Today I went on a day trip to Golden Rock and the town of Bago. I'd explored enough of Yangon and it was time for something new. After a early wake up (five am) and a several hour drive, we arrived at the small town at the base of the mountain. I was told I needed to take a bus to get to the top, to see Golden Rock. I looked around for one and didn't see any...until I realised the hoards of people jumping into industrial trucks were taking the 'bus'. It was first come, first served so I jumped into a 'bus', squeezing my way between the natives. The drive up was breathtaking in more ways than one. Not only were the open views of the Burmese mountains incredible, the roads were treacherously narrow and any mishaps would see us all flung out of the 'bus', which didn't even have walls to keep us in.
Finally teaching the top, I joined the hundreds of pilgrims walking to the Rock. High in the mountains I expected a simple shrine, instead Golden Rock was surrounded by an entire town. Full of colourful shops, restaurants and even a hotel or two. As sacred ground you had to take your shoes off, and I felt slightly disgusted as I stepped around the trash cans and left over food. The lively town was filled with families on a day outing, eating picnics on the ground and playing with their kids.
I finally reached the Rock, which was a marvel. Supposedly so heavy that it should naturally fall over, instead it was proof of divinity. I finished by exploring the colourful town further and ordering some similarly vibrant food. Myanmar is still so fresh on the tourist trail, that English fluency is limited. But pointing, some English and my very limited Burmese (which the locals found amusing) was enough to get by. The sheer novelty of this hustling, vibrant town high in the mountains was worth the trip alone.
On the way back I stopped at Bago, which promised some more religious sites. These were dull, worn out and under repair. Definitely not worth the time to visit.
I got home late and was totally dead after a sixteen hour day. I hit the hay early, satisfied with the adventure.