South of Myanmar
KYAIKTO / KINPUN
Global Mark : 13.21
Ratings by criteria :
Ratings by backpackers :
||10 to 20
Description : A camp base (Kinpun) from which to assault the
touristy & religious Gold Rock Superstar (the one you see on photos everywhere)
Comments : It sometimes feel like Gold Rock'n Roll but the mountain sceneries are great...
What to do ? Store on snacks & water at the camp base or at Kyaikto (cheaper) / Decide whether to play it courageous (walk 4 hours up, 3 hours down) or lazy (frequent truck from 6am to 6pm, K150 up, K120 down, 30mn ride), or a little bit of both / Either options, pass lots of shops selling Gold Rock's effigies, bamboo weapons games, roots, stuffed animals or endangered species' products : tiger's penis, bear's skin, elephant's teeth and even a white rabbit's itself / If very brave or blind, apply Myanmar
medicine on your skin / Normal people would rather opt for a degustations of
crystallized fruits / At the top, say
wow at the scenery, follow the pilgrims and make your own photo of the Rock / Wonder on how long it will take the Rock to finally fall down from the steep cliff / Spot
animals in the wild : parrots, squirrels,...
What you may not like ? Thinking you should have played it easy if sweating your way up / Not having good shoes / The negotiable bottle of water in Kinpun but the expensive water on the summit (K100) / The sign : "Behave yourself as a citizen" / All the "Hello spend your money in my shop" / Finding the mountains & Rock covered by fog or clouds / The stuffed animals on display or meeting a non-stuffed bear / The insects at night /
How long ? Half a day is actually enough to
rush up & down but one full day would let you appreciate the mountain views better. Also, why not take a few hours to explore the village of Kyaikto as well ?
Where to stay ? A few GH in Kyaikto village but it is better to stay in Kinpun, where touts should welcome you as soon as off the truck. This is what to expect :
- ® Htoo Bungalows, the first place on the left when entering the camp / Dbl bungalows K500, Quad bungalows (2 big beds) K1000 / No breakfast / Go there to get in touch with nature (100% bamboo) in relative comfort (fan & mosquitoes net) at good prices / What you may not like : the lack of nice garden, the very basic structures, the outside common shower (bucket) & toilets
- Hein Linn Aung GH, formerly
Htet Yar Zar GH, just after the above / Tiny dirty rooms $5 (1 or 2) with breakfast
- Diamond Golden Land, before the bridge on the left / First quotation : room w. cold shower $5(1) or $10(2) with no breakfast / Go there to negotiate : first the breakfast was included, then the Sgl occupancy was down to $3 without
breakfast and finally down to K500. As for the rooms, they are grotty but rather big for the camp.
- Minn Thi Dar GH, on the right after the bridge / Very basic rooms w. fan & mosquitoes net $5(1) or $10(2) / No breakfast
- ® Sea Sar GH, well behind Sea Sar Restaurant, in a small garden, north of the bus station / Basic rooms in house $1(1) or $2(2), bungalow style rooms w. HW shower $3(1) or $6(2), one room cheaper w. cold shower / Go there for the best quality-price ratio in camp / What you may not like : having little space beside the bed, the dim lightning in the cheaper rooms
- Pann Myo Thu Inn, on the left of the "shopping arcade" / Rooms on the roof $1(1) or $2(2), downstairs $3(1) or $6(2), w. AC & HW shower $6(1) or $10(2) / Breakfast w. AC rooms only / Go there for the AC rooms & to jungle with the prices & options / What you may not like : the very flexible price policy but not so nice rooms with bad isolation for the cheapest
- There are two places on the summit but they are very pricey :
- Golden Rock Hotel (9535-70174), 1.5 km from the summit / Economy rooms with cold shower start at $24(1) or $28(2) while standard rooms are $36(1) or $43(2) / A better standard than the one below but not such a prime location
- Kyaikto Hotel (reservation in Yangon 245285), on the summit with great views of the Rock and the mountains / Very basic economy room $15(1) or $24(2), standard w. cold shower $36(1) or $44(2), superior w. HW shower $40(1) or $50(2) / Government Hotel
- It was reported possible to sleep for free at Golden Dragon restaurant
in exchange of spending money on their dishes. Anyone who has done it ?
Where to eat ? Kinpun is basically a place to sleep, eat & shop. The basic meat dish cost K150 plus rice and dozens of places offer the same options...
A natural & religious day out ?
Arriving in late morning, I had no time for a good work out up the mountain. Considering the weather, and my physical conditions, this was
as good this way. But I certainly wanted to walk it down. So I rushed to take a truck : riding those high-powered vehicles are in itself an experience well worth the K150 fee.
At the upper Ya The Taung Bus Terminal, there was no choice but to walk. Well, there is an alternative : it is possible to be carried for around K500 but I will keep that option for my old days... So I walked 40mn on a rather steep road offering some views toward the Rock plus a few
path side attractions like those scary medicine full of skulls.
