The Fifth leg of our trip is an extension of the visit to Bagan: a side trip to the ancient village of Salay and the famous Mt. Popa. We tried looking for a taxi when we were looking for a horse cart; however, we were not able to find a single taxi so we decided to hire a taxi through the hotel front desk.
Again, dress code when visiting pagodas around Myanmar:
- No footwear or socks
- Length of shorts or skirts must be below the knees
- No sleeveless tops or plunging necklines
Basically, dress conservatively. The locals will not call you out on your attire, but they will give you a disapproving glance.
We were looking forward to seeing the architecture of the ancient monastery. Unfortunately, it was closed because of some holiday. (i.e. not a public holiday in Myanmar) Our driver was surprised that it was closed too.
Maha Laba Man Hpaja
This temple houses the largest lacquer Buddha Image in Myanmar.
Ancient village of Salay
Aside from visiting the Maha Laba Man Hpaja, we spent an hour randomly walking around the village. There weren’t many tourists in the area and it was sweltering. Note: Bring a bottle of water and a nice floppy hat.
The Buddhist monastery on Taung Kalat is a must visit in various travel forums for people visiting Bagan. Visitors have to climb 777 steps barefoot, braving a set of rusty metal stairs, aggressive monkeys, monkey pee, and monkey poo. We were planning on just taking a picture of the temple and hill from afar, but we decided to brave the monkeys when we saw a group of elderly people who started climbing.
Climbing the 777 steps is manageable. The stairs are covered so you don’t have to worry about the heat. Don’t worry about not having enough water, there are vendors selling refreshments at the resting areas. (Of course, the drinks are more expensive than downstairs.)
While climbing or going down the stairs, you will encounter a dozen or more “cleaners” along the way asking for money for the cleaning of monkey poop and pee. It’s not really mandatory to give them cash as we’ve seen some of them only start “cleaning” the steps when visitors are nearby; but we’ve seen other visitors giving them Ks 100 – 200. We gave some cleaners our spare change on our way down.
So, was the climb worth it? It was not really a difficult climb. It took us less than 30 minutes to reach the top. The view of the surrounding landscape is nice, i guess. The temple itself is not that impressive for us nonbelievers. We should have listened to some of the bloggers who said that looking at it from the viewing point will suffice.
After this adventure, we asked the taxi driver to bring us to the bus station for our trip back to Yangon. It was still pretty early when we reached Bagan, so the taxi driver brought us to this resting area beside a small market selling honey and some wood carvings. We didn’t buy anything but the lady there offered us free coffee, tea and nuts.
Salay – Mt. Popa expense
|Taxi for Salay – Mt. Popa trip (Ks 70,000 for 3 pax)||23,500|
|Dinner at bus station (Ks 2,000 for 2 pax)||1,000|
|Total||Ks. 29,500 ~ US$ 29.5|