After a few nice days in Hpa An, I travelled north to Kyaiktiyo, otherwise known as Golden Rock. We caught a bus which wasn’t too bad, only a 4hr ride and pretty comfortable as far as buses go. You can book a seat on the bus directly through your hotel (it is quite cheap, costing approximately 20,000 kyat per person). Once you arrive at the areas main bus terminal, you will need to catch a taxi to the station at the base of the mountain. Here you will have to wait until you are hustled onto one of the large trucks going up the mountain. They leave approximately every 30mins so it shouldn’t be too long a wait. The truck ride takes 45 minutes and the cars are packed full of people. It was clear that the front row seats were the most coveted as you are able to hold onto the top handlebars of the truck without having the locals basically squished on top of you. If you’re claustrophobic I would not recommend this mode of transport, however it is the main way to commute up and down the mountain. If you prefer something a litter more luxe, you can pay an outrageous fee of 50,000 kyat and sit inside the front of the actual truck with the driver (we did it when we were on the way down the mountain – would not recommend seeing as it only takes 20 minutes for the truck to come down. If you’re going to pay the money and sit in the front, make sure it is when you are on your way up the mountain, as the trip is much longer and means you get better value for your $$).
Anyway, we eventually reached the top of the mountain and boy was it breathtaking. The view, the shops, the people- its a bustling little town of activity up there. There are a few hotels to choose from and they are all expensive for a one night stay, however if you don’t stay on the mountain you can’t be there for the sunrise, which is the main reason for a visit here. None of the trucks from the base of the mountain will go up before sunrise, and if you’re staying mid way down the mountain you have a long strenuous climb to the top. I recommend the Mountain Top Hotel – one of the pricier choices but it has good views, the rooms were clean, there was hot water and they provide a buffet breakfast. Although in saying that, for over $100USD for a single night, I definitely didn’t feel my money’s worth. I can’t complain though because the other options looked even worse, and it was definitely better than sleeping outside on the temple tiles with the numerous local families.
Once you are at the top and settled there are plenty of restaurants and places to eat so don’t worry about hauling your own food up the mountain. In my opinion the sunset was better for photos than sunrise so if you’re going to set up your tripod or snag a good photo spot make sure you get in early! Other than that I only have one other tip for you… take socks with you when you walk around at sunrise because no shoes are allowed and the entire area is tiled and freezing in the morning when temperatures are low. Also don’t forget a jumper or two!