Hpa An is the photo opportunity rich capital of Kayin State on the Salween, or Than Lwin River. About a 5-hour drive from Yangon, it’s the scenery more than town itself that make the place worth seeing. The town is surrounded by Karst limestone mountains (the most prominent being Mt. Zwegabin) and spires fronted by endless rice paddies. If you make the climb in the morning you be may be availed the opportunity to feed your welcoming party of various monkey species, as well as yourself, gratis. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? But the biggest draw of Hpa An for many, are the many limestone caves in the area that serve as amazing natural Buddhist temple shrines.
Saddan Cave: A large cave with natural light flooding through in places, great for spotlight photos. It’s a Buddha cave with a reclining Buddha and numerous other figures, so you must remove your shoes upon entry. Further on, it’s OK and advisable to put them back on. Rinse, lather, repeat – so sandals are best. You should also have a flashlight. Traversing the cave is not difficult, and you come out the other end to see a picturesque little lake. From there you can take a canoe through another cave and out through a canal through endless rice paddies. Five mintutes walk from the drop off point and yo arrive back where you started.
Kawt Ka Taung Cavern: This Buddhist shrine is adorned with thousands of Buddha images carved into the entrance walls, as well as many larger Buddhas both inside and out. A ten minute climb up a nearby hill offers great views over the rice paddies. The resident monastery is full of novice monks, and during study breaks you can see them playing football, robes a flyin’.
Bat Cave: No, not that Bat Cave. This is far from Gotham City, in every way imaginable. The cave itself is nt large, nor can you enetr it. Nor would you want to, unless you are a guano enthusiast. The draw is the near dusk rush hour when hundreds of thousands of bats convoy out for dinner to the beat of local drums. You can also see them return if you can get there early enough in the morning. Awesome views may be had if you are up for climbing a sketchy ladder to the top of a pagoda rock, where some grandparents and kids live.
Hotel: The best and most scenic hotel is on the town’s outskirts. Zwekabin is about as upscale as Hpa An gets, and all in all it’s not bad.