Remote Mount Popa, Myingyan, Burma, Myanmar Published on: 04-10-2017
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Why Mount Popa is special ?
Mount Popa is a volcano 1518 metres (4981 feet) above sea level, and located in central Burma about 50 km southeast of Bagan in the Pegu Range. Mount Popa’s Popa Taungkalat monastery is situated atop the nearby volcano plug, jutting 737 m out of the ground. The impressive monastery is home to the nats spirits, a belief dating back to the 9th century and predating Burmese Buddhism, which has since melded with the religion. In addition to the monastery being home to resident spirits, nearly 2000 Rhesus macaques have also taken up residency there. In Burmese culture there is a recognized pantheon of 37 nats and when travelers and pilgrims visit the monastery it is considered bad luck to wear red, black, or green, colors which offend the nats (though the monkeys likely won’t mind). The nats are spirits of those who died tragically and remain unsettled, roaming the earth. Pilgrims scale 777 steps on their way up the mountain to the monastery to pay tribute to these spirits with offerings of incense and flowers. Seeing as the monkeys need to be placated as well, offerings of food are made to them. Since Myanamar, formerly Burma, opened its borders to tourists, visits to the monastery by tourists have certainly increased the amount of offerings to the monkeys specifically and have served as the economic backing for the town at the base of Popa Taungkalat.
What to explore at Mount Popa?
As the volcanic soil is fertile and there are many streams in the area the mountain and National Park contain many beautiful flowers and other vegetation.
Getting to Mount Popa means a drive through the country side of Burma and a chance to see every day Burmese life in the small villages. Reaching the monastery on top of the mountain requires a climb of a stairway of 777 steps. The stairway to the top is covered, along the way to the top are shops selling various items including wooden handicrafts and local flowers. Along the stairway and in the monastery itself are monkeys everywhere that are always on the lookout for food.
On top of the stairs are two giant golden colored Chinthes, a lion like creature that guards the entrance to most temples in Burma. In the temple area you will find a golden spiralled pagoda surrounded by many smaller pagodas.
How to get to Mount Popa?
The cheapest way to get there is either by bus or pickup truck. The ride will take about 1h 30min and cost around 3000 kyat.
The local trucks run from the 'old' bus station, off the main tourist road in Nuang U. If you ask around, many people may try to tell you that the bus doesn't exist, or other lies. Not all buses run directly to Mount Popa but if not, then you can go via Krauk Prang (pronounced Chow Prang) and another truck from there. If you're lucky, you may be able to get the local price of 1000 kyat (ti tau chets).
A more comfortable way to get to Bagan is to hire a taxi car. One taxi quoted a rate of 30000 kyat for transport from Bagan to Mount Popa.
- Great day trip with great views and monkeys
- Fantastic views from the top
- 777 steps to happiness - Mt Popa
- Amazing Site to see
- Spectacular monastery
Mount Popa, Myingyan, Burma, Myanmar
Tips for you
Awesome place for the view and also just to admire the different style abodes
Even before we reached there we already saw the peculiar temple on top of the towering mountain. Our jaws just dropped. It's such a spectacular sight. When we got to the bottom of the mountain we saw a monkey. There were two women holding what looked like mini ice cream cones. They threw them around attracting more monkeys. Soon more monkeys gathered. Big and small some even have a child still suckling on their breasts. It soon got to overwhelming and fights broke out. The screeching was terrifying. If you can't stand monkey violence like my wife then better stay away from them. We later learned that these people are there to feed monkeys on lower ground to prevent them from overcrowding the top of the mountain. Again this is a temple. A temple always mean going in barefooted. With over 500 steps and being a very steep climb, it is a bit off putting...not to mention that there were visible monkey droppings and wet bits on the ground! Nonetheless we came all this way so there's no choice. We climbed and climbed. About half way you'd encounter rusty metallic staircases. It was not very pleasant at all. Careful not to cut your foot or you might get gangrene. The rubbish under these staircases were also atrocious. Wee and rubbish smell was bad under the steps, we had to hold our breath and keep our heads up to avoid the distraction to such a wonderful site. Once we got near the top, there was a split path. The local told us either way led to the top. The right way went direct to the temple. The left led to a small room filled with water pots. These you would see everywhere in Burma used by travellers for rehydration. Through the room continued to the temple. At the top is the temple. To be honest it's like any other small to medium size temple. The main golden pagoda is fenced off so the public cannot go near it. There was also a circular room with little Buddhas arranged in the middle. We saw more monkeys at the top. One actually snatched the water bottle from my wife's hand. So be careful these creatures surely are aggressive and cheeky. The local told us to avoid messing around with the large monkeys as these are alpha males and might attack us. The females and little ones are harmless. We stayed less than 30 minutes at the temple simply because there wasn't much to do and the place was small. The view from the top was spectacular needless to say. Popa Mountain looked much more than it was. From the foot of the mountain we didn't see that towering perspective we had hoped for. Maybe we weren't standing at the right position. It was worth the visit at the end of the day, after all we love Burma!