Mount Popa is a memorial temple for King Popa which is built on a mountain top and 777 steps are leading toward it. It’s at the moment the only other advertised sightseeing place near the Bagan temples. It makes a nice half day trip.
How to get to Mt. Popa
Unfortunately tourists aren’t alowed to rent a motorbike in the Bagan area and there are no public buses going to the temple. Therefore you are obliged to join a half day tour that either leaves at 9 am and returns at 1 pm (let’s say 2 pm since you’ll be late anyway) or you leave at 3 pm and come back after sunset. The whole journey costs 9000 MMK. If you are several people you might also be able to share a taxi.
The drive to Mt. Popa
The journey to the mountain was nice. We saw lots of green fields, cows and local farm houses. We briefly stopped at a place where they made different candy and a poor ox was walking in a circle to grind something, more for show for the tourists.
Then we continnued. Sometimes the asphalt would just stop and change to dirt road. We stopped again on the opposite site of the valley of Mt. Popa Temple to get a few good pictures of the mountain.
Up the steep mountain road we passed my a few markets until we reached the foot of the temple. There are several restaurants and other small vendors if you forgot to bring anything. You can even buy the powder the Burmese people use as sunscreen and to decorate their face.
The climb to Mt. Popa Temple
In case you have been to Tiger Mountain in Krabi this one won’t impress you much. The whole stairway is covered by a roof and therefore doesn’t look so nice. Plus, 777 steps are far easier to make in the shade than 1300 something in the bright sun. I was very surprised when I already reached the top of Mt. Popa. But let’s start at the bottom.
Where to enter Mount Popa
There are two entrances which are about 100 m apart. I entered through the stairway with two elephant statues. Then, I crossed the path of the first few monkeys but they weren’t interested in me. Afterward, there is a small shrine you can visit and take off your shoes. Since I saw some people taking off their shoes, I also left mine there and continnued barefoot. The stairs lead through a souvenir market and I wondered why the employees were still wearing shoes. Then, I reached the platform where the two entrance paths joined together and that’s actually where we had to leave the shoes.
For the next about 70 steps there was again the chance of a monkey encounter but after that they weren’t to be seen anymore. Therefore we already had nice views across the valley and on many other golden shimmery stupas and temples. The view range got larger with every set of stairs. Sometimes there were people asking for donations for cleaning the stairs. Once you pass through a room with puppets where the history of Mt. Popa is explained. There also are vases with drinking water. So far I haven’t figured out who is allowed to drink from them though.
Twice the broad stairway changes to a steep ladder where there’s a bit of a traffic jam. Then, you already reach the plateau with view across a lake. From there it’s only one mor stairway to the temple.
Mount Popa Temple
Again there are several golden shrines and you can share your luck with the gongs. Nobody up there spoke English and therefore I couldn’t ask my questions. Instead I read the many signs with names and countries from all over the world who had donated money to the temple.
The way down
The way down was the same as the way up. A big tour group had just arrived and I was glad that I could enjoy the climb in a bit more quiet. I chose to exit through the other exit, where again there is a market and then had to return to get my shoes since they were still at the other entrance. The whole climb and return took about one hour. I only stopped for pictures but didn’t really have to rest since surprisingly it hadn’t been that tiring.
After the climb I still had about twenty minutes until the minivan would meet us again. I bought a bag of Myanmar Chili Chips for 500 kyats. They look really greasy but are actually just like normal chips and not even so spicy. Only after about half the bag my mouth started to burn a little and I had to take a break.
Then, it was time to board the van again to return to Bagan without any further stops.
Summary of my trip to Mount Popa
The trip to Mount Popa was a welcome change from visiting the temples of Bagan (which is quite exhausting). After that I could start with new energy and motivation. In the end I wished I could have stayed longer in the Bagan area.
In case you want to get away from Bagan completely for the night, stay at Mt. Popa Resort. Apparently it has an infinity pool and with the good view is a rather special place to stay at in Myanmar.
What other special temples have you visited? Comment after the post.