From Myanmar to Mount Eskel

December 19th, 2009 by

In my last post, I told you a little about my recent trip to the country of Myanmar in Southeast Asia. Well, I have plenty more to share, but it’s going to take me a while to go through all the photos (I took over 1,000 pictures during my trip!). So I’m going to hold off on the full 411 for now, and instead I’ll just focus on one part of my vacation — and of course it relates back to a book!

During my time in Myanmar, we traveled to a bunch of different regions in the country. One stop was at Kyaiktiyo, which means “Golden Rock.” It’s a big boulder covered in gold leaf, perched on the edge of a cliff high up on Mount Kyaikto. Unfortunately, it was covered up while we were there because they were retouching the gold leaf, but I found this photo where you can see it in all its glory:

From Boonlong1's Flickr

From Boonlong1's Flickr

Pretty awesome, huh? You can get a sense of how big the rock is by looking at all the tiny people on the right side. Like little ants!

According to legend, the Golden Rock is balanced on the tip of the cliff because it sits on top of the spot where a hermit once placed a hair belonging to the Buddha. Whether you believe that’s true or not, you still have to admit it’s an amazing sight!

To reach the Golden Rock, you need to trek partway up the mountainside. And let me tell you, it was not a fun afternoon in the sun. But at least we were treated to this view from the peak:


And that night, after we were done admiring the view, I happily settled into my room at the Moutain Top Hotel (yes, that’s really what it was called), and I read Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. And it was perfect — because, as you may know, the book takes place on a mountain!

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

If you’re not familiar with Princess Academy, here’s the scoop: Based on the title, it sounds like the book is going to be all pink feathers and sequins and giggling girls, but it’s totally NOT. The story is actually about a poor working community who live at the top of a mountain and make their living by cutting stone from the mountain and selling it to the rest of the kingdom. One day, they’re told that the king’s priests have named their region, Mount Eskel, as the home of the prince’s future bride. And so the Princess Academy is formed, and the girls of Mount Eskel are forced to attend classes to learn the ways of royal life before the prince comes to choose his wife. But they end up learning much more, especially when an unexpected danger arrives at the school in the dead of winter. [insert dramatic music here]

I really enjoyed the book, and it was particularly fun to read about mountain life while I was literally at the top of a mountain! Check out the view from my hotel room window:


The next day, I couldn’t help thinking back to scenes from Princess Academy. As I watched the sun rise, I imagined that I was Miri, the book’s main character, looking out from her favorite spot over the mountain home she loves.


As we made our way back down the mountain, I envisioned the girls of the village, holding hands as they walked the path from the academy back home for a long-awaited visit with their families.

If you want a preview of Princess Academy, you can read the first chapter on Shannon Hale’s official site. Check it out, or if you’ve already read the book, leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it!

(And keep an eye on Kidsmomo for more about my trip to Myanmar, after the new year.)

— Karen

One Response

  • Jeffin writes:
    May 4th, 2011 at 7:48 am

    i loved that book! it was so interesting. and it wasn’t girlie at all. and my friend’s like “you read girlie books!” I’m like “NO! read it Ur self!”.
    This book taught me a lot of things i love the saying “Don’t hesitate,just strike.”

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