Now even for a Lara Croft wannabe / temple exploring history enthusiast like myself, there are only so many crumbling pagodas you can wander around for so many days. Whilst in Bagan, after having my fill of such activities, I was looking around for something else to do.
The hostel ran various excursions, but I was due to move on to Inle Lake soon and didn’t want to endeavour on any super long trips. So, I decided to go on the tour that would take us to visit Mount Popa – affectionately referred to by many of the other backpackers as “Mount Poo Poo”, just a few hours drive away…
Mount Popa is a volcano, on top of which sits a sacred monastery with golden stupas piercing the sky and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s considered one of the most important temples in Myanmar for the worship of Nats – a type of spirit.
Our ascent of the 700 stairs towards the top was interspersed with retching and gagging due to the smell. Hundreds and I mean HUNDREDS of monkeys clambered all over the table, sat watching us from various vantage points, some with mangy fur, missing limbs and gaping wounds. And the floor was covered in Monkey excrement. Suddenly the name “Mount Poo Poo” seemed a lot more fitting.
I didn’t even dare take out my phone to snap a picture because in the past, I have had more than my fair share of unfortunate experiences with monkeys. I know they are likely to grab any of your possessions and make a run for it, your chances of catching them precisely zero. They’re prone to randomly attacking you, especially fi they suspect you have food or drink.
We made it to the top eventually, after slipping barefoot in monkey piss on serval occasions and having to dodge piles of poo and we made our way up the stairs.
Golden shrines and belles adorned the upper floor under the open sky…
And the view of the surrounding countryside was really quite lovely…
The lush green spread as far as the eye could see, peppered with golden stupas and small houses
The shadows of clouds rippled across the tree tops
On our way back down, we heard an unsettling rattling noise. A noise that sounded like hundreds of small feet running across a tin roof. We turned a corner, and genuinely came face to face with one of my worst nightmares…
Hundreds of monkeys crammed into one corridor, running in one smelly matted wave towards us. Monkeys running along the roof, monkeys swinging through the bars, monkeys howling and screeching.
My knees actually wobbled. I bit back a scream. I panicked and jumped onto a high stone bench, curled up into my knees and watched horrified as a wave of monkeys rolled past me, and tried not to move.
A German guy who had been on my bus was slowly picking his way through the floor littered with monkeys. I grabbed his arm and we slowly made our way down the stairs as some guards showed up and starting to shout and bang sticks to frighten the critters away.
I clambered back into the bus still shaking, and if you have never been attacked by a monkey you may laugh and think “but they’re so cute!”
I assure you, they make LOOK cute, but these little creatures can be utter utter bastards!
If they think that you have food or drink, they will not hesitate to jump on your shoulder, try and bite your face and run away with your possessions.