Exploring Myanmar – The Golden Land of Temples & Pagodas 

This is my first trip to Myanmar. Together with three of my friends led by a tour Guide, we explored Yangon, Golden Rock in Kyaikhtiyo, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. It was a trip of discovery and also an eye-opener for me and my friends.


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Exploring Myanmar – The Golden Land Of Temples & Pagodas

1.  Introduction

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is the second largest country in Southeast Asia with a population of over 50 million.

In Myanmar, the majority of the population (90%) is Buddhist; the rest are Christian (5%), Muslim 4% and others. It is the most profoundly Buddhist country in the world. In ethnic proportion, Bamar forms the majority (70%) the rest are the Shan, Mon, Chinese, Indian and others. The ethnic groups can be broken down into over 100 different tribes.

The military has dominated the government of Myanmar since 1962 when it toppled the civilian government. Today, Myanmar is still under the tight control of the military.

Unlike its neighbors in SE Asia, Myanmar has yet to experience mass tourism because the tourists are still concerned about the government’s questionable human rights records. Currently there are very few package group tours to Myanmar. This means that many places one goes still remain unspoiled and pristine. But due to poor maintenance, many monuments have fallen into disrepair.


Four Malaysians, Kenny, KC, KP and I went to Myanmar for a discovery tour from 9th to 16th Jan 2011. The tour agent in Yangon which arranged our itinerary is Myanmar Golden Image Travel & Tours. The brief itinerary is as follows:


09.1.2011 – Arrive Yangon;


10.1.2011 – Yangon to Kyaikhtiyo;


11.1.2011 -  Kyaikhtiyo to Yangon;


12.1.2011 – Yangon to Bagan;


13.1.2011 – Bagan to Mandalay;


14.1.2011 – Mandalay to Helo to Inle Lake;


15.1.2011 – Inle Lake to Yangon and


16.1,2011 – Yangon to KLIA


The Guide for our tour : U Win Aye


The 4 intrepid travelers with their Guide

2.  Golden Rock In Kyaikhtiyo


2.1 Journey from Yangon to Kyaikhtiyo via Bago (11th Jan 2011)


After breakfast we left our hotel in Yangon and travelled in an air-con 7-seater van to Kyaikhtiyo which is about 160km from Yangon.  In Bago, 80km north of Yangon, we stopped at Kha Khat Wain Monastery. We arrived at this monastery at 11.30am when a gong was struck to signal lunch for the monks (about 1,000). It’s a daily ritual.


      Golden Duck Hall (Hinthakone)                       Another Temple on the way to the Base Camp

There is no direct access for cars to Kyaikhtiyo. We had to stop at the Base Camp called Kinponsakan. From there we took a ride in a truck for over 30 minutes to Ya Thet Tuang, the nearest point to the Golden Rock Pagoda. All the trucks were packed with passengers (more than 50) at the rear open carriage.  Our Guide spoke to one truck driver and we were allowed to be accommodated in the driver’s cab. There were two seats next to the driver and behind him there was a narrow bench where three passengers had to crouch and sit cross-legged! We had an uncomfortable ride for about 30 minutes along a narrow and windy road to Ya Thet Taung, the nearest point to the Golden Rock Pagoda.


From Ya Thet Taung, we trekked (steep uphill) for 45 minutes in a light drizzle to reach the hotel. It was evening when we finally reached our destination. There were porters to carry visitors in sedan chairs. The distance from Yangon to Golden Rock is about 210km.




                   The Trucks were packed with passengers                                         The walkway was steep all the way to the hotel


2.2   Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda


Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, also known to the world as Golden Rock Pagoda is in the area of the ancient kingdom of Suvannabhumi, the golden land. The Pagoda is 18-ft high, built on a gold gilded boulder 25 meters in circumference and is balanced in what appears to be a precarious position on a tabular rock jutting out from the ridge of a mountain. The Golden Rock is about 1,100m above sea level. We visited the Golden Stone early the next morning (12 Jan.).



The legend of Kyaikhtiyo recounts that in the 11th century, King Tissa received a strand of the Buddha’s hair from an old hermit requesting that it is to be enshrined in a pagoda built on a boulder resembling the hermit’s head. The boulder was finally found at the bottom of the sea and carried to the top of the mountain. It was then placed on the tabular rock and its delicate balance maintained with the strand of hair enshrined in the small pagoda erected on its top. The pagoda was named Khyaik-ei-thi-yo, which means “pagoda borne on a hermit’s head”, in Mon language.


2.3   Journey back to Yangon from the Golden Rock (12th Jan 2011)


We left for Yangon after our visit to Kyaikhtiyo in the morning. We descended by foot to Ya Thet Tuang to take a truck down to the Base Camp. At Ya Thet Tuang, all the trucks were fully packed. But we were lucky to be able to share a truck booked by another tour group. One of the European tourists from this tour group slipped and fell while visiting the Golden Rock in the morning and her head was injured. She had to be carried down in a sedan chair and had to be in Yangon as soon as possible for medical treatment.


When we arrived at the Base Camp, the minivan and the driver was there to take us back to Yangon. The journey was pleasant and scenic.



         The scenery of rural areas taken along the road to Yangon.


Along the way back to Yangon, we took a break in a village to sample the local palm toddy and visited a couple of temples nearby.



Palm toddy (tasted quite similar to ours) was served in the village’s shack



Other temples along the way, like the Shwe-tha Lyaun Reclining Buddha (55 meters long).

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NEV: Adventures 2008