Mt Popa is a just one-hour scenic drive from Bagan. The sanscript name for this 1,518 meter-high mountain means 'flower', which could not be more appropriate. It is believed to be the core of an extinct volcano last active 250,000 years ago. The fertile earth on the slopes of the mountain and the surrounding plains has produced a large number of rare plants, including orchids as well as a profusion of trees. The mythical mountain has also traditionally given rise to mysterious tales of strange characters in search of magic herbs.
Volcanic peak of Popa Taung Kalat is said to be the home of the nat spirits and is therefore one of the most important sites of nat worship in Myanmar. A covered stairway leads up to the 737 meter-high hill, from which there is a fine view over the plain and the whole of Mt Popa. Here you can also get to meet the monkeys on the peak and beg for nuts and sweets.
There are life-size figures of all thirty seven nats in a shrine in the pilgrim village, and there are frequent nat pwes (spirit ceremonies) held in their honour. The nats embody ancestors, legendary characters or spirits of nature, and anyone who dies a sudden death may become one. The particular qualities of these spirits can be gauged from their dress and the manner in which they are depicted. For instance, Ko Gyi Kyaw is bedecked with whisky bottles because he was a heavy drinker, and it was this vice that took him prematurely to his grave. He is the patron nat of tramps and alcoholics, and so it pays them to make sacrifices that will keep him in a good mood. This is the case with all the nats, for although they protect you, they can also do you a lot of damage if you get on the wrong side of them.