Hpa-an is a small town (pop.~40,000) in Kayin State in Southeastern Myanmar
(meaning covered pick-up truck crammed with way too many people) from Kyaiktito is about 4 hours, 5,000 Kyat. You will probably need to change pickup in Thaton but that is included in the price. It might be marginally cheaper to take the regular pickup from Kyaiktito to the train station (500 kt), then go to the main road and wave down any of the pickups going towards Thaton, Mawlamyine, or Hpa An. Air conditioned buses, at 12 noon and 3 pm, from Kyaiktiyo to Hpa An (those are coming from Yangon) take around 4 hours and about 7,000 kyat; unlike with the pickup that departs from the "base camp"(Kinpun), with the bus you have to take another transportation from Kinpun down to the bigger town on the highway to meet the bus. If you book your ticket at the guesthouse in Kinpun, the owner's son or other relative might give you a ride on the back of their motorcycle to the main road to meet the bus.
- Thaton Both pick-ups (1500kyat) and large buses (2000kyat) go from Thaton to Hpa An. Pick-ups leave frequently from outside the big golden pagoda ob the main road. You might need to stop the large buses passing by.
- Yangon - Buses run several times a day. the trip takes about 6 hrs. 4,500 kyat from Aung Mingalar Highway busstop. To go back from Hpa An to Yangon buses can be easily found for 5000 kt.
- Mawlamyine almost hourly morning departure bus takes 2 hours, 1,000 kyat local bus to 7,500 Kyat AC Van. It is possible to catch passing one beside clock tower/CB Bank. Private boat can be arranged through your guesthouse.
Several departures in the morning, 4-9 hours. You may find a shared taxi (10,000k). The route used to be one-way only (changing direction every day) but the construction of a new road avoiding the last narrow part is almost completed. As of March 2015 most cars already take the new road, allowing circulation in both directions every day. The new road also dramatically shortens the trip as it bow takes 45min to pass over the mountain instead of 3h on the old road. The overall trip in a car will take between 4h (car taking the new road and not stopping forever for lunch) and 9h (bus taking the old road). Check the situation before taking the route.
The popular government ferry ("slow boat") from Mawlalmyine to Hpa-An was discontinued as of about December 2012. A fast boat is sometimes available, arranged through the guesthouses in Mawlamyine (70,000 kyat to charter a private boat from Mawlamyine to Hpa-an). Breeze GH organizes a daily boat leaving at 8:15AM for 10000 per person (March 2014), sign up the day before.
Motorbikes can be rented from Soe Brother's Guesthouse for 8,000 kyat/day. They also give you a map.
Bicycles go for 2000 kt for a day or 1000 kt for half a day.
There are pickups that go to some of the sites around Hpa An.
Tuktuks usually charge 1000 per person between jetty, bus station and hotels.
Across the Galaxy Hotel,Lwin Pyar Guesthouse motorbike rental price is 7.000 kyatt.
Shweyinhmyaw Paya, the pagoda on the northwest end of town has nice views of the sunset; you can watch from a viewing tower or at the side of the river next to the pagoda. There is a ferry below the pagoda for Mt. Hpar Pu on the other side.
Small lake in the southern part of the city, nice for a late evening stroll & a nice view from Mt Zwegabin across a wooden bridge.
Please dress modestly (cover shoulders, knees etc) especially in temples and pagodas.
