Yay, I’m doing another travel diaries post! This time it’s to remember an unforgettable experience when we were in Bagan, when we climbed 777 steps up a mountain to a Buddhist monastery on the summit. Mount Popa is a volcano in central Myanmar, which is a day trip away from Bagan. Some distance from it is Taung Kalat (pedestal hill) on top of which the monastery is located, which also referred to as Popa or Popa Taungkalat. The volcano itself is called Taung Ma-gyi (mother hill) to avoid confusion with the Taung Kalat.
The Popa Taungkalat (Taung Kalat) Shrine is home to 37 Mahagiri Nats, or spirits. Statues depicting the Nats are at the base of the Shrine.
I found the statues of the Nats and the offerings inside very interesting, kitschy and eclectic.
We didn’t know what to expect going up the mountain, so I hope that my photos help you decide if going up to the monastery is for you. As with all the other temples in Myanmar, you must go in barefoot. The way up the mountain is not the cleanest and can be painful on soft feet. If you do decide to go up, make sure to…
- Bring your own filtered/mineral water to avoid dehydration in the heat
- Have a bathroom break beforehand to make sure you don’t need to pee while you are on the mountain. The bathrooms are dirty. (I’m being diplomatic)
- Only take sips of your water so you do not need to pee
- Bring tons of wet wipes for cleaning your feet after (maybe some isopropyl alcohol if you are very particular)
- wear something like slippers, which you wont mind slipping dirty feet into after the climb. If you wear something nice for sure you will get the insides dirty
I don’t recommend you go up with children since it is a long and tiring walk up and another long and tiring walk down. It can also be very steep in some areas.
Stalls line the base of the mountain.
Going up the mountain gave my sense of sight a bit of an over drive, bright colors, textures, details and nature.
The mountain is overrun with monkeys, so be very careful where you step because you may step on a “surprise” from them. The toilets that I don’t recommend…
Some of the steep steps that we conquered. I was especially proud of TD because he is really afraid of heights but he did it!Some funny sights on the summit of Popa Taungkalat.
Going up the mountain we encountered many small shrines carved into the mountain itself with many offerings an donations from visitors, not just locals but people all over the world. You can even see some of their names, countries of origin and the amount they donated on plaques on the walls.
Once we were on top, we rested a bit and enjoyed the breeze. The view is nice, but I’m not sure I can in good conscience recommend anyone to go up for the view alone. I can however say that the feeling of overcoming a challenge like climbing 777 steps up a mountain barefoot was something I will never forget. So if you love a challenge I would definitely say go for it! But if you are really finicky about dirt and bacteria, don’t do it.
For the locals, there are pots of water where they can drink from communal cups. Our guide said it is okay for them to do this because they are used to the water and sharing. However for tourists I wouldn’t recommend it. Seeing locals use communal cups from water jugs/drums in the various temples was really fascinating for me. I haven’t been to any place where people do this except for Myanmar. Have you visited other places where people do this?
The monkeys could be quite cute, but can also be scary. We saw a monkey attacking a dog and everyone ran away scared. They didn’t bother us though.
When I look back, it seems incredible what we did. And to do it with my in-laws who are senior citizens. It helped a lot that we took breaks in the benches carved out of the mountainside. What an experience indeed!
I’ve seen pictures of Popa Tuangkalat, and I think it looks so mysterious and mystical when viewed from a place like Popa Mountain Resort. If I were to come back, that’s what I would do instead of climbing up. Samples of the view from Popa Mountain from TripAdvisor belo
These photos of Popa Mountain Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor:
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In India too the water is served thro communal cups. Its a common thing. In reply to yr query above.
Tell me how did u reach Taung Kalat from Bagan. If I start early morning from Bagan can I reach back by afternoon?
Wow I didn’t know they did this in India too. It is an unfamiliar custom to me. I wonder if it makes the peoples immune system stronger because if one person catches something then many other people are exposed and develop immunity. What do you think?
We arranged for a guide with a rented van for our trip to Bagan. He actually arranged our itinerary and took us to Taung Kalat. I think to hire transport is the most convenient way. Fortunately for us there were four of us during the trip so we were able to split the expenses.
Hope this helps, Selvaganapathy!