Hpa-An is encircled by a karst mountain scenery which contain large (and religiously) caves. Especially if you like to take photo's of nature and portraits, you will love this place. The surroundings are lushful and green, the people are friendly and love posing for photos and it's just one of those places you have to visit and drive through when going to Myanmar.
As told in the Mawlamyine travelstory, we wanted to go to Hpa-An by boat because this should be the nicest boatride in Myanmar. The costs of this boat trip are 60.000 Kyat and the Breeze Guesthouse can arrange this for you. We spent an extra day in Mawlamyine, hoping we would meet some people who wanted to join us on this boat trip to share the costs. And we were lucky. There were 3 French people who wanted to join, good for us and our budget because now the trip only costed 24.000 Kyat for the 2 of us.
We left at 9 am for the scenic trip. And it was nice. Floating past wooden stilt villages we saw a lot of people working on their land next to the water, smiling and waving at us. We stopped in a small town called Ka Ka Toe where we visited the monastery on the Kawhnat Pagoda compound and walked around a bit. In total, it took us in total about 4 hours to get to Hpa-An. And yes, the boat trip was really nice. Was it the best trip you can do in Myanmar? We hope not. From the point you get dropped its was an easy 1,5 km to So Brothers Guesthouse number 1 (which is the budget one).
Besides restaurant Famous which has a western menu with a pretty good burger and fries we didn’t really find any place special to eat. We had breakfast at the New Bakery which was pretty good and not to expensive and the tealeaf salad at the ‘restaurant’ next to the guesthouse was really nice and cheap as well.
We stayed at So Brothers Guesthouse 1 and wanted a bit more luxury after our prison cells in Mawlamyine and Kin Pun. We booked the double room with aircon and private bathroom for 21.000 Kyat and it was pretty good although there was no breakfast included (they do include breakfast at the more pricier one called So Brothers Guesthouse number 2.)
** You can find them on booking.com
Another special experience, is sleeping in the monastery on top of mountain Zwegabin. We heard about this possibility after we already booked the nightbus to Kalaw, so unfortunately we didn’t stay here but we heard good stories. You pay 5.000 Kyat p.p. for a night, diner is 2.000 Kyat and breakfast 1.000. No idea about lunch.
Although the guesthouse organizes several tours, we decided to rent a motorbike for the day (5.000 Kyat) and started our day in the rain. Luckily we have ponchos with us, and it wasn’t raining really bad, so we just decided to start driving. We had a few things pinned on maps.me that we wanted to see, and the idea was to start at Mount Zwegabin before going to visit several caves and pagodas. When we were driving up there, we saw the top of the mountain covered in clouds and since the reason to climb up was the view, we decided to wait a bit, visit some of the other places and then come back.
We drove up to Kaw Ka Taung Cave which is not special. After a visit at Ein Du village we went to Sadan Cave. Already the route to the cave on the red dirt roads is worthwhile the trip! Nice green rice paddies and friendly, happy, waving people on a background of karst mountains. We had to stop several times to watch a fisherman retrieving his nets, to wave and smile at the kids leaving school or to take a photo of a beautiful woman with a huge cigar strolling around. We loved this ride!
The Sadan Cave itself is a big cave full with buddha’s and you can walk trough the cave to the other side of the mountain. From here you have the possibility to take a boatride around the mountain back to the start of the cave. We didn’t go in this far because Marije started to feel a bit claustrophobic. You’re also not allowed not to go in on flip-flops because it’s holy ground, which makes it very slippery. And the idea of all the thousands of bats inside, didn’t make the cave anymore attractive.. And we don't really like caves. But people do say it is really beautiful.
During our drive, we saw that the top of Mount Zwegabin was still surrounded by clouds, so we had to skip on that one.
Our last visit was the pagoda on the rock called Kyauk Kalap Monastery. Looks impressive with Mount Zwegabin towering in the background. We do have to say that the pagoda itself isn’t that much special. Oh, and if you love dogs, bring some extra snacks. There are a lot of stray dogs.
After this trip, we were able to take a shower at the guesthouse, where we could also leave our bags before getting in the nightbus to Kalaw.