Many people before we decided to travel to Myanmar had told us stories of their trips to Mount Popa. Many relayed how hot and smelly it would be, some told tales of their possessions being stolen from their bags by one the many hundreds of monkeys on the mountain, while others complained of the disgusting state of the floors. I’ll be honest, it didn’t sound too convincing.
It wasn’t until we reached Myanmar and relayed our plans to our hosts and friends in Yangon that their faces lit up when we mentioned our desire to visit Mount Popa. It is after all one of the many pilgrimage sites for Buddhists and Burmese in the country, if not the world.
Our friends began to tell us that Burmese and Buddhists believe the mountain to be home to the Great Nats ( a diverse groups of spirits like guardian angels). It is also an honor and a privilege to visit the mount and pay tribute to the legendary nats and thousands of people make the journey to pray for good luck and fortune.
We told them how many had people had told us about the gross factors including the monkey poop and the rubbish. So we asked them for their advice…and our friend’s reply was priceless!
“Like the film with Morgan Freeman…sometimes you have to crawl through poop to come out clean on the other side!”
So indeed we did. Taking a day trip from Bagan, we trekked up the 777 steps through monkey excrement in 40 degree weather and reached the top of this sacred mountain.
Not only did I feel a few pounds lighter when I got to the top, I also felt enlightened. Not in a religious Buddhist way, and not even as a sense of achievement. I looked down at the floor to my feet. They were black with dust, monkey urine had made its way into the middle of my toes and dried up monkey poop encrusted my heels. I looked out over the vast green plain covered in haze and thought to myself how my dear friend TunTun was right.
It wasn’t even about the mountain, it wasn’t even about the monkey poop. What I realized was, sometimes in life you get dealt bad cards. Much like the monkey poop and urine on the floor. It isn’t pleasant to walk on, and if you’re not careful you’ll slip and land your ass on the floor. But you’ve got to keep moving through it. Climb your 777 steps and sooner or later you’ll reach the top of your mountain and enjoy your own breath-taking views.