Finally after 2 days of waking up at unearthly hours and ( sadly) no sunrise to wake up to…..we managed to sleep in till about 8 am . Quick shower and a pretty decent breakfast at Ananta Bagan Hotel, ( room rates were USD 50 with an extra USD 25 for an extra bed) , we were ready to take on another day of sightseeing.
We started our journey towards Mount Popa , at about 9 :20 am. It is about 58 km away from Old Bagan. We stopped at a palm sugar factory. Not your typical factory , this is a make shift tent by the side of the road . We were greeted by the owners , with a quick tour of how palm sugar is manufactured manually . First a guy climbs the palm tree to collect the sap , then we saw a cow circling around stirring the palm juice. Followed by a woman boiling the palm juice that is removed at boiling point to form jaggery. This is then sold as it is, or flavored with either coconut , plum , ginger or tamarind .There was also palm alcohol , that we tried but I personally felt was too potent to my liking.
climbing to collect palm sap
Before leaving , they served us complimentary fried bitter gourd and fermented tea leaf salad , but we were so full from breakfast , we had to politely decline.
With packets of flavored palm sugar , off we went to Mount Popa , that took us nearly an hour . On the way , we passed many old folk , standing by the road begging for money.We never saw a single car stop though.
We then visited a temple , for a sneak peak of Taung Kalat Monastery . The area surrounding this monastery has many sacred sights that are home to the 37 Nats.
religious temple along the way
vendors selling fruits and flowers , as offerings for the Nats
We then drove up to the famous temple specifically known for Nat ( spirit ) worshiping. Apparently ,Nat worshiping is very common in rural areas .There are in total 37 Nats , the two recognizable to me , were Ganesha and Durga. This temple is directly opposite the stairway to Taung Kalat Monastery . We didn’t attempt the 707 steps , since most claim the view from afar is wayy better than being in the monastery itself .
37 Nats standing in a row
Instead , we drove up to Popa Mountain Resort , that sits on Mount Popa .If I had an extra day at Bagan , I would have liked to stay a night here. Resort is strategically located with unobstructed views of Taung Kalat Monastery . Seeing is truly believing .
the view from Popa Mountain Resort
777 steps we did not climb
pool with a view
Visitors are allowed to walk around the resort , and take photos with a minimal fee. However , if you eventually have a meal / drink at the restaurant , the fee is refundable.And, that we did.
On our way back , we stopped at a local restaurant , probably the only meal we disapproved in Myanmar and practically left the food untouched. Instead , we requested to go back to the palm sugar ” factory “, and gobbled down the fried bitter gourd and tea leaf salad that we missed on our way .It was amazing!! ( we paid for it , this time)
palm sugar factory
Since we got back to the hotel at about 2:30 pm , slightly too early for our flight ,we decided on an hour long massage at the Ananta Bagan hotel – was ok.
And with that , ended our 2 day stopover at Bagan.