Sharing a taxi to Mount Popa

On my last day here in Bagan, I still managed to organize a trip to Mount Popa by a shared taxi. I decided to join together with a German couple which is also interested in this trip. They are chatty, young people and we start to talk comfortably. At high speed, our driver races over – it must be admitted – the road which is in good condition. To reach our destination we have to travel about 65 km.

boy climbing in a palm tree to pick coconuts

A break at a local liquor distillery

After half an hour we already stop at what looks like a food stall along the road. But it is a kind of mini-distillery where locals make sesame oil, palm wine and whiskey. One of the workers explains the whole distillation process. Afterward, they expect us to we buy something from them, but fortunately, their sales efforts are not too intrusive. The local produce does not appeal to me so I back off.

local palm wine distillation near Bagan

Taung Kalat hill formed by hardened lava

An hour later we reach our final destination, Mount Popa. Actually, we visit Taung Kalat, a volcanic plug of about 650 meters high. The cap formed during several eruptions of the Mount Popa volcano when the magma could not flow away. When the magma hardened, it created this lava neck. Nowadays people also refer to this hill as Mount Popa.

Taung Kalat hill also referred to as Mount Popa

Mount Popa houses 37 nat spirits

round shrine with Buddha statues at Mount Popa hillwall shrine at Taung Kalat pilgrimage site

On top of the hill, there is a famous pilgrimage site; it is the home of the 37 nats. They are a kind of human beings who turned into spiritual saints. The legends of the nats probably originate from the animist belief of the Burmese. Without a thorough explanation, you will not really become wiser; somehow the Burmese compareĀ  Mount Popa to Mount Olympus in Greece. For the local population, however, the stories about these creatures are taken very seriously. To us Westerners, it remains another gallery of images. Personally, I also expected to understand more about their origin and meaning. But the spectacular location of the site on top of a solitary hill and the panoramic view of the area makes for a pleasant trip.

Mount Popa: home of the NatsTaung Kalat Buddha image

Flying back to the capital as the best option

Early in the afternoon, we arrive back in Bagan. Yesterday I decided to fly back to the capital instead of undergoing a challenging 9-hour bus ride to Pyay – just a stopover, or a full ride of 15 hours to Yangon. My flight ticket has already been delivered at the hotel reception. For now, I only have time to kill here, with nothing particular to do. Maybe that is better because my body is still not in optimal condition.

Some more trips to plan in Myanmar

In terms of planned destinations, I only have the trip to the Golden Rock Pagoda ahead of me. It will take me 3 days to reach this place of worship. This means I will have to fill up a couple more days. But that will not pose any problems, Myanmar has so much to offer.