Hpa An is the capital of the Karen State in Myanmar, however it is largely undeveloped and is surrounded by beautiful countryside. It is much more scenic than Northern Myanmar with vibrant rice paddies, towering limestone karsts and several impressive caves. We weren’t planning on visiting Hpa An, but after hearing good reviews from fellow travellers we decided to add it to our itinerary.
We booked a tuk tuk tour with Soe Brothers Guesthouse which took us to several caves, temples and viewpoints. Our first stop was at Ya The Byan cave. The cave entrance was surrounded by large Buddha statues and cute little monkeys playing. Inside the cavernous chambers were huge stalactites, stalagmites and columns.
Our next stop was at Kyauk Kalap Pagoda which is perched on top of a rather precarious looking rock formation. The pagoda is surrounded by a lake and has a spectacular view of Mount Zwekabin. Here we were befriended by a young group of monks who wanted a photo with us, we were more than happy to oblige and even managed to get a snap for our photo collection too!
The highlight of the day was Saddan cave, which is the largest cave at 800m long and up to 30 meters high. The cave is filled with thousands of squeaking bats which can be seen hanging overhead. After walking for a good 10 minutes through the cave’s chambers we emerged at a grand opening. At the cave’s exit is a beautiful lake surrounded by lush rice paddies. We took a small rowing boat around the lake and to a small path which led us back to the cave’s entrance.
Although we only stayed in Hpa An for a couple of days, I’m really glad we added it to our route. I think we saw a different, more scenic, side of Myanmar by venturing further south.
Next stop: Palawan, Philippines