We were in Myanmar during Thingyan, the water festival, which is the Myanmar new year. We didn’t realise it when we booked or that most attractions, restaurants and shops would be closed. We needed to find a way to get to Mandalay, where we had already booked our hotel, but all the usual routes were either fully booked or not operating. In the end we booked a private car and driver and agreed a price that included a visit to Mount Popa, which was slightly out of our way but well worth the visit.
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano 1518 meters high, in the Mandalay region in Myanmar. It’s a place of pilgrimage where people come from all over Myanmar to pray and give offerings. It’s believed to be home to the country’s 37 nats, or spirits. There are shrines and monuments on the way up with a golden temple at the top.
The drive there from Bagan was an experience in itself. As it was the first day of the new year celebrations we passed many people approaching our car with hands outstretched for offerings. Many of them were elderly, some walking with sticks. They would appear from behind bushes or scrubland. I read it was traditional to give money to bring you good luck to start the new year.
As there was no communication with the driver we weren’t sure if we would be able to climb the 777 steps to the top. We stopped at a viewpoint where we got out the car and the driver took some pictures of us. He then drove next to the entrance and indicated where he would wait for us so we managed to make the steep ascent to the top.
There were monkeys everywhere. I was a bit wary as the steps were filthy, despite the constant cleaning, and as usual, no shoes were allowed. It was crowded, probably more than usual for the holidays.
At the top the views were lovely.