After finally leaving Mandalay (Elise and I really didn’t dig that place. Staying there, even for one night, is one night too much. Especially with the heat and the mosquitoes and the pollution… urgh), we got to Yangon and spent the night to recharge after a few nights of little sleep and rough transportation. The last leg of our trip involves checking out a golden rock precariously perched on the side of a mountain (apparently kept stable by some of Buddha’s hairs) and a cave described in Lonely Planet as (well, I’m paraphrasing here) “impossibly awesome”.
I climbed the Golden Rock mountain this morning. Again Lonely Planet has misled me. Apparently, this epic pilgrimage up a 8-ish mile trail is only for the most Buddhists of Buddhists. The most devout of devotees. Apparently only the most devoted pilgrims hike (instead of taking a pick-up) up to one of the most holy sites in Myanmar. Lonely Planet, I climbed epic mountains, I’ve known epic mountains, epic mountains have made me sweat, bleed and curse. Mountain that holds the Golden Rock, you are no epic mountain. Sure, it was a bit hot at the start, but it certainly wasn’t impossible. I’d describe it as a really nice day out. The guide-book, and the lady at the hotel, claim it takes about 6 hours to make it to the top, but I did it in about 3h30. To be fair, I was kicking it in high gear to beat Elise and her pick-up to the top (which I did), but still, it wasn’t too bad.
So I got to the top after a good morning of hiking and, to my great disappointment, I found the Golden Rock to be covered by golden construction supplies. Apparently, for a month every 3 years, someone (I figure the government) removes some of the pilgrim-placed gold leaf from the rock. Official word is because it gets too heavy (and risks topling over. Buddha’s hairs seem to have certain limitations…), my guess is they’ve got some bills to pay. Anyway, it was quite a bummer to not actually see the sun reflect on the gold, but I still got a pretty good idea of what it would look like.
To make her way up, Elise took a pick-up. She got let off about 45 minutes walk from the top (where I was waiting for her). I thought this was strange since I saw some pick-ups fully packed going all the way up. Turns out they don’t let foreigners ride all the way to the top because there’s a risk of the pick-up flipping over in one of the road’s many hairpin turns and sending all 40-ish passengers screaming to their deaths. Seriously. That’s what I hear…
Now, we’re heading to a place called Pa-An to see that cave. According to the guide-book, there’s a bus going from the Rock to Pa-an, but we’ve been told that such a bus has never existed. So instead we’re going to take a combination of buses and pick-ups. That cave better blow my mind!