Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock)
The Golden Rock, also known as the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda because of the Stupa on top of it, is just what it sounds like: a somewhat surreal looking, gold shimmering boulder that seems to completely defy gravity, threatening to drop into the adjoining 1,100-meter deep abyss at any moment. The legend says that for over a thousand years, a single hair of Buddha has been holding the roughly head shaped piece of granite in equilibrium. While the legend stands in contrast to the geological explanation, the reason why the rock seems to be made of solid gold is noticeable immediately. Women aren’t allowed to touch the big nugget, but men crowd around the bottom, sticking golden flakes on the stone, kneeling in prayer and wrapped in the smoke of incense.
Buddhism is omnipresent in Myanmar and accordingly the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the country. Up to 50,000 people visit on important days to see the rock that has survived centuries of weathering, earthquakes and erosion, while an average day usually attracts around 15,000 pilgrims. Although there is an air of devotion surrounding the site, the area has also been developed into a true tourist site providing everything you might need on the mountain, from accommodation, platforms, various buildings to food stalls selling delicious pancakes, skewers, fried fish and rice noodles.