Myathabate Pagoda is an old hilltop pagoda worth visiting mainly for the stupendous views its location affords right across the surrounding area.
According to local lore (or an English sign at the foot of the steps, anyway), Myathabate dates from more than 2,000 years ago and contains two hairs from the Buddha’s head, though frankly up close it looks like any other large, gold-painted stupa. To the west, the vista stretches across town and, on a clear day, as far as the Gulf of Martaban. To the east, they go beyond a picturesque lake and rubber plantations to the limestone outcrops towards Hpa-an.
As with most hilltop temples, there’s an easy and a hard way to get to the summit. In this case, the hard way is tough: 999 steps tough. Well, the sign says 999 and to be honest we didn’t count them since we confess to having taken the easy way up. This is a sealed road in good condition that goes for several kilometres and is sufficiently winding to avoid any really steep sections.
The entrance to the road is through a gate just short of the First Mountain Cafe. It winds gently up the wooded hill before undulating along a ridge from shrine to shrine. For the very brave and very fit, the foot of the steps is just past the same cafe and to the left of the Mon-style chedi. Climbing the stairs may well be a heathy, and virtuous, option but if you take them you will actually miss the lesser shrines, chedis and viewpoints dotted along the road. So if you don’t have transport and any friendly pilgrims in the car park do offer you a lift, we say go for it.
If you’ve any energy left, or have ridden up, then there are walking trails through the forest atop the mountain. As something of an oasis amid the endless rubber trees in the area, it looks promising for bird life. Aside the golden chedi and lesser shrines on adjacent peaks, there’s nothing much else up here, so make sure you bring plenty of water with you.The climb or ride up to Myathabate is especially good if you can combine it with a stroll through the old part of town that lies between the main highway and foot of the hill. From the town centre the most direct route is to walk north past the Shwe Sar Yan Pagoda and take the second right after the fire station. This will lead you directly to the foot of the steps. Just before the steps on the left providing refreshments before or after your ascent is the excellent First Mountain Cafe.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.