Fifty kilometers southeast of Bagan in Central Myanmar at the base of Mt Popa is a solitary peak topped by gold stupas. The Popa Taungkalat shrine is the favoured home of 37 Mahagiri Nats or aminist spirit entities, statues of which can be found at its base. These spirits were once so important to the country's early Kings that it was essential for them to consult the Nats before commencing their reign.
To reach the top, you need to remove shoes and socks and climb the 777 steps to the summit. Along the way are a multitude of monkeys expecting treats. Sometimes they can get a little aggressive so it's recommended that you keep a tight grip on your possessions!
Popa means "flower" in Sanskrit and you will find bottled flowers that you can purchase as offerings at the temple.
Nearby, on the side of Mount Popa is the Mt Popa resort, a beautiful and luxurious 5 star hotel complex with an excellent restaurant featuring Burmese and European dishes.
Most people visit Mount Popa as a daytrip from nearby Bagan. It's only about 50km away but due to the conditions of the road and vehicles, it will take at least 1hr 30min to get there.
The cheapest way to get there is either by bus or pickup truck. Both are a bit uncomfortable but the bus will be slightly faster as the pickup truck will stop frequently to load or unload things. The ride will take about 1h 30min and cost around 3000 kyat.
A more comfortable way to get to Bagan is to hire a taxi car. You'll have the added benefit of being able to stop and visit the few villages along the way. One taxi quoted a rate of 30000 kyat for transport from Bagan to Mount Popa.
Prices have been rising recently for taxis. currently the price is 35000 - 40000 for a car. The price might be higher if you want to stop at the little towns along the way.
Local guides can show you the way up (US$ 10 - 20), but not many speak English. Inquire at any of the roadside tea sheds in Popa village. They will happily serve you with beverage and pickles until the guide shows up. Popa Mountain Ressort can also help you with guides for a much larger sum.
After your climb up Mt Popa, get in a taxi or share a truck to go over to Popa Mountain Resort for a break. The Resort has a stunning view of the shrine you have just visited and offers a nice relaxing environment for lunch or drinks. The only downside is the place is “expensive”, aka expected to pay the same price for food and drinks as if you were back in the States or Europe.