The Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, also called the Golden Rock is one of Burma’s most sacred Buddhist sites. A massive boulder on the edge of a cliff with a pagoda on top of it enshrining a hair of the Buddha is an important pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists.
The huge Golden Rock in the mountains North East of Yangon hanging over a steep cliff provides for an amazing sight. The rock that appears to be gold is actually a granite boulder that is covered with gold leaf applied to the rock by Buddhist devotees.
The boulder is about 7½ meters high and has a golden pagoda called the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda or Kyaik Hti Yo Pagoda on top of it where the Buddha’s hair relic is enshrined.
The rock balances on the edge of a cliff and it appears like it can fall down in the valley below it at any moment. The boulder seems to hover over the ground, the contact area is very small.
Place of worship for thousands of years
Around the pagoda is an atmosphere of devotion with the burning candles, the chanting of devotees, the smell of incense sticks and the offerings being made to the shrine. It is said that this place has been a Buddhist place of worship for 2,600 years.
The Golden Rock with the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Buddhists in Burma. Every day many people come to the rock and pay their respect. Devotee pilgrims apply gold leaf to the rock. Only men can do this, as women are not allowed to touch the rock.
Since this is a sacred place, at the main entrance you have to take off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot to the Golden Rock. Two large lions or Chinthes guard the entrance to the temple grounds.
After dark the Golden Rock is a place with a mystical atmosphere with all the candle lights and the small of burning incense sticks. The complex consists of several viewing platforms, a number of pagodas, shrines containing Buddha images and shrines for Nats, the Burmese spirits. There are also a few restaurants and guest houses.
Legend of the Golden Rock
Legend tells that when the Buddha visited the area he gave a hair relic to a hermit. The hermit went to see the King and requested him to enshrine the relic on a boulder in the shape of the hermits head.
The King who possessed magical powers, found a suitable stone on the bottom of the sea and brought it over to Kyaikto where it was placed in its current location.
It is said that the Buddha’s hair, enshrined in the pagoda on top of the boulder, prevents the Golden Rock from crashing down.
According to the legend the boat that was used to transport the boulder turned into stone. A large boulder close the Golden Rock somewhat resembling the shape of a boat has another stupa on top of it named the Kyaukthanban Pagoda.
How to get to the Kyaikhtiyo Golden Rock Pagoda
The Golden Rock with the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda is located close to Kyaikto town, some 80 kilometers East of Bago and 160 kilometers North East of Yangon. Getting there requires quite a bit of effort. Although the trip is an adventure in itself, it takes considerable time and part of the journey can be uncomfortable.
The first leg of the journey is taking a bus or private taxi from either Yangon or Bago to Kinpun village at the base of the mountain where the Golden Rock is on. From the base camp in Kinpun travellers make a ride in the back of an open truck that is fitted with benches. The ride up on the winding roads on the forested mountains over 1,000 meters above sea level takes around 30 minutes to Ya Thay Taung.
From here it is about one hour walk to the Golden Rock along a road with souvenir shops. Bring plenty of water for the climb. At the entrance gate of the temple complex you have to take off your shoes and socks and continue the walk barefoot. Bring a bag to carry them with you. If you don’t feel like walking you care hire porters to carry you up to the Kyaikhtiyo Golden Pagoda in a kind of bamboo sedan chair. Negotiate a price before leaving and pay at the end of the return trip.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The Golden Rock temple grounds are open daily, 24 hours per day. Entrance fee is US$ 6 per person.