We spent 4 fabulous days in Bagan, an outstanding ancient site that Unesco still doubts if including on its list of World Heritage Sites. Yes, we are talking about the same Unesco that pays a fortune to rent its Yangon offices and does nothing. It’s not that we had enough of Bagan, I could easily have spent 10 days wondering about. But we wanted to explore its surrounding area, so we organized a private day tour to Mount Popa. It’s easy to organize almost anything in Southeast Asia, just chat to people and they will come up with great ideas.
We were happy to visit Myanmar during rainy season since dry seasons can be overwhelmingly hot. Then again, during rainy season shower storms are frequent. Anyhow, we left our Amazing Bagan Resort under heavy rain. It’s 50km to the mountain. While driving there and talking to our driver we realized that we were talking about two different places: Mount Popa, a national park and a 1500 meters high volcano, and the Taung Kalat Monastery, home to 37 nats (Burmese spirits) and a popular place for pilgrimage for the Burmese.
We climbed the endless staircase to get to the monastery, passing through many souvenir shops, crazy monkeys and only a handful of tourists. The rain kept pouring down heavily as we climbed the covered stairs. As soon as we reached the monastery’s peak it suddenly stopped. We couldn’t believe our eyes: a completely unique temple full of friendly people and outstanding views over the volcano (the real Mount Popa). Nature’s lush green contrasted with the golden stupas. Everybody was taking pictures, Monkeys were jumping all around, we were happy and ecstatic.
As you know, Myanmar is my favorite country in Southeast Asia. Eitan is always bragging he visited Myanmar for the first time in 2005 and that it was even better, with almost no tourists. Yeah whatever, Myanmar is outstanding now and I believe it will always be, so don’t waste any more time. You will be dazzled.