Hpa an is the capital town of Kayin state (1.6mil inhabitants) in South Eastern Myanmar. The Kayins are Christian and Buddhist. Hpa An is a peaceful small town situated on the banks of the Thanlyin River and surrounded by picturesque rural landscapes and a karst mountain region. Although Hpa An town itself does not have many attractions but it is an ideal base for excursions to the surrounding limestone karst mountain region. Visitors can take a scenic boat rides along the river, explore the regions spectacular limestone caves, hike up one of the many mountains, hire a bike or walk and explore the scenic countryside or wonder around town discovering small markets and religious sites.
Highlights in Hpa an
The Shweyinhmyaw Paya, a pagoda located in the north western part of town, offers great views of the river and nearby Hpan Pu Mountain especially during sun set.
The traditional market in Hpa an town is a bustling place where you can witness the local life and hear the Karen/Kayin language being spoken. It is a good place to buy traditional hand woven Karen Longis and other local crafts.
Highlights around Hpa an
Hpan Pu Mountain is on the opposite side of the river just a short boat ride away from Hpa an and makes for a great short excursion from the town. The views from the top of the mountain are breathtaking especially during sunrise or sunset. To get to the mountain, travel like the locals and take a 10 minute longtail boat ride across the river. Once across, you have to pass through a quaint rural village to reach the foot of the mountain. The climb takes roughly 25 – 30 minutes, along steps of varying quality. At the top you will have spectacular views of the karst mountain landscapes, the river and rural countryside.
Kyauk Kalap meaning water garden, is one of the most unique pagodas in Myanmar. The pagoda is constructed on an unusual pillar like karst rock formation and situated in the middle of an artificial lake.
The sacred Zwe Kabin Mountain towers over Hpa An and is one of the highlights of any trip to the region. Climbing the mountain will take two to four hours depending on fitness level. The steps up to the mountain are at varying degrees of repair, so you need to watch your step. However, those who make it to the top will be rewarded with unparalleled views of Hpa An and its landscape. At the top you will also find a monastery, a pagoda and canteen offering good local cuisine.
Sadar Cave, a giant cavern located inside one of the karst mountains near Hpa An. The cavern is filled with temples and pagodas including a reclining buddha and extends all the way through the other side of the mountain, so you have the option of making a 15 minute walk through the complex and exiting on the other side. At the other side, there is a lake and a small long tail boat can take you back to the entrance, passing through another beautiful small cave.
Visitors can also take a dip in one of the many popular waterfall pools situated at the base of the mountains. They are perfect place to cool down after some sightseeing, mingle with locals and enjoy a drink.