The home straight…

Two nights in Kinpun (aka Kinmun – no idea why p and m are interchangeable) to see Mount Kyaiktiyo (pronounced Jai-toe but not Chay-cho), aka Golden Rock, one of the three most sacred religious sites in Myanmar. The rock is said to cover a hair or two of the Buddha, which holds the rock in place.  It was all a bit unerwhelming, but that maybe because I was coming own with yet another cold and was feeling rubbish.

The bus journey had allowed for more sleep this time around, but even so we had had to change bus at 4am to transfer onto the bus that had actually left Nyaung Shwe 30mins before we did.  Bus swapsies in the middle of the night on a dual carriageway was weird enough but to see 3 guys laid out inside the luggage compartment fast asleep was something else.  We arrived into Bago about an hour later and transferred to a rust bucket minivan an hour later.  Rust bucket would be a generous overstatement, there was no rust under my left foot, just a hole showing the road below.

Kinpun was boiling hot, and packed full of the faithful, either queuing to go up the mountain by truck or fighting their way off of a returning truck.  I deferred going up till the next day, taking the time to catch up on sleep and get over the feeling of being kicked in the arse that being ill gives me.

The trip up the moutain is done by a truck which seats 7 rows of 6 seats.  Each truck waits till it’s full before it sets off at a fair lick up the winding mountain road, the road is winding, and very much like a rollercoaster in parts.  The seat belts are not in use, merely providing decoration on the back of each row of seats. Predictably people were vomiting, in fact the trucks stank of vomit, even when there was no-one heaving their guts up. It was either unbearably grim or I was being a negative Nelly as I wasn’t feeling particularly well.

Once you get to the top there’s a 20min walk to the rock itself.  The area was pretty grubby, the ground was not as clean as other religious sites, despite the heavy footfall. Stalls and hawkers lined the paths both into and upto the rock.

Fashion statement headgear
Fashion statement headgear for this season’s young monks and nuns. It’s all about the towel for him and the pink faux fur animal hood for her.

People were dumping rubbish over the side of the mountain, and it was strewn just beyond the boundary.  Families were up at the site for the day, bringing picnics, blankets, mounds of food, setting up camp under trees or within a small bit of shade, where possible .  There are porters there who will carry it all, for a fee, in their baskets and will even carry people (larger than a child) in reclining sedan seats made of bamboo and cloth.

Alternative taxi option
An alternative to a taxi, I guess.

At the rock itself only men were allowed to touch it, so the women had to view it from afar.  The rock wasn’t quite so precariously perched as perhaps perceived (try saying that after a pint or two), however what wasn’t clear is how they’d managed to gold leaf the entire rock.  Maybe it is on a pole and gets spun round by degrees, who knows…(actually, just looked it up an it gets a repaint every 4 years, so now we all know).

Golden Rock - exactly what it says on the tin.
Golden Rock – exactly what it says on the tin.

Getting back down the hill proved to be slightly more challenging than getting up as there was some sort of methodology associated with getting in the trucks that wasn’t communicated to the foreigner.  Climbing up a 6ft high rickety metal ladder to get into a truck is bad enough, being told to go back down it against a streaming tide of humanity that is all boney elbows and baskets and bags is another.  It did get to the point where I was prepared to take out a granny or two in my attempt to get down the steps rather than being pushed off the edge of the step ladder.  I apparently had to get on truck 3, rather than any of the other part empty ones, dems da rules, so you do as you’re told.

It was a relief to be back down at base camp, safe in the knowledge that I’d be away from the smell of vomit for the rest of the day and I could go back to my hotel room and atrophy before packing again for the final destination.  The next morning, after swerving the oil filled omelette,was to head back to Yangon for the final two nights in Mynamar and a lil’ bit of shopping and afternoon tea at The Strand Hotel.  I was staying at The Loft Hotel in Yangon, a treat for two nights, where I was safe in the knowledge that my omelette wouldn’t be fried – that’s not a euphemism, it’s just a weird thing that seems to happen at some places here.

The Strand had recently been refurbished and was looking suitably swish, all monochrome loveliness, and fragrant roses everywhere.

Oo la la - The Stand chic
Oo la la – The Stand chic

The eleganza of the establishment was brought down a few pegs by me completely covered in sweat, looking as if I’d walked through a shower fully dressed before wandering in there in order to drink my body weight in Twining English Breakfast and eat a small but perfectly formed afternoon tea.

Pot one of two - got to get your money's worth
Pot one of two – got to get your money’s worth.
Get ready for sugar overload.
Get ready for sugar overload.

It was a nice opportunity to pretend to be civilised for an hour or so, but it was soon time to head back out into the boiling 36degree heat and burn off some of the English Breakfast and then return to the hotel for another round of packing in order to get set for a couple of nights in Bangkok doing ‘feff all (quickly becoming a theme) before flying off to South Korea, and 12 days with Corean Cimchi.

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