Our local Travel Specialist Wai Lin, in our Yangon office, just returned from a trip to the south of Myanmar. In this blog he shares his experiences, and what he loved most about this stunning part of the country.
I’ve traveled much of my country, Myanmar, however it was the first time I went to Hpa An. I was excited about the amazing areas I’d visit, and the hill tribes I’d meet in this culturally diverse area.
Hpa-An is the capital city for the Province of Kayin and one of the closest to the Thai border. It is about six hours drive from Yangon. There are a lot of interesting places to visit including the caves and other historical pagodas.
Our first stop was the Bayin Nyi Cave, located north of Hpa An. Since it is ‘green season’, the cave is surrounded by water and we enjoyed the boat ride around the cave and some of my colleagues said it is the Hong Long Bay of Myanmar. The hot-springs are unique too. Visitors can take a swim in separate pond for Men and women.
We arrived another natural lime stone cave called Kawgun in the early evening. I would say this is one of my favorite caves in Myanmar. Thousands of tiny clay Buddhas and carvings plastered can be seen on all over the walls and roof of this open cavern. Not only that, this cave is the home to a series of large statues of Buddha.
After enjoying the sunset from Shweyinmyaw pagoda which is beside Thanlwin River, we checked in our hotel in the late evening.
The second day of the trip began with the hiking to Mount Zwegabin, which is the highlight and my personal favorite part of the trip. The uniquely-shaped mountain (772 meters high) is important to the Karen people, it is apparently home to nat spirits. There are steps all the way to the top but it is hard work and you must have the good quality hiking shoes since the steps are in varying degrees of repair! Some places almost vertical and this may look easy, but it is not.
It took us two hours to get to the summit, however it depends on your pace. We were lucky enough that the weather was nice on that day, not rainy nor sunny and it was perfect for hiking. The characterful monastery and pagoda at the top of the mountain are a delight and the view from the top was breathtaking. It took us one and half hour to get back to the foot.
For our lunch, we went to the local restaurant that serves Thai foods mainly. We enjoyed our lunch very much (may be because of the hard hiking tooJ) and this restaurant is one of the good options to choose in Hpa An.
We had some leisure time in the afternoon and we visited the market in the town center. In the early evening, we visited the Kyauk Kalap Pagoda, a truly unique pagoda, on top of an unusual rock formation in the middle of a (man-made) lake. It is surrounded by beautiful scenery of Mt. Zwegabin and paddy fields, one of the good place for sun set in Hpa An.
For those who would like to see the country side of Myanmar and who would like to step away from the ‘Big Four’ (Yangon, Inle, Bagan & Mandalay) as we locals say, Hpa An is the most recommendable. This small and sleepy town will provide a lot of unforgettable experiences to you.