The Kyaikhtiyoe Golden Rock Pagoda – A Jewel among Myanmar’s Buddhist Sites
The town of Kyaikhtiyoe is named for the Golden Rock Pagoda that sits atop a tall mountain at 3,300 feet, or about 1,000 meters high. The Golden Rock itself is said to sit atop a strand of one Buddha’s hairs. A small pagoda sits atop the 7.3 meter tall, gold-leaf encrusted rock. It is a major pilgrimage destination for Myanmar’s devoted followers of Buddhism, as well as visitors from around the world.
Getting to the Golden Rock Pagoda from Yangon
The Golden Rock Pagoda is about 210 kilometers from Yangon. There are two main forms of public transportation to the town of Kinpun, near Kyaikhtiyoe. Kinpun is the staging point for accessing transportation up the mountain.
You have the option of taking the train from Yangon. The train ride to Kyaikhtiyoe takes at least 4 hours and usually encounters delays along the way. Plus, the train only takes you as far as Kyaikhtiyoe. From there you need to transfer to another train that takes you to Kinpun. But, the train is quite inexpensive and departs hourly from the Yangon train station until about 6 PM. A ticket in the “ordinary class” section of the train costs just MMK 2,450 with the transfer to Kinpun adding another MMK 1,200.
The most direct option is to take the ‘Win Express” bus. The bus costs MMK 8,000 from the Aung Mindalar Bus station in Yangon and departs hourly. The bus ride takes about 5 hours. Make sure your bus includes the destination of Kinpun in its itinerary and not just Kyaikhtiyoe.
Getting Up the Mountain
Kinpun also serves as the staging area for the small, converted dump trucks that will take you up the mountain. These trucks have been modified with seats and a covering in the back. The ride up the mountain takes about 30 minutes.
There are two stops near the top of the mountain. Make sure you choose the right one for you. The first is “base camp”, which entails a 4 KM further walk to the pagoda at the top of the mountain. The truck to base camp costs MMK 1,500.
Transportation between Base Camp and Golden Rock Pagoda
If you drive up the mountain by private car, you must park at base camp. You can transfer to a truck that will take you the rest of way or walk, which will take you about an hour. Local porters are also willing to transport you from base camp up to the Pagoda in an old-fashioned palanquin on poles carried by four people. Or, you can opt to take a truck all the way to the top for the price of MMK 2,500. Please note, the trucks don’t drive the road up the mountain after dark.
So, at the end of the day, the last truck down the mountain leaves right around sunset. Be sure to get aboard a truck early to avoid the sudden rush to get the last truck. Otherwise, you run the risk of being forced to make the 3-hour walk down the mountain to Kinpun.
The zone fee, or entrance fee, to the golden pagoda zone on the top is MMK 6,000. The ticket is good for a two-day stay. Be advised there is a no-shoes policy around the pagoda itself. Also, females are forbidden from touching the Golden Rock and so, will be stopped from crossing the bridge to the pagoda. If you stay overnight up on the mountain you can also see alms-giving performed at the Pagoda from 5:30 AM.
Accommodations around Golden Rock Pagoda
The town of Kinpun offers many small guest-houses and inexpensive hotels. Accommodation prices there run from around MMK 14,000 to 80,000. Lodging options range from hostel-like shared accommodations all the way up to comfortable and nicely appointed, air-conditioned hotel rooms.
If you want to enjoy the sunset from the top of the mountain it’s best to stay in one of the 14 hotels near the pagoda. Rooms at these hotels cost from about MMK 80,000 to 230,000. And, as the higher prices would suggest, they generally provide much nicer accommodations than most of the hotels in Kinpun. However, it’s always best to pre-book these hotels as space is limited, especially on Buddhist holidays.
What to Bring and Wear at Golden Rock Pagoda
The view from the top of the mountain is spectacular. So, if you have a pair of binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens, you’ll be rewarded with some memorable vistas.
The elevation is about 3300 feet above sea level and it can get cold during nights and early mornings. Be sure to bring warm clothes, especially if you’re spending the night on the mountain. A night on the mountain is the perfect way to see the Pagoda.
If you plan on doing the walk up to the mountain top from base camp, we suggest you wear comfortable shoes and carry a small backpack with plenty of water, as it can get very hot during the middle of the day.
Editors Note: Prices listed in Burmese Kyat (MMK) are accurate at time of publication. Costs are likely to change based on travel demand, inflation, and currency fluctuations with the Kyat (MMK).