- Saddar Cave. An enormous cave with a reclined Buddha and other religious monuments. Foreigners might be asked for a 1000 kt donation at the entrance. Bring your shoes along to explore the rest of the cave past the temple area. Bring a torch. In 15 minutes you will reach the end of the cave where there is another cave across the meadow and a lake. A boat across the lake and through another cave back to the main entrance of the Saddar Cave costs 2000 kt for up to 4 people. Food and drinks available at higher prices than normal. There are two access dirt roads from the east and west. OpenStreetMap has a good map of the area. Perfectly doable by yourself on a motorbike or a bicycle for the very fit and heat tolerant (30 km away from Hpa An). (16.73846,97.71869)
- Kawt Ka Taung cave. This cave is covered with bathroom tiles and numerous Buddha statues. There is a swimming hole a little bit down the lane. And also a small hill that can be climbed for the views (10 minutes to go up). The nearby village (praised by the Lonely Planet) is across a concrete bridge and is nice to bike through. There are some nice restaurants near the cave which have a view over the rice fields. (16.82967,97.70504)
- Bat cave. An absolute must-see, the bat cave is a small cave that cannot be entered but you can go there for sunset when, literally, hundreds of thousands of bats fly out. They are said to be flying all the way to Mawlalmyine to feed and come back every morning. The cave is part of a complex of a few pagodas, one on top of the rock, accessible by a steep ladder, with amazing views over the river and the bridge. There is an old couple who live there with some kids. Consider making a small donation for them to take care of the place. When the bats start flying out, they start beating drums (actually jerry cans) so that the bats make interesting patterns in flight. It is possible to go there by bicycle but make sure you have sufficient front and back lights for coming back in the dark. It is of course also possible to go during the day just for the views and the pagodas but the bat show at sunset is not to be missed. To get there, follow the road our of Hpa An, as if going towards Yangon (not Mawlamyine) and then across the big road bridge. The moment you are of the bridge, take some stairs that go right down to the river. If you are cycling, you can carry your bicycle down the stairs. If you are motorized, follow the road for a couple of hundred meters past the bridge and then make a sharp right turn on a dirt track back down to the river. Once you are at the river bank, next to the bridge, you will see a village. Follow the main street in this village for 200 m and you will see a gate to a monastery. Take your shoes off and walk right in. In about 200 m more, some dogs will bark at you, but don't pay attention and continue for a minute more, where you can leave your bicycle/motorbike and take a short path to the cave. Ask your guesthouse to write down for you "bat cave" in Burmese so you can ask directions. You can also go by tuk-tuk for 10.000 kyats (2500 kyats/person) or even with a motorbike with driver for two people (8000 kyats). You can arrange tuk tuk at Galazy Motel. The driver takes you to the Bat Cave and wait until sunset, ant then drives back to Hpa An. (16.84891,97.61047)
The traditional market, just downhill from Soe Brothers guesthouse and across from the red mosque, is where you can hear the Karen/Kayin language spoken and a good spot for food in the morning. The two indoor buildings have housewares, shampoo, mosquito repellent, etc. on the ground floor and clothing and fabrics on the second floors. There is a fruit market outside and a small gold market (beware artificial gems!) around the perimeter. Good value is the hand woven longi fabric in traditional Karen ikat patterns (2000 to 6000 kyats, depending on size, and whether cotton or synthetic "seelon").
If you buy longi material, and you can't keep the thing from falling off the way the locals do, you may want to have it made up at a tailor with discreet ties or zippers. A good tailor shop is, from the clock tower, take the street next to the bus ticket office, and go uphill towards the monastery. The road curves around to the right, then turn right and you will see the treadle sewing machines in a shop on your right. You can also take the road up from the triangular roundabout, walk uphill past the New Day bakery shop, then turn left at the first intersection. It's on your left, maybe the second building. If you need to travel quickly, they can expedite it for an additional fee.
Traditional massage, head and shoulders and/or feet. Also pedicure, with nail polish (about 2000 kyats), including original multicolor freehand designs (for around 5000 kyats June 2013). From the clock tower, take the road by the bus ticket office towards the monastery. It is the third house on the left, the sign says beauty salon.
Not much to do in the city itself, but beautiful surroundings outside of the city. You can arrange an all-day tour at the Soe Brothers Guesthouse or at Golden Sky Guesthouse (see below for details) - they'll take you out in the countryside, to visit different caves (at one you can swim in a small natural pool) and the Kyauk Kalap Monastery in the middle of a small lake. Really nice day.
You can also explore by yourself, renting a bicycle (some places are no further than 5km) or motorbike, or catching pick ups from the market & walking around.
You can also take a ten-minute boat across the river to Hpa Pu. Turn right at the village and walk along the well marked dirt track to the top of the hill. It's a good place to view the sunset.