At the top, we were welcomed by Buddhist prayers & spitting noises diffused by huge speakers. Then we had a "donation please for the road" which could somehow be confused with the ticket boots as they issue an official-looking-like-receipt. No doubt you will get a lot of blessings by giving them 6 dollars !
The foreigners' office (it is free for locals) is a bit further. I had made up my mind not to pay the government so much money for seeing the Rock from a closer distance. But it would have been possible to avoid paying if I had been real fast & discreet or simply stubborn : just opposite the office, stairs (take off your shoes) lead to a big Buddha figure from where you can spot the Rock. There is also a small path on the right leading back to the road at an upper level...
I had been spotted by officials going up the stairs so I only decided to "cheat" as far as the
Kyaikto Hotel. Indeed, while I was sipping free tea at the great panoramic terrace of the Hotel's restaurant (good cake as well for K40), someone came to ask if I had the ticket and inquire whether or not I could pay. I was then reminded that "all foreigners must pay entrance fee $6 to access the area and this include the road up". After I left him, he followed me to make sure I turned left toward the office and not right toward the Rock. This is what I had planned to do anyway...
It was already 14:45 so I had no time to loose. I rushed down to the bus station and looked for the road down. I was pointed toward the bus road but also warned that I could not take it : "Too dangerous alone !". I insisted a bit but was taken to the police office where a mute monk explained me in very clear mimics that I would be really crazy to go as the road is desert and full of hungry (or angry) bears. So where was the road one could walk safely down ? - "At the summit, on the right of the donation place". That was just great : by the time I would reach it again, it would be 4pm. Probably no time to walk the 11km down before night. Beside, it was starting to rain. So, I did like most visitors nowadays : I took a truck down... But I promise you : I will be back one day and walk it up & down daily for two weeks !
Discover the way to the Rock
Backpacker's Tips : Lai Nam Khim, Singapore (Dec 04)
« i. During the pilgrimage season (around year end),there are direct
buses from Yangon that goes all the way to Kinpun. From Bago, you can hope onto
such buses and skip Kyaikto. The buses started to pass by Bago from 7am onwards.
The only problem was that you are unlikely to get a seat. I got onto one in Bago
and stood all the way to Kinpun (around 3 hours). The bus fare was K1500. The
conductor actually asked for K2000, but when I pointed out that people in Bago
told me it was only K1500, he only charged me K1500.
ii. The tracks from Kinpun to the golden rock is a very established one, so
there is no fear of getting lost. it is lined with little stalls selling food or
drinks, donation boxes, beggars, and make-shift shrines soliciting donations (probably
because it was pilgrimage season when I went). It took me 3.5 hours
to reach the top (I did it at a pretty brisk pace).
iii. spend time on the top soaking in the mood, see the family camping, youths
playing guitar and singing ballards, people meditating... it was very magical
iv. I took the pickup back to kinpun after watching sunset on the top. The
pickup fare is now K500 each direction.I reached the pickup station at 6:30 pm.
The problem was the pickup only go after it was full. We waited until 8:15
before the pickup finally moved. Another tourist told me that they had been
waiting since 5:30pm! Even some of the locals were so frustrated that the
started scolding the pickup driver. That was the worst experience of waiting in
Myanmar. Otherwise, I found that buses or pickup tends to leave very punctually
-- sometimes even early!
v. I took a direct bus from Kinpun to Yangon's Hsimmalaik bus station. I think
such direct buses are only available during pilgrimage season. The fare was
K2500. The bus left a whole 15 minutes early! In fact it was just waiting for me
and once I boarded the bus,it left immediately.»
Leaving Kyaikto ? Besides buses to Yangon via Bago, you have pick-up leaving at around 8am when enough people to Bago (K300, 3 hours), Yangon (K600, 5 hours), Pa-an (K400, 4 hours) and Mottama (K400, 4 hours, then boat to Mawlamyine). More pick-up are available from Kyaikto village (K40, 30mn)
Train also depart from there at 13:00 for Bago (arr. 15:00, $2) and Yangon (arr. 17:30, $3). Another train leave at 22:45 and reach Yangon at 4:30. The train to Mottama leave at 11:00 and
should arrive at around 16:00.
Notes : D = duration / via Bago (2.5 hrs)
The trip to Bago : SS / L&R / K400 / 2.5 hrs / AC Bus without AC
We woke up under heavy rain so the K300 pick-up journey did not sound like a great idea after all. The day before, I had been asked K500 for the AC bus ticket, the same price than for Yangon. But today, the price was down to K400. Was it because it was near empty, because they slept over our previous discussion about unfair price policy or because they decided to use the windows instead of the AC ? Another mystery to solve !
Anyway, due to the emptiness, it left half an hour late, then stopped regularly along the way. The scenery was OK but nothing special compared to the previous days. However, the sounds were great : local remix of western hits on the front
speakers plus coughing and spitting noises from the rear seats...
See also the trip from Pa-an