So we awoke with Callum and me still feeling miserable and in no way up to riding the scheduled 30km, or really doing much else. Luckily as we have the tour to ourselves it was easy to change things around and we drove straight through, with a couple of unscheduled roadside stops, to Mount Popa where we’re staying in a glorious hotel on the slopes of the caldera.
Mount Popa is an ancient volcano. The caldera is filled with trees and in the centre the volcanic plug rises vertically from the plane. The plug is surmounted by a monastery, which Jennifer and Declan climbed up to.
Mount Popa is protected by several spirits, which are the companion religion in Myanmar to Buddhism. One of them, Maung Tint De, we have encountered several times, as he was originally a blacksmith, who was consumed by fire on the orders of the King, after he made the King jealous. A very appropriate spirit for an extinct volcano.
To visit the monastery, we started by visiting a statue of Maung Tint De. Then we got to climb 800 odd steps to the top, accompanied by monkeys trying to steal our sunglasses, people trying to get us to pay for their clean steps (cleaned after the aforementioned monkeys had visited), and several school groups.
Sadly the monastery itself looks much better from a far than close up – the gold is fairly plastic-y looking (unusual for Myanmar, but it is a fair way to haul real gold). But the 360 view from the top was quite amazing, and definitely worth the steps.
Declan amused himself by trying to take pictures of monkeys, as there were several very cute babies.
Meanwhile back the hotel, which is lovely, Callum and I recuperated on the balcony. The fresh air and stunning views are helping greatly.