Golden Rock: One Celebrated Pagoda of Myanmar
For our recent visit to Golden Rock, one of Myanmar’s most celebrated pagodas, we decided to travel by train so that we could enjoy the scenery. The slow-moving train took us out of the crowded Yangon in to the middle of green fields and small villages with houses made of wood, bamboo and palm leaves. We sat on wooden benches in the old, swaying train and enjoyed the views and the fresh air coming in through the glassless windows. Life seemed to move at a much slower pace here, with children crossing through farms and fields to go to school, farmers working under the sun and herds of buffaloes enjoying cooling baths in mud puddles.
After a couple of hours we started to see mountains in the distance jutting out over the flatlands of the Irrawaddy Delta, alerting us that we were approaching the base camp of Golden Rock. We hopped off the train and took a taxi to the Golden Rock truck stop, passing by local restaurants and small shops selling handmade products along the main road. Huge, open-air trucks are used to reach the pagoda itself and we settled ourselves in on the wooden benches along with many local pilgrims to ascend the steep, winding road. On the way we stopped several times as we were asked for donations by Buddhist people for the construction of a new Buddha statue or the repairing of a pagoda. But the highlight of the journey is the spectacular views – hills covered by trees rise in front, and at our back we could see the flat lands and rivers shining like silver lines in the distance.
Our adventurous truck ride concluded at yet another truck stop and as we disembarked we were suddenly surrounded by porters touting their services. Young men equipped with a comfortable chair on bamboo sticks offered to carry elderly pilgrims or lazy tourists whilst slim men and women dressed in blue cotton cloth and were ready to transport the visitors’ luggage in their huge rattan baskets wrappedaround the forehead. We walked along a paved road leading to the Golden Rock which was dotted with shops, hotels and restaurants. We took a break in one of the restaurants to have a refreshing drink and enjoy the spectacular views of the surroundings from the terrace before carrying on to the rock.
We crossed several platforms and staircases leading up and down the mountainside. The area was surprisingly busy as vendors sold food items or fake sunglasses from under shady trees, while local boys played soccer on the spacious platforms. Turning a corner we got our first glimpse of the famed pagoda: a giant rock, covered in shimmering gold perched on the edge of another huge rock. The setting was serene: worshipers seated in prayer, stunning views to the lush valley below, the tinkling of bells on the pagoda’s gilded spire and faint chants from monks in the distance combined to make it one of the most magical sunsets we had experienced.
In the early morning we returned to watch sunrise from the platform of Golden Rock. As the early morning rays illuminated the rock, pilgrims who spent the night around the pagoda headed back to the truck stop carrying their mats and blankets. We also passed hermits dressed in brown robes and unusual hats who moved very slowly, carrying two bowls on a bamboo stick on their shoulders to collect donations. Near Golden Rock, arrangements of fruits and some food items were neatly prepared by the locals to be offered to the pagoda. We were once again in awe of the serenity and devout faith of the Myanmar pilgrims.
Besides enjoying the scenes at the Golden Rock, there are many opportunities for trail walks. We head out on an hour-long walk west of Golden Rock, walking by local houses, restaurants with stunning views and shops before arriving at a Buddhist cemetery with hundreds of Buddha statues. We stopped here as we were limited on time but were told that if you continue a further 2 hours you will reach a beautiful monastery.
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