only barefoot, is a typical mix of religious and commercial activities: rest shelters for local pilgrims, monks, tourists and casual visitors. Worshippers gather around the pagoda offering fruits, foods incense to the Buddha, pilgrims chant, light candles and meditate all through the night. Only men are allowed to walk across the bridge built to reach the boulder to say prayers and press gold leaf on the boulder.
Completely gilded with gold, the egg-shaped boulder is situated on the extreme verge of a sloping rock table which in itself is separated several feet from the mountain now spanned by a small foot bridge of iron.

Scattered at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo, there are several other stupas and shrines though none is impressive. Even so we decided to spare some time to make a short walk following a trail on the ridge. Further behind the pagoda plaza area, down a stairway, there is a village of restaurants, souvenir shops and guesthouses for Myanmar citizens, the trail than continue passing a pagoda (Kyauk-si-yo on the map) and then descend, covered by wooden galleries and lined with small restaurants and shops, having passed a deviation on the right we ended our walk nearby the small Naga Paya before to return to the main pagoda. Along the way are armies of poor families that sell a variety of religious items, snacks and drinks as well as souvenir made from bamboo and elixers made from wild animal parts. Although the practice seems to defy the Buddhist prohibiton of killing animals it is possible to buy hornbill beaks, pangolin scales, eagle feathers and items made from civets, wild cats, porcupines, eagles and bears.

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