There are three very holy Buddhist sites in Burma and visiting the three sites is like a pilgrimage for many Burmese people. I visited Swedagon Pagoda in Yangon (the former capital), Mahamuni in Mandalay, and Mount Kyaiktiyo to see the giant Golden Rock. I wanted to understand more about why these three sites were so holy to the Burmese people, so this is what it was like to visit the Huge Golden Rock!
Hiking to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, the Big Golden Rock
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is one of the three major holy Buddhist sites. It was breath-taking how this humongous golden rock was just perched on the cliff on the side of a mountain and not falling off, even though it looked like it should fall because of gravity!
I really like how Buddhist legend says that the only thing balancing the big rock is a hair relic of the Buddha. There’s more to that story though, the Buddha gave a hermit one of his hairs, then the hermit gave the King this hair, but the hermit told the King: “you have to put it in a rock shaped like my head.” And then, the King found a rock at the bottom of the sea that was just like a hermit head! The head got on the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo by a boat. So, that’s mostly how the story goes, that Buddha’s hair is why this big boulder balances.
Surrounding the bottom of the base rock (the one actually on the mountain, not the golden one) men are there (because only mean can touch the rock) rubbing gold leaf all over the Golden Rock. After I saw this happening, I think maybe what is helping the rock stay on the mountain is how much heavier the gold is on one side than the other side that’s hanging over the cliff!
The landscape that wraps around the rock is so beautiful. There were mountains with nothing but blue above, and it’s so high up that when we actually get to the top, we felt like we were in a different layer of the Earth.
I got up to the top by doing a terrible one hour hike early in the morning. I mean, it wasn’t terrible because the road was slippery or anything, it was just very steep and I was so tired by the end. It was really weird though because my aunt would ask other foreigners how close we were to the top and every time we asked, they always said “Don’t worry, a little over half way.” And they all said it, even when we were close! And I kept thinking “What, I have to hike THIS for 20 more minutes?!” But, the hike up in my opinion was definitely worth it.