Not the best place for feeling sick - oh and a crappy rock...

Kyaiktiyo Travel Blog

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Golden rock seen on the climb up the hill

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)

It was a 16 hour bus journey from Inle Lake to Bago and although it was a large comfortable bus, the journey was anything but relaxing. The issue of the windy unsealed roads was not the real issue however, it was the air con on full blast and the volume on the TV, which was cranking out Burmese soaps and karaoke, that was the real pain in the arse. I can never understand on buses in 3rd World countries why they are insistent on turning the volume up to 'ear bleed level' and cranking up the air-con as if to say 'you've paid for this and we're gonna make sure we blast it out at you!'

It was a real relief to arrive in Bago, although it was 4am, rather chilly and touts were already out in force trying to push us into a hotel or onto a trishaw.

Golden rock seen on the climb up the hill
After explaining that we were not interested in remaining in Bago, they were quick to offer their services in helping us get into a pick up truck parked 20m away and thus jack the price up and receive their bit of commission on the transaction. Totally deserved for the great service that they had just provided! 45 minutes were spent driving around the town and collecting other passengers from candlelit markets, where the locals had already begun their days work. Four hours crammed into the back of a truck, been tossed around with 20 other people really isn't the perfect way to start a day and i was greatful to arrive in Kyaiktiyo around 8.30am.

Having developed badly chaffed lips and a chest infection on the trek and with the nearest reliable hospital been in Bangkok, i was left with little choice but to buy some drugs in the local pharmacy when we arrived in Kyaiktiyo, and hope that it would clear up.

Another temple on the climb up to golden rock
One week later and now sat in a Bangkok internet cafe, i realise that this form of 'self medication' has not worked and will be visiting the hospital tomorrow!

The weather in Kyaiktiyo was surprisingly miserable and after taking a shower it was straight to bed to catch up on some sleep. Venturing out of the room in the early afternoon gloom, we took a look around the one street town, which is the jump off point for visits to nearby Golden Rock. The row of cafes and souvenir stalls all seemed generic and we eventually settled on one and got some much needed food.

The rest of the day was spent in the hotel room playing sudoku and just generally trying to get better, but this wasn't too easy. There was a child that wouldn't stop screaming, a guy constantly shouting over a loud tannoy and the constant beating of what sounded like a demented woodpecker.

Slightly foggy scenery around golden rock
My head was starting to spin and i even tried to put in earplugs, but to no avail. As the sun went down and darkness began to envelop the room, we turned on the lights, but the generator was only producing enough electric to make them come on very dimly and kept cutting out at regular intervals. A splitting headache followed and when i tried to shower the cob webs away, surprise surprise there was no hot water. Going to reception, they told us they would turn it on, but none ever materialised.

The shouting tannoy man woke me the following day around 4.30am and i was gradually becoming sicker and sicker and really couldn't wait to be getting back to Bangkok. The day was spent in bed, once again contending with the screaming child, Mr Tannoy and Woodie Woodpecker. 3 visits to reception and 3 failed promises of hot water left me showering in cold water again, which did my illness no good.

A foggy Golden rock seen on the climb up the hill.
Julia brought my meals to the room from the hotel restaurant, but i really didn't have much of an appetite.

The following day, regardless of my illness, i was determined to get to Golden Rock so as we could get the hell out of this place. After lunch the two of us therefore walked to the pick up stop, from where we would be driven 45 minutes up the hill to a point where we would then have to partake in a 30 minute 'pilgrimage' to the rock. First shock was that we were crammed into the back of a small lorry with 50 other people and i'm sure that even cattle aren't legally allowed to be transported in such shocking conditions. For this privilege we were charged a $1, which in other parts of the country would get you a 3 hour journey on a normal bus! The ride was a shocker and the locals were vomiting at regular intervals into plastic bags, or out of the side of the truck.

Scenery on the climb to golden rock
Yummy!

Beginning our ascent on foot, we got our first sight of Golden Rock and immediately looked at each other and questionned why we'd bothered to come here. From a distance it appeared that it was just the size of a normal boulder and although we'd heard people saying that the rock was defying gravity and perching off the edge of the cliff, it didn't particularly look that way from where i was standing! Still, looks can be deceiving and we decided that it was best to continue up and get a closer look. Prices for a bottle of water had doubled now that we were on the mountain, but for those not wanting to walk, you could get carried in a chair for less than $10. Obviously been Western, we were quoted $40 for the service, not that we wanted it anyway.

