2 days ago we woke at the town servicing the Golden Rock Pagoda ready for the truck ride to the top of the hill to visit the rock.
As I said in previous post this is a very significant site for Myanmar Buddhist. You get to the site in the back of a constant stream of trucks packed with 50 pilgrims with seating design to maximise the load of small Asians. The seating is very tight so due to my height I had to sit sideways and pay for 2 seats on the way up. After making sure the income had been maximised on the truck we headed off the 11k climb up the 1000meteres to the rock, with a brief early stop for air in a tire. Three more times we stopped on the trip up, each time beside a stand so the people could shake the silver collection bowls around the truck and state the case for there cause.
Upon reaching the top we were bundled off the truck for the last kilometre walk to the rock through the array of stalls that seem to be everywhere people might spend money. Once at the top foreigners have to pay an entrance fee, I guess you call that a “compulsory donation”.
Entering any Buddhist temple or site requires the removal of your shoes and socks. This introduces you to the whole new experience of walking across marble and tile floors and getting the wet slippery feeling under you foot, you know can only be someone’s spit, so smile and rub it off on the next couple of steps.
A very strange thing about the Buddhist in Myanmar is that is very different to any other Buddhist culture in that woman are not allowed approach any thing deemed scared like the Golden Rock, Worship Platforms or the Main Alters in any temple. All in all we were glad to have had the experience.
While having breakfast before the rock I said to Julie, “I’m ready for Home”, she agreed and we decide to think about our options while visiting the rock.
While visiting the Rock Julie and I discussed our options for when we left Myanmar into Thailand the next day. We had all decide a few days prior that we didn’t have time to include Laos after going to Chiang Mia if we wanted to be home for Christmas.
We had both been travelling for 12 weeks out of the last 15 weeks and we decide to head home early from Mae Sot and go straight on to Bangkok and not turn left up to Chiang Mai.
Walking around up at the rock we both realized that all the travelling and sitting in cars had taken a big toll on our fitness so the extra 10 days at home will give us more time to prepare for next year as I have a 5 week skiing trip planed with Lawrence and James in late January while Julie is off to the Antarctica and Chile to climb a volcano called Osorno which is crampons and ice axe for the last couple of hours
After the Rock we headed to the town of Hpa An for lunch beside the river and our last nights stay in Myanmar. We told Ross and Frank about our plan changes and going straight to Bangkok the next day at lunch. That night we all took our guide Tin, his 2 drivers and the Minister of Tourism escort out to dinner thanking them for a great trip across Myanmar.
The morning drive to the border stated out with some of the worst roads in Myanmar. The roads where bad however the scenery was stunning with great limestone towers coming out of lime green rice paddies. When the rice paddies stopped the road was lined with rubber trees and the collected rubber drive on racks like washing. The road all changed 45k from the border with the best and nicest road in the country to carry us to Myawaddy. We completed our exit process with Tin’s help then it was good-bye to our friends from the last 10 days.
Crossing the bridge into Thailand has a man directing traffic, as at some time while crossing the bridge you need to change sides of the road. Myanmar is between India and Thailand, which both drive on the left and the sensible thing would be for Myanmar to do the same, since nearly every car is right hand drive from Thailand and Japan. Until 1970 Myanmar drove on the left, the then Ruler had a meeting with his wizard and the wizard advised to change sides of the road and that’s what happened the change was ordered the next day.
The entry process in to Thailand with our cars was fairly effortless due to great help and guidance from the Thai Customs and Immigration staff pointing us to all the correct windows and forms.
Once in Thailand we bid farewell to Frank and Ross and headed to Bangkok after lunch and some last minute shopping at the weaving shop supporting local women.
For about an hour last night on the drive in to Bangkok we could see fireworks celebrating the King’s Birthday all around.
We are now in Bangkok with Julie flying home tonight and I’ll follow once I complete the arrangements for Penny’s storage ready to be shipped home with Frank’s car in a couple of weeks.
The next time you receive a post from me will be in preparation for our next trip when Penny, Julie and I participate in the Peking to Paris event in June 2016.
Julie has some photo galleries for those who want to see some more photographs – and they can be viewed by going to her website – http://juliestephenson.net/ ; then under the tab ADVENTURES there is a drop down – INDIA and BHUTAN PENNY 2015 – and dropdown menu items with each of the gallery pages you can click on there.