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.
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 !
Giovanni, Paulo, Bob and Mike.
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 !