Lying on the eastern bank of Salween river, around 270 kms away from Yangon, Hpa-an is the capital of Kayin (Karen) state, famous for its ancient buddhist caves, the beauty of the surrounding hills, and its hospitable people.
- By Bus, can be easily caught from Yangon, Mawlamyine and Mount Kyaiktiyo.
- Kyaiktiyo-Hpa: 4 hours - K5000
- Yangon-Hpa-an: 4 hours - K5000
- Mawlamyine-Hpa: 2 hours - K1000
- By Boat
- The state run ferry between Hpa-an and Mawlamyine has stopped running ever since the new road bridge was constructed. However, it is possible to take a fast boat down the Thanlwin River enjoying the Karst mountainous scenery for about K8000 from Mawlamyine to Hpa-an (two hour journey). Boat tickets can be bought at local guests houses and hotels.
- By Taxi
- Simply hire a taxi from the center of town and travel around with flexibility for us $ 20-30 per day. One taxi can carry up to 6 people.
- By Motorbike
You can rent a motorbike form places like Soe Brother's Guesthouse and travel at your own personal speed with more flexibility - K10,000 per day.
Things to do:
Try out Karen Cuisine
- Enjoying a typical Karen style meal is a 'must do' at one of the tea houses, restaurants or at a local beer station found a plenty on Zaydan Road, in the center of the town. They also serve western food at these places.
Visit the Market
- Walk downhill passing Soe Brothers' guesthouse to get to this busy local market where you can find anything and everything from fresh produce, cooked food, housewares, mosquito repellent to cloths and fabric material. Just nearby these two indoor buildings, a fresh fruit market and a gold market can be found. Be careful of fake jewelery.
- Take a boat ride across the river Thanlwin (Salween) to reach the base of Mount Hpar Pu and kill two birds with one shot by enjoying the boat ride along the river (offers plenty of scenery including several small islands, sand banks, river bank farming sites, Stupas and Pagodas) and exploring Mount Hpar Pu at the same time. (You can arrange boat tours at Mawlamyaing or in northern Hpa-an.)
Visit Thamanya Monastery
- Located outside Hpa-An town, standing in honor of its former chief abbot, Thamanya Sayadaw U Vinay, Thamanya Monastery carries the sad burden of being the last resting place of this great monk. He was an abbot well known for his charity work, his counsel in Burmese education and the support he gave to the Burmese democracy hero, Aung San Suu Kyi. His monastery was alive with Buddhist doctrine and pilgrims when he was alive, even after his death, (his body which was interred in a glass tomb in the monastery was robbed in 2008 and it was later revealed that the robbers had burnt it. However the ashes were taken back to the monastery and are currently on display, understandably under lock and key), Monks try to keep up the good name of the place and it is surely worth a visit.
Visit Mount Zwekabin
- Nicely perched in the background of Kyauk Kulap Pagoda and the lake surrounding it, Mount Zwekabin, one of the most holy mountains of Myanmar, stands 723 m tall around 16 km away from Hpa-An. The first thing you will notice when you are at the base of Mount Zwekabin are the 1,080 or so Buddha images that have been laboriously hand carved into the rock. To get to the top of the mountain, you have to make a tiring 2 hour climb up a seemingly endless flight of steps (you can buy water and other snacks on the way). Yet, once you reach the top, the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding valley and the river, the beautiful Temple and the monastery, the exotic sound of chirping crickets and scuttling crabs, the feeding of the monkeys at 11 am in the compound, the refreshments of the clean canteen at the summit, will simply make your tiredness disappear.
Kyauk Kalap Pagoda
- 'water garden' or in other words Kyauk Kalap Pagoda is uniquely set atop a strange rock formation in the middle of a lake. In fact they say that the lake was created artificially around the pagoda. Women and men are equally allowed to visit, though the signs outside may give you a different idea. This is the best place to be, to get a breathtaking view of the lake and Mount Zwekapin.
- Kawgun Cave Temple The best and the most precisely detailed limestone cave temple out of all the caves found in Hpa-an, Kawgun Cave is situated at the far end of Kawgun village. History states that it was built under the authority of a Mon queen in the 7th century. However most of the details that are on display today have been added by many artisans and artists who came after her period of authority. Despite its remote surroundings, the wall paintings of Buddhist images, carvings and statues are in good condition, giving you the chance to observe its intricate and minute details without difficulty. An observant eye will not miss the influence of Hindu culture seen in some iconography and statues, that symbolizes Burma's ethnically diverse society even in the past.
- Go Gon Cave This Cave stands a bit away from Hpa-An town, across Than Lwin river more towards Yangon. Its specialty is the multitudinous Buddha images decorating the interior of the cave and the rocks adorned with Buddha images at the entrance.
- Bayin Nyi Cave Located closer to Thaton than to Hpa-an, easily visited on your way to Yangon, this cave atop a hill, has a huge entrance hall filled to the brim with Buddha and other miscellaneous statues and inside the main cave sits a relatively new pagoda that adds a bit of modern ambiance. The path leading to the cave is slightly raised due to seasonal rains and the danger of water collection as pools (you get a chance to enjoy hot springs in the latter half of the rainy season). The cave does not get natural lighting even though it is said that some internal caves are lit by holes in the roof of the rock. The monastery at the foot of the rock and the shy yet chattering monkeys in the vicinity provide an added religious and natural charm to this authentic cavern.
- Saddar Cave This cave, much closer to Hpa-an, is noted as a huge cave filled with pagodas and statues of Buddha. One interesting option is to walk through the cave to the other side of the mountain and take a ferry ride back on a small wooden boat that carries two people for K 1500. Don't get put off by the rubbish strewn around.
Karen New Year Festival
- If you happen to visit Hpa-An in December, you will get a chance to observe the Karen New Year celebrations featuring kick boxing competitions, dancing and many more joyous happenings.