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A constant stream of pilgrims’ vehicles clogs the approach road to this much loved religious site, where the nature-worshipping roots of Burma’s ancient, pre-Buddhist past erupt to the surface in spectacular fashion. Its iconic epicentre is a shrine-filled monastery crowning the top of a vertical-sided outcrop – Taung Kalat – that’s thought to have been the plug of an extinct volcano. It’s worth the slog to the top just for the views, which extend across the Ayeyarwady River plain to the shrines and stupas of Bagan. Encounters with smiling pilgrims and charismatic holy men are other incentives to make the ascent.