Mt Popa, also known as Poppa Taungkalat, is located near Kyaukpadaung and is one of the major tourist attractions in central Myanmar. Some people believe Mt Popa is the spiritual centre of Myanmar and is often associated with Bagan, which is only 48 kilometres away, in traditional folktales.
The mountain is a steep-sided extinct volcano that rises 2,417 feet above the dry surrounding plains.
The foot of Mt Popa is often crowded with pilgrims from all over the country. Little monkeys jumping from tree branches to rooftops and mother monkeys sitting on the edges of cliffs feeding their babies greet visitors as they climb the stairs to the top of the mountain. But it is best to be careful around the monkeys, as they have been known to scratch those who attempt to feed them.
Souvenir and food stall line the lower sections of the stairs and become sparse closer to the summit. The beautiful scenes from the top of Mt Popa are known to take visitors’ breath away.
“It is not crowded after the Myanmar New Year. It will become crowded again starting from the Taungpyone Festival. Now, we only have a few visitors,” said one local vendor.
Motorcycles can be rented at the foot of the mountain – a convenience for those who do not want to walk all the way back to their vehicles.
“It’s convenient for elders who have difficulties getting back to their cars. However, pilgrims from Yangon don’t know how to ride on the back of a motorcycle. There is a danger of their longyis getting caught in the wheels,” said a motorcycle driver who offers rental services.
Although the Mt Popa area is famous for its pleasant weather, it has not escaped the effects of climate change.
“In the past, Mt Popa was a famous oasis in the dry plains with its cool temperature. It has better climate than Salpauk and Kyaukpadaung. But the climate has not been the same in recent years. The number of trees has been decreasing,” said a local resident.