The capital of Kayin State is fast on its way to cementing itself as a major tourist destination in Myanmar, from caves, crystal clear pools, ancients Buddha’s, hiking, and large limestone mountains Hpa-an has a lot to offer for the outdoors minded traveler.
Hpa-or “frog vomit” as it is translated derives its name from Burmese Buddhist tradition where after the frog ate the large snake he suffered a bit of a stomach reflex in the town, hereby sentencing the town to one of the less poetic but most legendary names of all the cities in Myanmar.
Kyauk Kalap is a steeple shaped rock finger situated in the middle of a man made lake. A small golden pagoda balanced rather precariously ontop of the rock finger. It is possible to climb up the outside of the allowing you to take in he surrounding paddy fields and towing limestone mountains. The lake provides shelter for herons, ducks, geese, and kingfishers. Fish can also be feed from the bridge.
The surrounds of Hpa-an is scattered with small caves, most of which are adorned with some sort of Buddhist designs some of which dates back many hundreds of years. While a torch is not essential it does make the experience more enjoyable and safer as the lighting inside the large cavern is minimal. Sturdy footwear is also recommended.
If you have limited time in Hpa-an you should still make an effort to see Saddan cave. The cave entrance is guarded by two large white elephant statues which mimic the elephant like rock formation in the cave (a little imagination required). The cave is large and takes about 10 minutes to walk through, the way is lit so the risk of getting lost is minimal. At the caves exit point there will be a little hollowed out boat waiting to take you across the pond for 1,500 kyat. The boats are surprisingly stable and with a little insistence they will even let you paddle it yourself. Once on the pond your cave time is by no-means over where you pass under more rocks to get to the landing area, after a quick walk through the paddy field you return to the entrance of the cave.
Though, but rewarding. panoramic vista’a of Kayin State, if you plan on hiking take plenty of water and start in the cool of the day. Be prepared for steps and lots of them.
Karen Culture Museum.
A Museum celebrating the Karen Peoples, Myanmar’s largest minority ethnic group. Read about their history, challenges and future. traditional clothing, weaving equipment, hunting traps and musical instruments are on display. Cost $2
To make life easier some of the guesthouses do day tours around the main caves and other sites in and around Hpa-an on a daily basis. The tours are simple but very reasonably priced between $5-10 person for the day.
Where to Stay
Backpacker: Soe Brothers or Deep Purple.
More Comfortable; Hotel Angels Land, more