Mount Popa from afar
Spend your time wisely when you are in Bagan, especially when you have less than 3 days in the region.
We spent one day exploring the Bagan temples with a local guide. Read the previous post on Top 5 practical information you need to know about Bagan.
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano 1518 meters above sea level located 50km southeast of Bagan. It is perhaps best known as a pilgrimage site with numerous Nat temples and relic sites atop the mountain.
We booked a private visit via a local tour operator. Although you can go cheaper if you go in a shared group. It’s about one hour drive from Bagan to Mount Popa, along the way, you will see so many beggars sitting by the main road asking for money. The begging lines went on for miles. The beggars sit about 1km away from each other.
Our diver said this had been like this more and more in recent years since the road became a major through point for many tourists.
However, we also encountered an interesting unknown event as our driver wasn’t able to explain much in English. It was a slow moving walking long line, girls walking in front of the line without shoes and holding flowers, boys come after on the horse.
Is Mount Popa worth a day trip?
In my opinion – it’s not worth the effort and money. You could better spend your days exploring the archaeological zone on an e-bike. This activity is far more rewarding than climbing Mount Popa.
It requires a bit of energy to climb up to the top of the mountain to reach the monastery. The walk was a little difficult in your bare feet. In Myanmar, you have to walk on your bare feet if visiting any monasteries or temples.
Mount Popa is extremely crowded on a weekend. At the bottom of the mountain, you will see so many monkeys and they steal shoes! So you would either pay US$ 1 for storing your shoes securely or you carry them with you.
Stepping on hundreds of uneven stone steps upwards was just not pleasant. My feet were so black after visiting the whole mountain shoeless-ly. It’s never been so dirty in my entire trip in Myanmar.
E-Bike fun tour into Bagan Temple Complex never ends…
After having some local lunch we returned to New Bagan. We jumped back on the e-bike straight away and off we went, continuing exploring Bagan temple complex.
The temple complex offers thousands of temples spread across the plain of Bagan, all temples were built in different eras. Until today, still no one really knew the exact number of temples available in this zone.
Without having a local tour guide, Maps.me App became our navigator. It led us to many of those untouched and unknown temples where we could access the rooftop for a sunset view.
Inside the zone there is a viewing tower that costs about US$5 per person to access the top, which we were never able to find… If we were to choose again, we would skip Mount Popa and spend our time in this mysterious looking “jungle” that is filled with thousands of temples.
Here is the list of temples’ name for an easy navigation:
- Ananda Temple – Bagan’s holiest temple, built 1091
- Shwesandaw Temple – “sunset temple”, a great place to watch the sunset.
- Shwe Zigon Temple – Gourd-shaped golden pagoda, built 1087. This was the model for the famous Swedagon Pagoda.
- Thatbyinnyu Temple – Bagan’s tallest pagoda, 66 metres high. Built in the 12th century.
- Shwegugyi Temple – One of Bagan’s best-preserved temples, built 1131. Another great (and less crowded) place from which to observe the sunset.
- Dhamma Yangyi Temple – Commissioned by King Narathu to atone for assassinating his father, brother and wife. Work on the temple was abandoned after the king himself was assassinated.
- Gawdaw Palin Temple – Exhibits a fusion of Burmese and Indian styles, with a beautiful courtyard and interesting bell hangers.
- Bupaya Stupa – Golden, gourd-shaped stupa sitting on a temple by the river.
Another popular activity in Bagan – Hot Air Balloon … Is it worth doing?
Hot air balloons are an expensive activity regardless of wherever you are in the world, including in Myanmar.
Is it worth doing?
Despite the expensive cost and the fact that I haven’t been on it, I do think it’s worth doing. Remember we have been with a local tour guide on our first day in Bagan who showed us a secret rooftop of one of the temples inside the Archaeological Zone.
The view from the rooftop during sunset was absolutely amazing. We saw thousands of temples’ rooftop standing among the jungle and mist. It looked fabulous and mysterious.
Based on that experience, the Hot Air Balloons in the early morning would probably give you a better view during the sunrise.