Hpa An (pronounced Pah-Ann) is the capital of Kayin State and a very charming town that is approx 265 km from Yangon, and situated on the eastern bank of the Salween River. The picturesque setting, laid back atmosphere, surrounding mountains and caves are the most appealing aspects of this area.
Many of the surrounding mountains have religiously significant caves that are well worth exploring on the Myanmar travel packages. There is plenty to see in the local area, including the monolithic, sacred and beautiful Mount Zwegabin which is nearly 16 km from the centre of Hpa An.
Other attraction includes the fantastic Kan Thar Yar Lake which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from town. A walk into the centre of Hpa An makes it possible to explore Zaydan Road with its great restaurants and teahouses. For the traveller interested in the local history and culture, a visit to the Kayin Cultural Museum is certain to appeal and costs in the region of $2-$3. An evening trek to the Strand Road riverfront area is great to watch the sunset over the Thanlwin River, while there is a food stall scene in the local area selling local dishes, drinks and beer.
Visitors to the Hpa An region on the Myanmar tours and holidays are likely to appreciate the cool and pleasant weather conditions which are on average 18° C. The preferred time to travel is late October to early February. Even the hot season of March to mid-May is still very acceptable and cool when touring the local sights.
How to get there
One of the easiest transport methods to Hpa An includes the bus service from Yangon, Mawlamyine, or Myawaddy. Most of the buses leave and arrive in the centre of town near the ticket agents – although tickets are usually easiest to pick up at any guest house or hotel (subject to a small commission). Other options in town include the shared taxis from Mawlamyine or Myawaddy.
The buses from Yangon depart at regular intervals in the morning and evening. The cost of the bus ride is approx $4 for a standard bus with air-con or $6 for the VIP buses. The expected travel time is in the region of 6-8 hours, and there are a few stops en route, including those at Bago and Golden Rock.
Hpa An doesn’t have a local train station with the closest at Mawlamyine or Thaton.
The most practical option to view the sights in and around Hpa-An is to hire a tuk-tuk for the day. Most are easily picked up at the centre of town. Most of the tuk-tuks have the ability to accept up to 6 passengers and costs in the region of $15.50 for a full day's use. Alternative transportation options include a motorbike hire at $6-$7 per day.
Where to stay
Hpa-an has recently seen an increase in tourist foot traffic, which has helped to improve the local accommodation. A preferred guesthouse for the backpacker is the Soe Brothers’ Guest House, while the Galaxy and Parami are acceptable alternatives. Most of the good places to stay on the Myanmar travel tour are centrally located in town or close to Thit Sar Street. For the lake views, the Gabbana Hotel and Hotel Glory are a practical choice.
A great riverbank location includes the Than Lwin Paradise, which is out of town but still within an easy to reach distance from the major attractions. There are a few high-end places in town which can cost in excess of $200 per night.
Eat and drink
Even though Hpa-An is a small town, it does still have an acceptable amount of places to eat and drink for travellers on the Myanmar local tour package. Beyond the restaurants, there are a few excellent coffee shops to visit.
A great eatery to visit for breakfast is the New Day Bakery, which serves up delicious toast and eggs, Chinese steamed buns, dahl along with omelettes, or puris (Indian pancakes), which is the house special at approx $1. Plus, any meal can be washed down with fresh shakes, juices, or coffee. It is conveniently located near the bus stops and is a lively and friendly place with English spoken.
For meals later in the day, there are plenty of commendable choices throughout town with one of the favourites, including the San Ma Tau Restaurant. It is located just of town on Bogyoke Street, but is well worth the 10-15 minutes for the delightful food served.
The dawn market in Hpa-An is a great delight with vendors and shoppers buzzing around the stalls, while also being a great place for food. It is located a short distance from the Soe Brothers guesthouse and consists of a large building. Many of the popular items include mosquito repellent, shampoo, housewares, fabrics and clothes. Plus, there is also a decent selection of fruit and plenty of mini gold markets – but it is important to be wary of artificial gems.
Things to see and do
A climb to the top of Mount Zwegabin can be quite strenuous, but it is worth the effort. The climb takes in the region of 2-4 hours (depends on pace) and there are a few stalls on the way up selling water and other refreshments. On reaching the summit there is the pagoda and monastery that are rich in character and worth exploring. The view from the top of the mountain is quite spectacular with the ability to see the surrounding plains and mountains. Plus, there is a great canteen selling delicious food to help recharge before making the way back down the mountain.
Hpa An has plenty of caves to explore on the Myanmar travel packages. Sadan Cave is nearby and on entering this massive cavern there are hundreds of pagodas and Buddha’s to admire. Also, for the more relaxed return journey it is possible to book a ride on a wooden ferry that passes under the mountain, and costs in the region of $1.50.
Other caves to explore in the area include Kawgun, Yathaypyanm, and Ka Taung. Each of the cave systems is unique and has their own historical and religious value.
Visit a truly unique pagoda at Kyauk Kalap which is located in the middle of an artificial lake and sits on a rock formation. It is seen on the way to Zwegabin and a very picturesque spot that gives the opportunity to take some great photographs.