Mount Kyaiktiyo is one of the simplest trip to do from Yangon, and the guidebook considers it as one of the country highlights. Jessica was a lot more skeptical: after all, this is basically a rock painted gold, precariously balanced on another rock, on top of a hill.
But once again, the facts proved her wrong. This rock comes from the sea, and was placed there by a king born of a particularly successful alchemist and a dragon-serpent princess, and the reason it doesn’t topple is because a hair of Buddha’s supports it. Admittedly there are some gaps in the story, but it does distract from what is effectively a rock painted gold, precariously balanced on another rock, on top of a hill.
Upon arriving at "base camp", we drove the first part of the hill packed in a truck with 48 other pilgrims, and then sweated the rest of the way on foot to the top. Along the route we were invited to purchase the local medicine/energy drink which seemed to be made from the most disgusting parts of the forest (giant centipedes, goat heads and skulls, bark) soaked in oil. At the top, we were made-up with the local sun screen (for once I attracted more attention) and left our sandals at the entrance to the holy site.
Jessica was outraged that she was not able to actually touch the rock, as women are banned from the enclosure which allows men to rub gold leaf on to the rock. But she wasn’t missing out on much, and the women’s enclosure seemed like a more civilized place to contemplate on just how the 11th Century King had brought the rock from the sea.
By this point it was midday and the tiled floor was burning in some sections. Unlike most of the other families making the trip we hadn’t brought a lunch with us, and unlike a lot of the Buddhist monks we hadn’t bought a bamboo model of an AK47 (by far the most popular tourist gift, massively outselling the forest medicine) so after a series of ironic photos we headed back down the hill. I descended to find that my Birkenstock had been stolen which was a real pain considering they were brand new and I have only seen one person in Myanmar who might take a size 9 shoe. As I proceeded to unleash a barrage of un-karmic abuse based on the work “fuck”, Jessica found it hilarious that I should be so naïve and chose me a replacement pair of $3 flip flops.