Visiting the Taung Kalat, or Mount Popa, in Burma: land of monkeys and spirits


As the bus approaches the area where both the monastery / pagoda are located Taung kalat As the Mount Popa, the driver stops in the middle of the road, because you get a good picture of the first one. It is not the best, since the viewpoint of the hotel Popa Mountain Resort offers a much better view. However, it is a good snack.

With Taung Kalat it happens as sometimes happens when you see a girl, or boy, without our prescription glasses. From a distance it seems really attractive, but when we approach it, it loses quite a few integers.

I explain.

The People of Popa ... And their monkeys

Upon entering the town of Popa, the activity is effervescent. Even more so if it coincides with one of Myanmar's frequent religious festivals. The place is really sacred and there is a curious syncretism in which the 37 powerful Nats are venerated - spirits derived from the animistic beliefs of the people of Burma - and to different images of Buddha.

The stalls of vegetables, fruits, natural remedies, handicrafts, t-shirts, relics, religious amulets and much more, proliferate everywhere. Even beautiful slings carved in wood with animal motifs are sold ... And why slingshot?

The answer is found in the street, as soon as you arrive. The town of Popa, composed mostly of Buddhist monasteries, some bars and the Nats Museum, is taken by an army of monkeys. As is, just as it is. And with showing them the slingshot in firing position, they will flee like crazy.

The monkeys are the masters and lords of the place and coexist with the human being and the bands of dogs in a balance taken with tweezers. And why do monkeys live here? The answer is simple: they have left the nearby forests because they find easy food here.

At the bottom of the stairs that lead to the top of Taung Kalat, the vendors offer you small cones that contain peanuts and bunches of bananas. We do not buy, but the Burmese and some tourists stock up to give them to the macaques during the climb. At first, that is not bad, because the monkeys take what is offered. But nevertheless, the problems begin when the generous and generous tourist does not have enough material to give something to all the monkeys They approach the cast. Then the fights between them begin and the attempt to win the prize before the human being drops it from his hand.

Macaca agitation is a constant that accompanies you during the entire journey that involves the ascent of the 777 steps that lead to the Taung Kalat.

The steps themselves are not a big problem, because you can climb them quietly, stopping here and there to contemplate the views or admire the small Buddhist sanctuaries and worship of the Nats.

However, monkey races resonate on the uralite roof and you must respect the basic tips to not be affected by them. Namely: do not challenge any monkey for a few seconds; don't get too close to taking pictures; Do not carry anything bright or flashy on top of you ... In fact, the fewer things you carry out of the backpack, the better.

He thinks that at least now they thoroughly clean their urine and poop, which used to dirty the steps at all times and were a stumbling block for many, since most of the ascent to the Taung Kalat must be done with bare feet.

On top of Taung Kalat

Once the issue of macaques has been overcome, it only remains to enjoy Taung Kalat: its spirituality and its views.

Me Wunna is the spirit that governs Mount Popa and the rest of the territory. Legend has it that she was an ogra (or ogresa, I don't know) who lived on the Popa mountain (the real one, which is the top of 1,518 meters above sea level that sits on the crater of an extinct volcano) and fed on flowers ( "Stern" means "flower" in Burmese).

One day, a prince of Bagan arrived in the dominions of Me Wunna and they both fell in love, since Me Wunna appeared as a creature of great beauty during the day. The couple had two children, but, over the years, the prince was claimed by his father to fulfill the responsibility of running his kingdom.

The prince abducted his children and took them with him, leaving Me Wunna in a state of perennial and torn sadness. That's how he died of grief.

His spirit was then eternally bound to the Popa mountain and is one of the most respected Nats in Burmese belief.

When you reach the summit of Taung Kalat, the views are stunning, with the top of Mount Popa on one side and an immense plateau full of farmland on the other. Between them, upholstered slopes of dense forests where sandalwoods, Indian trumpets, fig trees and many tropical species abound.

Just around the rock of the Taung Kalat, everything is Buddhist monasteries.

Taung Kalat is a famous pilgrimage site for Burmese people and it is common for people to want to take pictures with you. For many of them, you are an exotic figure, as they come from places in the country that tourism has not yet reached.

A little trip to the heart of Burmese spirituality ... Monkeys through.