Golden Rock, Mount Kyaikhtiyo in Mon State is a really amazing spectacular sight. Resting on the edge of a cliff is a golden boulder with a girth of 50 feet (15.2 m). A small stupa 18 feet (5.5 m) high is perched atop the boulder. The entire marvel – Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, or Golden Rock – is 80 feet (24.4 m) high. An important center for pilgrims, Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda is said to contain one of the Buddha’s hairs. The Myanmar people believe that the rock was placed on the mountain ledge, 2,500 years ago, with the help of nat spirits.

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From some vantage points it actually looks as if the rock is about to fall at any moment. According to legend, a single hair of the Buddha is what holds this great gilded boulder in balance. It is said that King Tissa was given the hair by a hermit in the 11th century, who had kept it in his topknot. The king wanted to house it in a pagoda which was to be built on a rock that was shaped exactly like the hermit’s head, and when he finally found the right stone at the bottom of the sea with the help of the nat king, Thagyamin, he miraculously brought it by ship to the top of the mountain, where the boat turned to stone. Ever since then the Buddha’s hair has remained in the almost 6-meter-high (20 ft) stupa on the rock.

At the bottom of Golden Rock and all along the path to its summit are rest houses built by well-wishers. Vendors sell bamboo and cane crafts, traditional herbal medicines, and food and drinks.

The 10-mile (16-km) hike up the mountain takes about four hours and earns the pilgrim merit, Between October and March, during the dry season, thousands of worshipers make this climb, a trek lined with many nat shrines. The journey is strenuous, but the path affords beautiful views of the surrounding springs and forest. Porters can be hired to help carry the pilgrims’ luggage – or the pilgrims themselves – in hammocks attached to bamboo poles. Children can be carried in cane baskets. Along the way, many pilgrims collect water from certain springs in bottles to bring home, believing the water possesses the power to cure illnesses. When the pilgrims reach the top of Mount Kyaikhtiyo, they chant and meditate through the night. From the summit, they have to cross a short bridge built over a deep chasm to get to the flat ledge on which the golden boulder stands. Along the journey up the mountain, many of the pilgrims buy squares of gold leaf to apply to the rock’s surface. Over the years, the gold leaf has accumulated to form a thick layer of solid gold!