The introduction of budget airlines has driven many travellers to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Myanmar is still considered as an exotic holiday destination to many. It is the same reason why I decided to visit Myanmar as a solo independent traveller.
The hotel website said the Shwedagon Paya in Yangon is within walking distance. Well the truth was- it would be a very long walk! I took a taxi instead. Shwedagon Paya is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within. It is best visited at night when the marble grounds are cooled. The local crowds came to perform offerings and prayers or simply to sit and gaze at the Buddhas. The main stupa was lighted throughout the night by tungsten lights giving it a warm golden glow.
Of Wheels and Thrills
After the visit, I tried to catch a bus back to the inner city of Yangon. A visiting monk from Mandalay helped me by asking a Yangon local which bus to take. All the bus service numbers were written in Burmese text which added to the difficulty of navigating around. Most buses do not have many seats in order to allow more standing room and it could get pretty squeezy. I took a taxi to the area where pickup trucks going to Bago were based. The pickup truck was fitted with benches on both sides and it would depart once the seats were filled up. The back seats might start off comfortable, but along the way when seats ran out, you had to stand and hold on to the railings. I paid a bit more to sit next to the driver.
From Bago, I did a quick transfer to a bus that would bring me to reach Kin Pun, which is the base village to Kyaiktyo. To go to the famous Golden Rock Temple from Kin Pun, you need to take a 45-minute truck ride. The experience was worth it! It was a like a roller coaster ride as the truck went up and down the slopes and going around tight corners. The truck had about 6 wooden benches laid across it. Each bench would sit, very uncomfortably six people. You will be packed shoulder to shoulder and not much room to move about. If you have long legs, more bad news for you! The distance between each bench was short. My legs can only go under the bench in front. So my thighs were pressed up against the bottom of the bench in front of me! At the end of the truck ride, you would still need to walk up the slopes for about 45 minutes. Porters and sedan chairs carriers were around to help if your legs and knees could not take the walk. Of course I
braved up to the challenge and walked along with the locals. The temple was crowded maybe because it was a Sunday. Most of the visitors were locals making an overnight trip to the Golden Rock temple. I reached
the temple at about 4 pm and decided to wait forsunset. The sunset was great with golden glow radiating
through the clouds.
I could not stay too long as I needed to descend to catch the truck back. It was a long wait before the fully loaded truck moved off. Later I found out that due to the lack of lights and the steep slopes, they have to wait for the five trucks that were coming up the slopes to reach first before we could travel down. With no street lamps along the way down, another rollercoaster ride, this time under the starry sky. Due to the tight squeeze and lack of space, my limbs were numbed when we reached Kin Pun. The next morning I found that I have bruises on my thighs! I must have pressed too hard against the bench in front of me.