Was this trip out to see the Golden Rock at Kyaiktiyo and hiking up Mount Zwegabin. The highlights of this trip was staying at a monastery...

The best birthday present I gave to myself...

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Was this trip out to see the Golden Rock at Kyaiktiyo and hiking up Mount Zwegabin.

The highlights of this trip was staying at a monastery (coolest thing ever), seeing the most extraordinary sunsets and sunrise of my life and meeting the most amazingly kind-hearted couple ever.

I couldn't have treated myself better on my 23rd Birthday. (yikes I'm old indeed!)
All budgeted to guess what? Under USD 50 for three days of awesomeness. I'll state the prices in brackets.

Here goes!

So I took a train down to Kyaikto (1,200 kyats). I sat beside locals and all of them kept asking me if I'm alone and one man even stood up and asked me "Which country you from?" and when he found out I was Singaporean, he freakin announced it to the whole cabin hahahaha. The locals around me were sooo nice, offering me food every time they bought something. I had yummy watermelons and the locals were just so incredibly nice. Lucky the ticket conductor who sold me the ticket at the counter made me sit beside locals who were getting off at the same station, otherwise I wouldn't have known where to alight.

I waved goodbye to them and they smiled the warmest smiles. People tend to treat you very well when they know you're alone.

I then left on a pick-up truck (500 kyats), which was surprisingly easy to find, to make my way to Kinpun base to start my hike up the treacherous mountain. I was mentally prepared for this 4 hour doom.





Let's just say that I thought this was the "Golden Rock".

To be continued...



Nice view after hiking for about an hour.

Ok, so after an hour, I thought I struck gold. Like literally. I thought I'd found the majestic Golden Rock after just an hour of hiking. I was thinking oh wow, I'm super woman. Internet says 4 hours, but me? Just one. Fwahahhahaha.

This was around 1:30pm.


Happily selfie-d myself away with this beautiful thing.


Only to realise...

 IT AIN'T THE GOLDEN ROCK. Nabeh.

And I spent an hour there just resting and doing nothing and feeling like a fool for accomplishing such an amazing feat.

Until a monk came to tell me it's the "Thimpunzun" rock. I was like, shat. Now I just wasted an hour resting and doing nothing AND acting so proud that I made it. I knew something had to be wrong...

So I was on my way again to the ever elusive.. Golden Rock.




To my amazement... the trek wasn't what I had expected!

I was hiking within a village. Where Burmese villagers lived their ordinary lives.
It was an eye-opener to be trekking among the villagers. It reminded me of my time in Laos where I homestayed with my hosts. It was so nice. 

I recommend hiking up to Kyaiktiyo just to get this experience... it really gives you a taste of Burmese life.

Plus, you'll feel so much more like a winner than the rest who took a pick-up truck up to see the rock.

But of course.. way more tiring. It feels like one of those expeditions that people go on.


I took this picture so that I'd be reminded of how tired I was.
By this time, I think I was 3 hours into the walk. And a villager had told me there were still 3 more miles to go. Luckily I didn't know what 'miles' is and if I knew it in kilometres, my mental state might have crashed. Ignorance is bliss. So I just kept walking.

I've hiked a few times and this trek has got to be one of the more tiring ones. 4 hours. phee yoo. But I liked how it wasn't just all steps. There was some pacing in-between.

Still, no regrets at all. Because of these views along the way...




Met these two cuties along the way.

Not just these two, but several cuties.
One even gave me a fist bump and a handshake LAWLL!!!
So many children running and playing around.

One thing though is that I feel sad that they have to have tourists constantly coming by their places. It's like intrusion into their homes.. so I don't know if tourism is all that good. Some of them gave me stares lol. But most of them were really nice and I had to greet so many people with the most "Mingalabas" in my entire stay here. And there were some who were so encouraging and telling me how long more I had to go. A lot of them asked if I was the only one hiking.

The last part of the hike was the best, because everyone was happily pointing me the way of the Golden Rock. It was like an episode of The Amazing Race hahaha. I still remember how a boy's face was so lit up as he pointed in the direction of The Golden Rock. Such a handsome boy as well.

Blimey, typing this out makes the whole hike sound a whole lot easy.
But really, let me tell you that it was exhausting. I dunno how I did it.
Not a very popular trek because I only met one foreigner who was trekking downhill and gave me ill-boding news that I had 2 and a half hours more of hiking to go when I was 70% dying already haha.

Nevertheless, soon enough... I found myself making my way towards my destination...






The bloody splendid sunset.....
I literally said "wah" out loud.
The yolk....

I of course had to take a picture with it and the horizon.



Can I also say, that you should never ask a Burmese to take a photo for you? Hahahahaha
Their framing is always so bad!!!
Buay tahan leh.


Sun half-setting.


I really like this scene where the Golden Rock was right behind and the people in the foreground were playing football. 


There.
This time I asked a non-Burmese to help me take the photo hahahaha.