Hot and sweaty we reached the ticket point, from where you are about 100m from the rock and it still didn't look even slightly impressive. Just because it was painted gold and had a small stupa stuck to it, supposedly made it one of Myanmar's biggest tourist draws, but you can see much more impressive rocks anywhere else in the World. I just couldn't fathom the draw for a foreign tourist. The Burmese were there as a religious pilgrimage, as supposedly a Buddha hair had been donated here, but again, i think i'd rather be at Shwe dagon or any other number of Yangon's pagodas that claim to possess such relics. To me, this was just a tacky jazzed up boulder on a hill. I think i missed the point of it. The fog then began to roll in and thus we decided that we didn't want to part with $22 between us to get a closer look and skulked back down the hill. Maybe if i wasn't sick i could have enjoyed the experience more... then again, maybe not.

I must confess i was generally irritated with the country at this point, so even small things were annoying me now. Kids that would run behind saying 'hello', i would turn to greet and say 'hello' back, but then when they'd stick their hand out and say 'money', i no longer found this charming, just plain annoying. All the people lining the walkway asking for 'donations', after most people have just gone and left a small fortune of a donation at the ticket desk. Things were testing my nerves and i knew it would be a good thing for the country and for me when i left, as it felt like it had no more to offer me and likewise, i had no more to offer it.

On the descent down we spotted a huge snake slithering off into the grass, which gave us quite a fright and got to the pick up stop to find an overcrowded truck trying to pile more people on, which seemed physically impossible. As we are not contortionists, we decided to await a seat on the next truck and boarded the empty one next to it. Having to wait an hour wasn't too bad, as we were convinced that we had bagged good seats on the front row, but this proved wrong. With a minute until departure 2 guys jumped on and stood in our leg room, leaving us well and truly squashed. Suddenly the heavens opened and the truck set off into the rain, to give us a soaking. The guy stood infront of me tied a plastic bag round his neck, leaving all the water to run onto me and when the rain stopped he chose not to take the bag from around his neck, but to leave it flapping in my face. I didn't have the energy to protest, but the kind lady next to me said something to the guy in Burmese, then tucked the plastic bag into his shoulder bag strap. The guy immediately took it back out for some reason, to let it start hitting me again. 5 minutes later the lady tucked it back in and the man again removed it. The third time it was tucked in he eventually left it, i really don't know what goes on in some peoples heads.

To warm up back at the hotel i had another cold shower and then went to a nearby restaurant where they tried to raise the bill on us when we went to pay. By this stage it didn't surprise me and rather argue i just left the correct money and not their bogus amount and walked out. I'd only really heard positive things on the Burmese before and i just couldn't believe what i was witnessing. I started thinking back to all the people who i had met and befriended in the country over the last 4 weeks and i could only name a couple of them who had chatted to us and never at one point asked for a book, money, donation etc and that was Nu Zamana, the monk in Mandalay, the citizens of Hsipaw, the family who we stayed with on night one of the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek and the teacher with his 2 kids in Mandalay. All the rest had at some point mentioned that they wanted something and it had never really bothered me at the time, but now i pieced everything together, i felt really shocked by the picture that the the final jigsaw made.

The following morning we received the 4.30am loud speaker wake up, which was followed shortly after by a man with an electric sander, sanding a table a few metres from our door and singing at the top of his voice. It was time to leave. We packed our bags and went and paid for the 3 nights, then went to the bus station where we were told the bus was 7,000 kyats. Supposedly this was the 'real' price, but it soon diminished to 6,000 and eventually 5,000. I think locals payed a fair bit less, but by this stage i was realistically willing to pay anything to leave and get to Yangon! On the bus i realised that they'd made me pay for the first night at the hotel in advance and thus over charged us by 1 night. Normally i wouldn't fall for such things, but i'll put it down to illness and desperation to escape! I had a good mind to get off the bus and go back, but i decided that it was the last place on earth i wanted to be heading at that particular moment. At least i had the blaring bus music to send me to sleep... arggggggh!!!

Deats says:
We arent sure yet. Maybe she goes home and sorts it out (about a month) and we meet again in Beijing or somewhere. Seems slightly costly for me to fly all the way back and then us both fly back out again. But we really dont know. Hopefully someone will take pity on us from above and give the Russians a conscience and send a passport out here! I doubt it though :)
Posted on: Feb 09, 2008
keeweeset says:
Wow! Are you going to fly back to Russia with Julia? Good luck with sorting this all out, hopefully the passport people in Russia will be more helpful...=)
Posted on: Feb 08, 2008
portia says:
Oh, this is so horrible/incredible. I do hope things turn out better eventually.
Posted on: Feb 08, 2008
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Golden rock seen on the climb up t…
Golden rock seen on the climb up …
Golden rock seen on the climb up t…
Golden rock seen on the climb up …
Another temple on the climb up to …
Another temple on the climb up to…
Slightly foggy scenery around gold…
Slightly foggy scenery around gol…
A foggy Golden rock seen on the cl…
A foggy Golden rock seen on the c…
Scenery on the climb to golden rock
Scenery on the climb to golden rock
Kyaiktiyo
photo by: oxangu2