While approaching the area, you suddenly see an odd shape sticking out of the landscape. There can be no mistake, that is Mount Popa, which can be visited on the long way from Bagan to Inle Lake, or separately of course. It is the foremost place of worship for so-called nat, or spirits, in Buddhist Myanmar. There is a small village at the foot of Mount Popa, which looks attractive from a distance, but has grown into a string of shops and restaurant for visiting worshippers. In fact, walking up the stairs to the top of the mountain, the shops continue.
More than anywhere else I visited in Myanmar, Mount Popa seems commercialized, which to me is an uneasy combination of religion and down-to-earth money making. Obviously, trying to make money from tourists is fine, but by far most of Mount Popa visitors are serious believers, who come here to make sure their relationship with spirits remains positive. This is a place where nat, or spirits, live, and there are all kinds of superstitions as to what you can wear, say or do on this mountain in order not to displease the nat.
Walking through the string of shops, escaping the monkeys that can never be trusted, brings you higher on the volcano. When you reach the top, you suddenly realize the height you have covered - the view is great on all sides. The temples are of an especially flashy style, with an overkill of gold, silver, shining stuff, dazzling lights, mirrors, and so forth. The most interesting bit was perhaps a temple with spirits looking out to the visitor, money sticking out of all their sides. It should come as no surprise that here, too, the requests for donations thrive.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mount Popa (Myanmar). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mount Popa. Read more about this site.