Hpa An is a cute little town located East of Yangon and North of Mawlamyine. It’s a common stop over for travelers crossing the Thai/ Myanmar border by foot. Many backpackers only spend one night and use this only as a transit spot. I truly enjoyed this quint little town, it was near the water and has great sunsets, local markets, several dining options, gorgeous viewpoints and unbelievable caves
Our tour group for the caves was a good size. There were 7 of us total. Julie, Joseline and I as well as 2 other girls and 2 guys. We all shared one tuk tuk that drove us around all day to the different caves. A little cramped at times but not too bad. The caves were well spread out so at times we were in the back of the tuk tuk for 40 or more minutes. I really enjoy getting to know other travelers during these tours. Everyone has such fascinating and entertaining stories as well as the most up to date and first hand travel advice.
The caves I visited in Thailand were great but the caves here in Myanmar are truly special. They have turned them into religious spots for worship, prayer and gathering. The caves all had different and unique Buddha’s and shrines. They are all set back in the hills from the city and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area. These caves are popular travel destinations for the people of Myanmar and they flock in on buses.
The first cave had the best viewpoint of the day. After climbing the stairs to the top there is a wide opening with Buddha statues that made a perfect picture of the land below. Inside the cave you can follow a path that leads through to another opening and a gorgeous unobstructed view of the surrounding area. I almost missed this entire part because I thought the opening at the top of the stairs was all there was to see. I had wandered off on my own and left the rest of my group and completely missed the path that led through the cave. I couldn’t see anyone of my tour mates so I hurried back down the stairs thinking they must be sitting there waiting for me. I got to the bottom just to realize that I was the first one down. I sat for a few minutes with no one else showing up before I decided I must have missed something. So back up the stairs I went where I found the path through the cave, the rest of my tour group and a beautiful view that I would have been so disappointed to miss. And that’s why you don’t wander off alone folks.
The second cave we went to I’ll forever remember as the monkey cave. Honestly, I don’t even really remember the inside of the cave except we were asked to take a lot of photos with locals, which never gets old by the way. I love being a celebrity. Outside, along the side of the caves were tons of monkeys of all sizes. Locals were throwing small corn stalks for them to catch and eat. P.S. Monkeys are lazy animals. If they didn’t catch the corn they wouldn’t chase after it. Just sit there and stare as if thinking, missed that one, too lazy to go after it. There were tiny little baby monkeys clutching onto their mothers chest as she swung around trying to catch corn. Elderly monkeys stealing corn from smaller monkeys, which I found very rude. Besides the monkeys, I enjoyed this cave stop because I quickly made 5 new boyfriends upon arrival who followed me around the whole time I was there. I wanted to bring them all home with me. They were so cute and I just adored them. They went everywhere I went and even raced me to the top of yet another viewpoint. Of course they won seeing as I’m overweight and totally out of shape. Also, it was a stifling 100 degrees.
Next stop was a pagoda on a rock that looks like it may come crashing down if there were any heavy winds. This was particularly beautiful because you walked across a bridge that took you to the island of the rock pagoda where the lake was a clear greenish blue and you could see all the mountains in the background. As you climb the rock they forbid photo taking which I thought was a shame because the views were gorgeous. One of the guys from my group paid no attention and was snapping all kinds of photos which I could tell really bothered the Burmese man who was supposed to be enforcing the no camera law.
The following cave reminded me of a children’s carnival because of the circus type lights on the inside. This cave also had a path that led you through to the other side where we took a little boat ride and emerged on the whole opposite side. We then walked through what felt like a desert safari with many little settlements of local people eating and drinking and of course snapping photos of us. At one point it felt like we were lost in the safari but we came around one corner and right there was our tuk tuk driver patiently waiting for us. Somewhere along the lines we lost our two gentlemen tour mates because they stopped for food for the tenth time and made us wait for what felt like 30 minutes. Silly boys.
We stopped at a little pool next which was a busy spot for locals. There was a restaurant there where we sat and ate. Only one of the guys wanted to swim the rest of us passed on that. Mostly because for woman its proper to stay fully covered and not wear bikinis. No one wanted to be completely soaked and fully clothed.
Our final cave and stop for the day was pretty blah compared to the rest and I think everyone was just exhausted and over it. We all quickly perused and were back at the tuk tuk faster than the driver expected.
After we returned to the guesthouse Julie, Joseline and I went on a hunt for some pizza. Sadly enough we were unsuccessful. However, we did find some Pizza in Yangon a few nights later. Yes people I ate Pizza in Myanmar and it was actually good. Pizza craving satisfied. Taco craving is still holding on hard.
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