Kyaikhto – Golden Rock Pagoda

KLP_phoneIMG_3357Getting to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda was an adventure and a half. The town where we stayed has a new guest house that seems to be mostly for foreigners. Due to concerns for food safety we ate all our meals there and we were happy with the food. There was a huge problem with our timing however and that was a local temple was in the throws of a donation campaign which meant that day and night the loudspeaker was on a constant and very loud barrage of words fulfilling some kind of obligation. I asked the hotel manager about the noise and he said that the din would be going on for a week and if he tried to stop it the temple people would fight him – as he indicated a punch in the face. So much for non-violence in Buddhism!

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The town where the buses depart is known for it’s mountain medicine. It is a small town with beautiful trees and nice people. The small shops all seemed to have the same merchandise. How can they survive? Each shop has a woman standing outside trying to get you to step in to buy all kinds of amazing things that nobody could identify in English but the one thing I could identify and buy were delicious dried fruits and nuts. Since it is a mountainous region perhaps the dried fruit is for fuel for hiking and general well being!

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We were told that the buses depart at 6 am for this mountain top destination but when we arrived at 5:45 am the scene was a mad house of people lining up for the buses. We got in the wrong line at the wrong time and watched bus after bus depart as our cue waited forever for a truck to arrive. We should have gotten out of our line but we were at the top of the stairs and the line behind us was jammed with families of all ages waiting to get on the truck. The trucks were specially made for the occasion and they hold about 50 people per vehicle but more if there are children or small adults sitting in the back basket or hanging off the back of the truck.

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20141126_0641.CR2  Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett 20141126_0644.CR2Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett

Once you arrive at the top of the mountain you kiss the ground and thank the whomever created and maintained the brakes on the truck as the road is steep and there is no shoulder so no room for error. Then there are options for getting the rest of the way to the pagoda. Porters stand at attention to put the pilgrims luggage, picnic supplies or whatever else needs to be carried to the pagoda inside bamboo baskets. The old or infirm can have porters help get up the rest of the mountain in a bamboo palanquin!

Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri PickettMyanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett

The rock is either sitting on the Buddha’s hair or the hair is enshrined inside the ornamentation that sits on top of the rock. The rock does inspire awe as it is huge and then there is the question of how all that gold leaf was applied to the areas on the sides of the massive stone. Since the lakota believe that spirits reside inside stones I can’t help but think that this pagoda has something extra special going for it as there must or could be a most special spirit helping to keep that stone from falling down the mountain. In fact it wasn’t even moved by the 1838 earth quake that shook many a man made temple into ruin.

Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri PickettMyanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri PickettMyanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett

As we visited the top of the mountain I took time out to bang the sacred bell and I sent out prayers for everyone and for the earth. I confess as I did at every pagoda bell I added prayers for the acceptance of my new film project Black Snake as I have an application in with the Tribeca Film Institute for a New Media grant in support of the project. So I rang the bell and sent out my request for the best possible outcome as I really need help with this next film project. I paid for my first film primarily myself, fundraising at the end of the process but this film really needs outside funding or my vision will not be able to be manifested.

Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett Myanmar (Burma) 2014 by Keri Pickett

Everywhere we went in Myanmar people stopped and asked to photograph us – getting out their phones and taking turns posing with us. I wonder if we are resting on facebook pages across Myanmar?

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Life is an amusement park and so we ended the day on top of another world: Smile world!

Keri Pickett

Keri Pickett is an author, photographer and filmmaker telling the stories of life, family and community with intimacy, honesty and impact. Pickett is Producer, Director and Camera for the award-winning feature documentary film ‘The Fabulous Ice Age’, about the rise and fall of the great American touring ice shows and one man’s quest to save the history, available on Netflix and Amazon. Her short film, 'Steel // Spirit' premiered at MSPIFF and won certificate of excellence in India. Her award-winning books include Love in the 90s; BB and Jo, The Story of a Lifelong Love, A Granddaughter’s Portrait (Warner Books, 1995); Faeries; Visions, Voices & Pretty Dresses (Aperture, 2000); Saving Body & Soul, The Mission of Mary Jo Copeland (WaterBrook, 2004). The recipient of a Jerome and Minnesota State Arts Board grants, three McKnight Foundation Photography fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and a Bush Foundation Fellow, Pickett’s work is in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.