I loved the colours of the sky...
And spot the crescent moon ; )





Heard so much about this Golden Rock and I'm so glad I finally got a chance to see it, albeit an arduous hike.
The sunset was gorgeous as well....
I HAD to do this trip because if I don't, I'd feel like I hadn't been to Myanmar.

I also got away with not getting a foreigner ticket. Foreigners have to pay an entrance fee of 6,000 kyats but I followed the herd of tourists and got away with it. HEEHEEE.

For the night I stayed at a hostel (10,000 kyats). I believe it was also where I got bed bug bites. They're all over my body itchy itch itch.... 

The next day, I left Kinpun base camp on a bus (7,000 kyat), enroute to Hpa An!
It is another place I was keen on visiting after some research when I first came to Myanmar.
Quaint town they say.


Goodbye Kyaiktiyo....

And Hello Hpa An.



Gorgeous mountain views all around.
Rented a bike (1,000 kyat) and made my way down to Mount Zwegabin.
This is the mountain where I stayed at overnight. (yeap I stayed at the top of the mountain!)

And yes, many many flights of stairs awaited me....
They went on and on and on. It only took 2 hours but compared to Kyaiktiyo's Golden Rock, I took a lot more rests and stops because non-stop flights of stairs is much more tiring than a paced hike. 


This was so steep I could climb on all fours.






Time check: 4:35pm.
Takes 2 hours to get to the top.
I started out at 3pm so I was nearing...



And then there I was... on top of the world at the pagoda.
Tired face but I still managed a smile : )

And this was what greeted me...





As I waited for the sun to set, I made a new friend who came to sit with me and watch the view...


He obviously wanted food from me hahaha.
My first friend on the trip!

Now Lo & Behold...




Gorgeous sunset.
I really love the colours of the sky and yolk..

A monk told me that the sunset wasn't too nice that day though because of the clouds. It's true, the clouds were blocking the sun. Still lovely to me though.

One of them came and asked me if I would like to stay overnight at the temple and I was like "YAAAAAAASSSSS". In my head of course to seem modest haha because I actually planned to stay there since the internet said it was possible. But I wasn't sure if it was still possible since they said in 2014, the monks weren't very happy with people staying over.

I even devised a few scenarios to convince them to let me stay there but yeah yerrrr I got to! Which meant that I'd get to see the sunrise the next day. Bloody fantastic :')




This was where I slept.
Modest with no mattress. It was slightly uncomfortable since I had hiked two mountains and my body was aching all over. Also, the monks kept walking in and out throughout the night to pee so I was woken up several times.

Still, what an experience!!! They even provided dinner and breakfast :') Vegetarian of course. (With a 5,000 kyat "donation" to the temple as well haha)

What was nice about this stay was how I got a chance to talk to monks. I've always enjoyed speaking to different kinds of people and the monk taught me about the different types of Buddhism and also life in general. He was so excited to teach me a little Burmese as well~ My Burmese friend told me monks love to teach the Burmese language hahaha. Indeed.

He also told me not many Asians climb this mountain. Mostly Europeans like Germans and French and Swiss. Not surprising though. 

I often wonder how the monks can survive in such a place so high above... with nothing else to do but eat pray sleep. If I were them, I'd love to have tourists around so that I'd have some social life haha.


Anyway, the next day...

it was my....


BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!

Got up at 5am to catch this beauty...







It was beautiful but not as beautiful as the sunset because the clouds started to come in fast and before I knew it, Mr Sun was gone and faded.

Then, I was disturbed by a ruckus...



BLOODY MONKEYS!!!!!!

Wahlau eh, I was shocked when I saw this head peeking out while I was tryna enjoy the view.
And a stupid monkey stole my fried beans!!!! I felt like I was stupider than the monkey. 

I despise them.

Anyway, this was how the day looked like at my favourite spot..




One of the young boys at the monastery.
The monk told me that these boys come from poor families so they're working there and getting a bit of education. When I asked the monk what this boy's name was, THE MONK ALSO DUNNO. Damn lawllll siah.

But he is sucha sweet boy! Really like him a lot. His name is Po-teh-sar. I'm sure it's not spelt this way but it's pronounced that way hahaha.

It was around 7:30am when I decided to leave the monastery and make my way down the many many flights of staircases. 

I thanked the monks for their hospitality and the monk that I befriended wished me goodbye and said "see you again next year". I would love to if I could : )


Misty morning as I made my way down...




Little did I know that it's actually real tiring climbing down too???

I was sweating like hell and my legs were just aching man...

But guess what?


I had a companion!!!!!!!!
This dog accompanied me down all the way.
And she waited for me at certain stop areas and continued once I reached her. So sweet :') You should really see how she waited for me... Like a guardian angel. I dunno why I've this feeling that the monk at the monastery instructed her to follow me down. Because I was alone.



So cute eh.



