Kinpun, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, The Golden Rock.
Theme park with a difference, cycling into Kinpun the gateway to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda…. this was not the Myanmar we intimately sensed and experienced over the previous 5 days.
We were soon to join many tourists, mostly from SE Asia and Myanmar, and many, many more pilgrims that were making their way to the top of Mt Kyaikiyo. We were to witness a pagoda built upon a Golden Rock which is precariously held from tumbling into the precipice by a single strand of Buddha’s hair.
If not for the odd snake, yes snake, rats, mosquitoes and holes in the squat loos no bigger than a bath tub drain hole upon a concrete slab….Kinpun would be similar to a low key fairground. (As for the squat loo…. Fortunately there was a western loo in our guest house as I doubt anyone could aim a number 2 achieving a hole in 1).
The cacophony was overpowering, loudspeakers, music from a Burmese wedding and calls for the next truck up the mountain, intertwined and competing to outdo each other. Soon we were to learn that the sounds commence at 4am, repetitive and fast, frantic beats, spoken word, shouting, calling…insistent…. And so annoying.
No one sleeps in, in Kinpun.
As we were now a group of 5 cyclists, having enjoyed our beer, more sampling of Myanmar whisky and celebration of our new friendship and our arrival, we had decided to avoid the sun rise and sleep in! We would visit the mountain the following sun set, but it was impossible to sleep in. Do not got to Kinpun for relaxation.
Greg was mad enough to suggest cycling up the mountain, I was tempted to walk…. We were both tempted by the others suggestions of beer and an early evening trip to the top in a dump truck. Riding would have been impossible, the gradients averaging about 20% and more on the cambers, one lane, one direction and the trucks converted into an overstuffed people carrier were irresponsibly fast and hair raising.
Life insurance was included in the cost of a truck ticket….although the ticket never did materialise as we handed over our Kyat. The trucks are not dissimilar to tip trucks with rows of hard benches where they squeeze in as many people that it appears is possible…. Then they squeeze in a few more…ours held about 60!
Off the truck… more tourist tat, hawkers, food, people carting, carrying people as they cart luggage for the infirm and, more often, the downright lazy.
Large slabs of tiles and marble for the pilgrims to lay out their mats and sleep, signage prohibiting women to approach the pagoda,….while western men get close the women pilgrims hold their distance offering prayers and thanks. At first I am annoyed, my feminist self protests…. But quieter than a Western woman next to me who is vocally outraged…. I am here to look, listen and learn, hopefully understand…. I may not agree but this is not my place and I feel privileged to observe.
Slowly my feelings and emotions are transformed. This place begins to mesmerise me, men applying gold leaf to the Golden Rock, people quietly praying, monks taking photos with their latest smart phones. It does feel special here, as spiritual as any place of worship I have visited. The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is nothing like what I had expected, yet sometimes this does not matter and I believe it was worth the experience.
And then we missed the last truck down the mountain, resulting in yet another adventure.
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