Mt Popa

Day 75, Monday 19 March 2012, Bagan – Mt Popa

At dinner last night we discussed the possibility of joining Bob, Paulo and Giovanni on a trip to Mt Popa, about an hour and half drive from Bagan in a hired van. Mike and I decided to go ahead so agreed with Bob over breakfast. The total cost for the van was 35,000 Kyat and worth it split five ways, under $10 NZ a head.

Mt Popa is known for the Popa Taungkalat monastery on its peak and the the 37 nats (spirits) that live on the mountain. Me Wunna is the main nat.

The van left town with the five of us on board soon after 9.00 and we had a mandatory tourist stop (which wasn’t on our plan) at a jaggery making place. Jaggery is a sugar like substance made from the sap from the seed of a Toddy palm tree. It was actually quite interesting to see how it was all made using the primitive technology that is available to the Burmese villages where there is no electricity,this farm had sixty palm trees. They also make peanut oil from grinding peanuts using a bullock drive pestle and mortar and “whisky” which is basically pure fermented sugar alcohol.

Alcoholism is a big killer with young men frequently drinking themselves to death on the cheap locally produced fire water.

After our local tourism show we set off on the real journey to Mt Popa.

After an hour or so of driving and soon after we hit the low hills our driver stopped for us to take a photo of the view of Mt Popa and the temples. It was a wow moment  ! none of us had any idea of what to expect, i was thinking a monastery on a hill, but nothing like this. Another foggy/smoggy/dusty skyline, everyday in Myanmar was the same, it is the time of year, little wind and no rain to blow away the dust and the constant fires from burning off old cane and corn fields as well as the destruction of forests, cooking and dirty old cars.

Sadly it is ‘the” place to stop so the local villagers had the young girls out selling souvenirs, so sad they are not at school.

It was another half an hour to the temple entrance and there were a lot more tourists here than i expected, the whole village is geared towards tourists and there was a significant amount of industry around it, stair wipers, monkey shoo-ers, souvenir and water sellers etc etc.

Note the slingshot, used to deter the more aggressive monkeys.

The monastery is quite ordinary (by the regions standards !!) , but the walk up to the top was interesting, there are numerous stops on the way with descriptions of the life of Me Wunna and the various nats. Me Wunna is in the green.

The top had some semi-spectacular views (hazy again) and plenty of Buddha and monk statues. There was a MASSIVE amount of cash offerings in all the small temples – a guy with a gun and helicopter could be very rich ! 

We spent a couple of hours there and headed back down to the village.

Giovanni, Paulo, Bob and Mike.

Love this cow.

Obviously NZ farmers have been bullshitting us (pun intended) for years about how many acres are required per cattle beast !

Our driver was a bit miffed that we did not want to have lunch at the local restaurant, we assume he got some kickback. Bob had been to a great vegetarian place Yar Pyi in Old Bagan and wanted to go back there today. Our driver was initially reluctant to take us, but once the inevitable had sunk in he was OK with it, turns out Yar Pyi is owned by his uncle.

The food at Yar Pyi was great, most of the guys had the famous guacamole but i went for a pumpkin curry and it was very good. The owners family were great, very friendly and a bit of a laugh. They loved Bob as he had been there twice before and kept coming back with more people in tow. After lunch it was back to the hotel for a lie down and a clean up before dinner.

Dinner was back at the Weatherspoon again, I had my first salad since being in SE Asia and it was great!

Though this post may not inspire any potential visitors, if you are in Bagan and can get a crew together to take vehicle, it is definitely a worthwhile day trip, I did enjoy the day !

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.

9 thoughts on “Mt Popa”

  1. Wow! I love this place already … I love villages, castles etc on hilltops. That’s what I love so much about Yemen. Can’t wait!

    However, do you feel templed-out after two weeks in Myanmar? Perhaps I’m a bit more superficial and during my first short visit, I was rather templed out after 3 days. So God help me with all the temples and Kim with the transport!

    Would I be right to think that Myanmar is more about its rustic charms and “being there” … rather than the variety in “sights”?

    1. I dont get templed out ! After 4 days in Bagan, 3 days being 4-5 hour sessions on a bike riding around the ‘temples’ I could still have done more.
      What was putting me off was being followed around by the touts, I did get the hump on the last day and rode back to the guest house.

      Myanmar has some good sights, Inle is more about the lake and the villages than temples so is a change after Bagan, will hopefully get Inle done today!

      I am going to say the ‘charms’ of Myanmar start to wear off after a couple of weeks, I imagine that in not too many years the charm will be gone and it will turn into another cambodia – except more expensive.

      I could go back, but will go in Sep/Oct next time, cleaner air and the sites will be different when it is wet.

      1. I must be superficial, shallow and jaded when it comes to some things … but I couldn’t get enough of Angkor. Bagan sounds like the right place for you … you should think about places in the world with the same theme.

    1. LOL 🙂 they were perfectly fine when you got close, or maybe we were too close and didn’t see what was underneath ! But it was concreted all the way and felt solid ! I have certainly been on some dodgier ones in SE Asia…

  2. Wow .. You come across as the most horrible travel snob! I’m addressing your references to ‘the herds’ and its quite clear your references to tourists are meant as an insult. Interesting how you see yourself as different from any other ‘tourist’ .. Just a reminder that if you’re visiting a country and seeing the sights, yep-you’re a tourist, you too are in that category.
    What makes you think yours is a more worthy travel experience than anyone else’s?
    Stop looking down on others and get over yourself mate!

    1. er, um, hmm, yeah.

      Not sure if I should do the blogging polite thing and say “Thanks for reading my blog”, or maybe even “Thanks for the feedback, I always appreciate open and honest critique”. I was considering some sort of explanation and counter to your points but then decided this is my blog of my trip so I think “Bite me” seems appropriate.

      1. I didn’t see the word “herd” or “Herds” on this page. In any case, if there were any herds, I thought they were the pilgrims. Did you think the stair-wipers and monkey-shooers were for the tourists? I thought they were a service for the pilgrims; they far outnumber the foreigners and are better (more generous and compassionate) tippers for the service.

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