Arriving in Hpa-an
The bus pulled into Hpa-an in the early afternoon from Yangon. Lucky for us, one of the bus stops is right across the street from our pre-booked hotel, the Thanlwin Paradise. Like many of the “budget” hotels we’ve stayed in Myanmar, this one had a very nice reception area but drabby old rooms.
The hotel is on the banks of the Thanlyin river. There were no breathtaking views from our room but breakfast is served in a building along the river. We didn’t notice any other backpackers while we were there though there was a large wedding party the weekend we were there.
Because the location is about a kilometer from the central area of town you need your own transporttation. We asked the front desk for a motorbike to rent and agreed for a half day rental and a tomorrow a full day. The bike was waiting for us after we had unpacked our bags and had a shower.
Motorbike tour of Hpa-an
Soon we were cruising through town looking for a place to get gas (as they like to drain all fuel before they rent you the bike). Heading into town, the river on the left, we noticed a restaurant spread out along the bank with little bamboo hut table areas. We pulled in and had a beer and snacks.
Hpa-an has a relaxed vibe of a small town. Driving away from the river we entered the town. A small centre area. Restaurants and shops. We motored past the lake and down random roads trying to get lost. For sunset we biked back to the river and watched a local family happily trot down to the river to bathe and play. Small boats drifted by, some with locals and some with tourists.
It was dinner time. We didn’t see anything that looked too exiting during our initial tour of the town so we headed back toward our hotel where we saw a thai restaurant.
Called Shwe Kyet Pha, it was actually quite busy, a good sign. We ended up having an exceptional Thai meal. Really spicy too. Tomorrow we would explore the surrounding areas.
Lumbini Garden (Buddha Park) and Kyauk Kalat Pagoda and Lake
There’s a lot to see in the areas surrounding Hpa-an. Our plan was to head to Lumbini Gardens first then make our way to Kyauk Kalat Pagoda.
After that we would head back and hit up Ya Thea Pyan Cave. We had our map ready and hit the road soon after breakfast.
The morning drive was actually a little cold but the scenery was great. After leaving town you motor for miles past fields and limestone mountains. The road was good, paved and easy to navigate. Soon we began to see the Buddhas, hundreds of them lined up sitting in the fields.
We came into the main area and parked. This is the point where you begin the climb of Mount Zwegabin if that’s your thing. We noticed a gondola ride and checked it out.
Not extremely adrenaline inducing but we still grabbed a seat and took the ride up and back.
Back on the road we headed for Kyauk Kalat Pagoda.
Not too far away, we soon saw the tall limestone pinnacle jutting up with a gold stupa placed on top. We parked, removed our shoes and crossed a wooden footbridge, following a steady stream of people doing the same.
There’s a shrine halfway up , the farthest you’re permitted to go. The views are nice anywhere you are around here.
Ya Thea Pyan Cave
Next we headed to Ya Thea Pyan Cave, back towards town on the other side of the river. The day was now officially hot. After crossing the bridge near town you head left down a dirt road and follow the signs.
Ya Thea Pyan cave is in a hill near Kawgon Cave. Concrete stairs lead up. Again, no shoes are allowed. There were a lot of tourists but the cave is large enough to fit them.
For lunch we stopped at a nearby Thai Restaurant called “Thai Village.” Good thai food in an pleasant outside garden.
1pm. Time to go back to the room and rest.
Bat Cave for Sunset
We headed out on the motorbike a few hours before sunset. Back over the river you take a right and the Bat Cave awaits. Many other backpackers were already waiting for the show. At sunset thousands of bats come out of the cave creating a show not to be missed.
We climbed to the top where a large group of tourists were sitting. From here there are nice views of the river and surrounding areas.
As the sky began to darken we climbed the steep stairs back down to the bottom where the bat viewing is better. For over 20 minutes they flew out of the cave. A blur of movement and the noise of the bats leaving for the night. We rode home in the dark. Tomorrow we would leave for Dawei.
We had booked a night bus to Dawei but had the morning to do some more exploring. We decided to check out Saddan Cave (also spelled Saddar Cave?), which was well worth it.
Another large cave with lots of local tourists. We walked shoeless but brought our flip-flops with us, (as we were advised for the walk after the boat trip). Darkness and bats cling to the ceiling. Buddha statues. A line of people made their way through.
Towards the end, light streams through the opening where the exit is and you’re greeted by a serene lake.
Lena and I sat at the lake for a bit and watched people emerge from the cave and get into boats. We were expecting someone to try to sell us a boat ride but no one did, so we asked and found a boat . Two other passengers joined us for the quick 10 minute ride. Across the lake and through a cave, the boat brings you around to the other side where a 10 minute walk brings you back to the entrance of the caves.
We headed back to the hotel to check out and get ready for the night bus to Dawei. We figured it might be a long one. It was.
Budget and Expenses for 2 people:
Day 1 in Hpa-an
- 10,000- taxi to from hotel to Yangon bus station
- 20,000- Bus to Hpa-an
- 1,600- Coffee x2, shan noodles x1
- 2,700- Fried Noodles x2 (1 vegetarian and 1 chicken)
- 600- tamarind candy
- 5,000- Motorbike rental half day
- 1,000- petrol
- 45,000- Hotel “Than Lwin Paradise”
- 7,500- Lg Beer x2, deep fried squid
- 13,900- Lg beer x2, Thai Seafood soup, Thai Beef Vegetables
107,300 kyat total ($79.48)
Day 2 in Hpa-an
- 10,000- Motorbike rental
- 45,000- hotel
- 2,000- petrol (2 liters)
- 3,500- Longi (lena)
- 600- coca cola
- 8,300- Lunch: Green Curry, squid salad, lg water, ice coffee x2
- 400- tea x2
- 2,000- bat cave entrance fee for 2
- 12,400- Thai Dinner: 2 lg Beers, tom yum, fish dipping paste(?), chicken soup
84,200 kyat total ($62.37)
Day 3 in Hpa-an and bus to Dawei
- 2,000- entrance fee to Saddan Cave
- 5,000- Motorbike 1/2 day
- 26,000- bus tickets to Dawei
- 2,000- Moto x2 to bus station
- 5,000- chocolate “shake,” coconut cakes x2, ice coffee, tea x2
- 400- ice cream bar x2
- 3,200- dinner at bus stop: fishy veggies, chicken and rice
- 500- tamarind candy
- 5,000 taxi to hotel
- 32,000- Hotel Shwe Moung Than
81,100 kyat Total