Mount Popa | Myanmar

Mount Popa Bagan

– Southeast Asia Tour 2015 –

> Mount Popa | Myanmar <

01 Dec 2015 | Tue

Day 14 of 47

Today’s Events:

– Drive to Mount Popa – Our Car Broke Down

– Roadside Palm Sugar Demonstration Farm and Distillery Mount Popa

> Mount Popa Bagan | Nat Spirits | Hordes of Monkeys | 777 Steps! <

– Mount Popa Local Market

– Dhammayangyi Temple Bagan

– Colorful Ox Carts Bagan

– Visited Renovated Temple

– Our Second Sunset in Bagan

– Star Beam Bistro Bagan

– Mount Popa Bagan – Nat Spirits | Hordes of Monkeys | 777 Steps! –

We started our second day in Bagan with a visit to Mount Popa – a unique destination made up of a Buddhist temple (Taung Kalat) sitting on top of an extinct volcano mountain (777 steps to the top), surrounded by the spirits of 37 Nats and hordes of monkeys!

Located about 1.5 hours from Bagan, Mount Popa is a volcano plug (formed by the nearby extinct volcano Mount Popa) that rises 4,981 feet (1,518 meters) above sea level.  At the top of the mountain is the Popa Taungkalat (Taung Kalat) Shrine (Buddhist monastery).

How Nats and Buddhism Came Together with the 37 Great Nats

Nats are a form of Animism, which is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words—as animated and alive. (Wikipedia)

37 Nats

In Myanmar (Burma), the worship of Nats predates the arrival of Theravāda Buddhism. Over time these two beliefs merged into a mix of the two. This came about when Bagan’s 11th century King Anawrahta (1044–1077) was struggling to make Buddhism (Theravada) the official religion of the region. After several failed attempts, he decided to create the official pantheon of 37 Great Nats as a way to blend the two religions. Out of these 37 Nats, “Thagyamin” was chosen as the King of Heaven ( the highest-ranking Nat). Most of the Nats were human beings who died of violent deaths.

Buddha Shrine at Top

Over time this compromise caught on and now many of Myanmar’s Buddhist temples have a main Buddha pagoda and a separate Nat spirit house. Today, many believe that the Nat realm is for the current life (living) and Buddha is for the afterlife (after death).

777 Steps Through Hordes of Monkeys

One of the challenges of walking to the top of Mount Popa is navigating through the estimated 2000 rhesus macaque monkeys that live here. Like in most temples, you have to take your shoes off (leaving them at the bottom) and walk to the top barefoot or “hopefully” in your socks!

Have Walk to Top Barefoot or in Socks

This has to be done carefully as monkeys do not care about where they go to the bathroom – if you know what I mean. However, along the way, you will encounter several volunteers (looking for donations) who do their best to keep the steps and sidewalks clean.

Calm and Peaceful

But be very cautious and careful as the monkeys are extremely smart, agile, and fast. Do not, and I repeat, do not carry anything in your hands (such as food, cameras, or anything valuable) as they think it is food and will try to take it away from you! Yes, they look cute and you will be tempted to take pictures of them – just don’t get too close to them and make sure you have a good grip on your phone or camera.

With Baby

Incredible Views at Top of Mount Popa

Even with all the trouble of climbing 777 steps and dodging monkeys – the views at the top were breathtaking!

Beautiful View from Top of Mount Popa

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