It is situated about 200 kms. east of Yangon, on the road to Mawlamyine and has now become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites and therefore tourist targets in the country. It’s present popularity was not always so. It is 1100 metres above sea level and until recently it as reached by pony or more usually by a stiff hike up the mountain. This used to take at least two days.
The previous military government decided to build a road ( another is now being constructed to avoid the present queues of truck going either down of up, which have to wait in passing places for whichever has the right of way).
Adventure on the back of a truck
It is these truck which are the only permissible transport – they assemble is the car park at the bottom of the hill to load up with visitors, and it is still an hours walk to get to the summit when the truck reaches the top car park for the unloading of visitors. It is is a hard climb.
The third most visited site in Myanamar
The last trucks to ascend go mid afternoon so get there in plenty of time. However in spite of these difficulties , or maybe because of them it has become a place a pilgrimage for thousands, especially in February. For the infirm it is possible to rent palanquins and four porters.
foreigners have to stay in the few designated hotels on the summit, and also pay for access to the site to the tourist police.
Small pagoda – big attraction
The actual pagoda is very small and placed on the top of a massive boulder which is perched on the extreme verge of a projecting rock, similar to many on the mountainside, actually – some having been turned into replicas of the actual worshipped pagoda. There are various legends as to how it was created – self elevation to sit on a hair of the Buddha ?
The pagoda and rock is covered in gold leaf – only applied by men – women are only allowed to look – not touch.