I was so thirsty that I drank two cans of soda once I reached the bottom.
Do you see the doggy's paws under the table?
She even accompanied me as I drank my sprite and coke. And left when I left. 

I love her so much... truly Man's best friend.


After that, I collected my bike and onwards to a cave.

I wanted to visit a cave because Hpa An is famous for its caves with Buddha engravings on it. I hate caves actually. They don't impress me at all but I felt like I had to otherwise I'd be missing out.

So I chose to visit Saddar Cave even though it was really far away, coz well, I was feeling gung-ho and it was Number 1 on Trip Advisor so DUH I had to go. And since I only wanna go to one cave, this one shall be the one.

Some of the views along the way...





Angry lady and handy bike.

Handy bike it was...

BECAUSE IT TOOK ME THREE FRAAKIN HOURS ON BIKE TO REACH THE CAVE.

Three.

My lord, I had not expected that. 

I pushed on despite the heat wave and all because I decided that I couldn't give up halfway.
And I'm just stubborn like that.
So when I got there, I was like -- it better be spectacular.





When I got there, I was really really REALLY tired.
And yeah, the engravings were nice but let me tell you again, caves DO NOT impress me. And I thought this one might just change my mind since the reviews were just raving about it.

But I was wrong.

The floor was slippery. I fell on my butt twice. It was dark and lonely.
And I reached out to two Burmese boys to help me but they didn't. And I just felt... so bloody... vulnerable.

And I was like, screaming to myself why the hell did I have to be such an idiot and choose the bloody longest route to see a stupid cave, which was so unspectacular to me. And on my birthday. Yay me.

I was so upset as I washed my muddied clothes and shoes, and I was thinking to myself, how the hell was I gonna get back? Another 3 hours of cycling? And in the hot sun? I'd be damned....

I was really at wit's ends and thought wow, I just destroyed my beautiful solo trip by being stupid.

It was just then, when a Burmese couple came up to me and gestured to ask where I was sleeping that night. They were the ones in the car who were trailing behind me as I cycled towards the cave. I recognised them.

They initiated conversation with me in very basic English, asking me where I was from, asked me about Singapore, about my family and whether I had eaten.... And I could tell that they wanted to help me. They kept asking me, "Lam la? Lam la?", which I didn't get, but was a crucial question I needed to answer that I later found out. I kept shaking my head saying I don't know.

I later found out from my Burmese friends that they were asking me, "Do you want to come?".

After a while, we started walking out. I was desperate. I knew they were asking me if I wanted help from them but I appeared as if I didn't because I couldn't understand what they were saying. And when their car drove off... It felt as if all hope left my soul. As I dragged my bike, I ran towards their car and waved to them, hoping they'd see me.

But they continued driving. 
I wanted to die.

Then, I saw their car stop. And I let out an exasperated "AH!" Like omg.... they're stopping for me. They're COMING FOR ME. 

They gestured if I needed their help to put my bike in their car and I said yes. And I thanked them profusely. You don't know how grateful I was at that point of time... you really don't know. I was so touched that I passed them my name card with my address in Singapore and told them to visit me when they can. I had nothing else on me to give them so it was the only way I knew how to thank them.

After speaking so much about them, this is a photo of the lovely couple who helped me out...


Kyaw Kyaw Oo & Ei Ei Thein

I've tried to search for them on Facebook but alas, I can't find them.
Ever since my trip, I haven't been able to stop thinking about them... 

They treated me to lunch at this place.


It's called "Ko-ti-yo"
Which I then realised, its name was adapted from "Kway Teow".


When I left them, she reached out to my face and pecked it as we waved goodbye.

I was sososososo thankful.
I cannot tell you how my solo trips have always taught me the act of kindness. The kindness of strangers to be exact. And I will never forget them. Never...


Before we left the restaurant, we even spotted this beautiful rainbow.
I took it as a sign from the heavens above....

I was literally down in the dumps with my ass all wet and muddy and feeling so upset... when angels came to save me. I'm speechless.

Even though I was alone on this trip... I was never really alone.
As always for all my solo trips. And Man can never be alone. We need each other. In the darkest of hours.

Speaking of dark, before I left Hpa An for Yangon back to my apartment, I had naan at this little teashop.


The owners of the shop accompanied me and talked to me as I waited two hours for my bus to arrive.
They were so interested to talk to me and one of them was so excited to pass me gifts. He passed me two laminated photos of Mount Zwegabin and a keychain of Aung San Suu Kyi.

I was nobody to them. Just a foreigner visiting their little town, but they were so warm to me.

I forgot to tell him... that that day was my birthday and those gifts were truly presents for me coz it was a special day.

:')

I was so loved on this trip since the time I was on the train all the way till I left Hpa An.

It's amazing what this trip did for me...
I am just... soaking in gratitude and humbled by the entire experience.
I was surrounded by nature, people and friends
What more could I have asked for? What more...


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