Mount Popa is the residence of 37 Nats, the Burmese animist spirits. A visit to Mount Popa will help you understand a little better the role of spirituality in the Burmese’s daily life.
Being not far from Bagan, a palace was built in honor of 37 Nats, the Burmese animist spirits, on the top of a lonely mountain, now an extinct volcano: Mount Popa. On its summit stands a temple of stone whose domes are covered with gold sparkling in the sun, Temple Popa Taungkalat.
During your tour in Burma, a visit to Mount Popa, including the ascent to the temple, will transport your body and mind to unexplored territories. Influenced by the spirituality of these places, you will gain some insights into the place of religion in the Burmese’s hearts.
1. Getting to Mont Popa: practical information
The starting point of any journey to Mount Popa is passing through the nearby town of Kyauk Padaung.
By road: Most visitors organize a visit to the temple in the course of the day from the nearby town of Bagan. Although it’s not so far from the town to the temple, the journey will take you an hour and a half. Commonly, your hotel can hold the trip with the price of 4,5USD per person.
By bus: By bus, you can reach Kyauk Padaung after a journey of 4 to 6 hours from Mandalay (4,5USD) or Yangon (10:30, 7,6USD).
By train: A train leaves Yangon at 16.00, and arrives Kyauk Padaung at about 7.40 the next morning. A first-class ticket costs 12.5USD.
The stretch of road between Kyauk Padaung and Mount Popa is about 3.4km. it will take you about 1 hour on foot. By renting a motorcycle taxi, it will cost you around 0.8 USD.
As mentioned earlier, you need a day to visit the temple at the top of Mount Popa in Burma. If you want to stay overnight, the Popa Mountain Resort is the most recommended hotel for foreign tourists. However, it will cost you about 45USD per night for the cheapest room.
In term of food and drink, small restaurants in the village at the foot of the mountain are available. You will also find a number of fruit sellers. The Popa Mountain Resort offers more sophisticated menus, but limited western dishes.
2. What to do, what to visit in your trip to Mount Popa.
Clearly, you can not the Popa Taungkalat Temple, located on the top of the mountain. To reach the top, you will have to take off your shoes and socks and climb 777 steps. The monastery of Taungkalat is known to be the residence of 37 Nats (Burmese spirits), represented by statues at the foot of Mount Popa. You will have to pay a fee of 5USD to access it.
You will meet the inhabitants of Mount Popa, the monkeys. Be careful, these wait for a small snack on your hand, and they may steal it.
From the place of the temple, you can have a great view of the surroundings. Even Bagan will be visible in clear days.
Mount Popa is the most important site in Burma for the pilgrimage in honor of the Nats. These have been revered on the Mount for at least 1000 years. The Nats are the spirits of humans who have suffered a violent death.
People go to temples to make offerings, including food. They come from all over Burma to pay tribute to the spirits, especially during the full moon festivals of Nayon and Nadaw.
If you wish to bring back a small souvenir of your stop at Mount Popa during your tour in Burma, notice that most of the items sold there have a religious connotation. However, you can buy candy and liqueur in small shops along the way.
During your tour in Burma, a visit to Mount Popa will help you understand a little better the role of spirituality in the Burmese’s daily life.