26, July 2012
In the afternoon after sightseeing we boarded a bus from Bago to Kyaikto. We had a little help from our tour guide in Bago who purchased the tickets and helped us catch the bus. The bus tickets to Kyaikto cost 5,000 Kyat/person. Because we were traveling during monsoon (low) season, the bus only went as far as Kyaikto. From Kyaikto we needed to get separate transportation to Kinpun, which is the base camp for Mt. Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock). In the winter time or high season the bus will take you directly to Kinpun.
We caught the bus from the side of the main road which was next to the actual bus station. I am pretty sure that we could have purchased the tickets ourselves, but it might have been difficult the actually catch the bus without help, since the bus didn’t actually pull into the bus station.
The bus was very clean, modern and with air conditioning that wasn’t too cold. Also the karaoke wasn’t too loud either! The ride was a quick two hours through mostly scenic rice paddies and you either need to let the driver know that you are getting off at Kyaikto or pay close attention because if we hadn’t we would have missed our stop and ended up hours south of our destination!
Once in the town of Kyaikto, we were hounded by touts offering us hotels and transportation, but the main person trying to sell to us insisted that there were no trucks, buses or taxis to Kinpun during monsoon season and that the only we could get there was by his motorbikes. Both Heidi and I prefer not to take motorbikes unless it is for a very short distance and in a very safe area. Besides, the roads were wet from the frequent and torrential rains we had been experiencing. So we walked away from the touts and started walking. This is usually a good gamble to let them know that you think you ‘have options’.
Fortunately, there was an option for us, because we had no idea where we were going or what were the possibilities. After walking for less than a minute another man approached us and told us that he had a bus (truck) for us, exactly what we were hoping to hear!! The cost was 1,000 kyat/person and we followed him through the village until we reached the parked pickup truck located across the railroad tracks. We knew at that point that the man had made a little profit off of us since we were now on public transportation. We asked the driver how long before we would leave and he said 10 minutes, but that turned into an hour before we left. It’s very common for ‘truck’ buses to wait until they are full before leaving.
With the truck now completely full, packed like sardines, the driver started to collect the fare from the rest of the passengers. We noticed that there were different prices for different types of passengers. Most seemed to pay 500 Kyat, but a couple of monks sitting next to Heidi only paid 100 Kyat each. School children in uniform ride for free, which is great since there are no school buses. We discovered this after our first stop. Suddenly, a swarm of kids, probably from ages six to ten, ran towards the truck. All the boys started climbing up the truck like spiders from both sides and and all of them were on the roof in no more than ten seconds! The girls entered from the back and we somehow made room for 11 girls in the already cramped quarters! It was as if we were being attacked by a swarm of insects and it happened so fast that before we realized what had just happened we were rolling down the road at a ridiculously fast speed. When we would come to a stop the kids would exit just as fast as they entered. Amazing, scary and efficient at the same time.
Within 20 minutes the truck was mostly empty and we were at the front of our Hotel, the Golden Sunrise in Kinpun. All of the drivers of all the types of bus transport have been very kind and helpful in making sure we get to our destinations.
The “town” area of Kinpun, with restaurants and the bus station for buses to the Golden Rock, was just down the road from the Golden Sunrise.
Tomorrow we will complete the final leg of our journey to Mt. Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock).
Tips for taking the Bus from Bago to Kinpun:
1 – If traveling in the monsoon season, the bus from Yangon or Bago will only go as far Kyaikto. This is not Kyaiktiyo! From here you need to take a motorbike or local transport truck to Kinpun, the base camp of Mt. Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock).
2 – Make sure to let the bus driver know that you want to get off at Kyaikto, so they will stop for you. Otherwise, they may think you are traveling farther south and skip Kyaikto if no one else is getting off the bus.