By Jaycee Jung
Myanmar has locales which are of extreme importance to the world geographically, historically and naturally. Many of the areas are of extreme geological importance as well. Based on the geological significance, recently the country decided to demarcate five areas as National Geology Parks. This was done in consultation with Myanmar Geosciences Society. The announcement is supposed to be done in phases starting with Popa Mountain which will be declared as a National Geology Park at the end of this year.
These five areas are:
- Popa Mountain In Mandalay Region
- Inn Daw Gyi in Kachin State
- Inle Lake in Shan State
- Twin Taung in Sagaing Region
- Mount Zwegabin in Kayin State
This is such good news to travellers. While visiting the country, not only will they be able to see cultural and historic sites, they will also see geologically important sites. These parks will display geological features, fossils, buildings, ancient religious beliefs and lifestyles of ancient people who were living in these sites.
Popa Mountain In Mandalay Region
The first site to be named under this category, Popa Mountain lies off the ancient city of Bagan. The plan is to declare Popa Mountain as a National Geology Park and later include Bagan under the purview of the same.
Popa Mountain primarily consists of two parts – Mount Popa and Taung Kalat. Geologists believe the westward sloping hill of TaungKalat to be a part of volcanic eruptions. Geologists estimate that Mount Popa rose from the ground about 15 million years ago. The circular crater tilts towards the west and hence the south and east sides are slightly higher. This is the reason why observed from the west side, there seem to be two peaks, but when observed from the north, there’s only one. Geologists believe that Popa was an active volcano 250,000 years ago. People can see lava even when they climb the mountain now.
Caption: The exquisite Popa Mountain
Taung Kalat is studded with pagodas, shrines, nat figures and other religious edifices. While climbing from the base to top, through the 800 steps, visitors can see all these. The eerie silence of the hills sends a chill down a spine. 777 out of the 800 steps were built by Great Hermit U Khanti. Later 43 steps were added as well.
Historians, however, are divided in their views about Mount Popa. According to historian Dr Than Tun, the eastern bank of the River Ayeyarwady extended to present-day Mount Popa a million years ago. However, American archaeologist Dr Movius opine that the people from the stone-age used to dwell in the Popa Region. They were afraid of the sun and considered the volcano region of Popa as a sacred place.
Following the ancient writings from the royal times, a loud explosion occurred amid Ayeyarwaddy creating a big lake in Po-U Maung. This lead to the birth of two rivers Samon and Samyeik and the emergence of Mount Popa between the two. The Pyu cities of Sri Ksetra, Beikthano and Hanlin were established far from Mount Popa so that volcanic eruption could not affect them.
Visiting the Popa Mountain
Popa Mountain is located near Bagan and can be seen from the ancient town as well. The entire area is enchanting, covered by forests with interesting tales. If you are visiting Bagan, I recommend planning a day tour to Mount Popa. Keeping aside geology, Popa mountain is of immense value otherwise. There is a wide range of bird and butterfly species that you can see. Popa has several medicinal plants, which is why it is often the centre of study tours. The foothills are the grazing grounds of different kinds of animals such as boas deer, mouse deer and popa monkeys.
The view from the top is world-class. There is also a monastery which is a significant religious monument for the locals of Myanmar. If you are planning to climb up the mountain, start after lunch so that you are on time for catching the view of the stunning sunset from the top. Myanmar is famous for its scenic sunsets, and this view is one of the best.
Caption: Mount Popa Monastery at Popa Mountain
Popa mountain is already a famous tourist spot among locals and international tourists. The established of Geology Park is expected to increase its popularity. Tourists will be able to understand why it is geologically important and learn the fascinating manner in which Popa Mountain was established.