Another possibility is to climb Mt Zwekabin late afternoon (2.5hours, many steps), sleep in the small monastery at the top (bamboo mat on the floor, PLEASE BE QUIET AND RESPECT THE MONKS' HOSPITALITY) and climb down the next morning (1.5 hours) after watching sunrise over the gorgeous views all around. The top can be accessed from the west or the east, the latter being steeper. As of March 2014 there are numerous reports that the monks are not very hospitable. It seems that the immigration prohibit monks to host any foreigner overnight at the monastery report from May 2014. If you decide to sleep on the top bare in mind that you might be asked to leave by sunset, bring flashlights with you to come down in case it's dark. On the other hand, if you can spend the night be very polite, give a donation (!) and dress appropriately, despite the heat. Otherwise, it is possible to climb the mountain early in the morning or late in the evening, going there, respectively returning, in the dark, so as to avoid the midday heat. The west side access is more popular and it has a monastery with hundreds of Buddha statues at the bottom. This is around 10 km from Hpa An (perfectly doable on a bicycle). The trails are well marked on OpenStreetMap.
Taking a boat from Hpa-An to Mawlamyine is a great idea. The boat costs about 10,000 kyats and it's a 3 hour journey to Mawlamyine. It's a more pleasant way to traverse down the Than Lwin river.
All run about 500 kyat per hour (May 2013)
- Unnamed shop, in front of clock tower. Entrance through a sliding door next to a tailor shop. You can't see it, ask. Air conditioned but very slow, think 10 minute page loads. Sometimes this internet is up when the others in town are down.
- Pitarbeergy. One block uphill from the only traffic light in town. Near the supermarket, next to the popular breakfast restaurant with no name and back from the street. This is the fastest and most usable internet in town, but subject to the usual power failures and unexplained down times. There is no WIFI in town, but they can plug an ethernet cable into your laptop. May be noisy, with local youths singing or playing music at high volumes. 400 kyat per hour for laptop (May 2013)
- San Ma Tau restaurant/World Gate internet. Open from about 6 pm to 10 pm. Painfully slow. Your USB/flash drive may not work here.
Ask Soe Brothers GH or Than Lwan O GH for a map & recommendations.
- Shwe Da Gar, Thitsar road (5 doors north from the mosque). Good choice of ice cream, including a homemade one, milkshakes & snacks
- Market, Thitsar road (in front of the mosque). Fruits & vegetables, local sweets, boiled corn, curries & noodle soups, etc.
- San-Ma-Thu Restuarant. has a large selection of Myanmar food that tastes excellent. From the clock tower, pass the traffic lights. San-Ma-Thu is about 800m down the road on your right.
- Feeling World Restaurant, (From the clock tower, pass the traffic lights and the next roundabout. The restaurant is 100m on, on your left.). Good Myanmar food at low prices. Staff are helpful and can speak english.
Lucky, a block from the market, has frosted mugs and ice cold bottles of Tiger, also Myanmar on tap, and a generator for power fails, and stays open later than most, not to mention the great pork fried noodles. This is convenient if you are staying at Soe Brothers; in case of power fail or rainstorm, it is a short walk back in the pitch dark.
- Tiger Hotel. Clean room with new fittings though the water is a bit rusty. Price includes breakfast, aircon and TV. $20 single, $25 double.
- Parami Hotel. Used by tour groups. Price includes breakfast, aircon and TV. $30-35 for a double; $10 for twinbed with fan and no bath..
- Soe Brothers Guesthouse, No.(2/146), Thitsar Street, Hpa-an township, ☎ 058-21372 / 09-49771823. email: [email protected] Basic and grotty rooms with shared baths. The staff can speak English and arrange day-long tours of temples and caves surrounding Hpa An. The tour is highly recommended and not expensive (price depends on number of people on the tour -30,000 kyat for the day for up to 6 people - so if you can get 6 people, its 5,000 Kyat/person for the full day). Has very good wifi. $4 for a dorm bed $10 for a double and $6 for a single (April 2015).
- Golden Sky Guesthouse, Great place near the water, and main pagoda. Third floor has a beautiful common area with views looking over the water. Big double rooms are $20-$25 (in low season) with cable, wifi, aircon and private bath. Lonely Planet listed the owners as "surly" but they were very nice and accommodating. The staff can arrange day-long tour for 30,000 Kyat.
- Than Lwan O Guest House, 2 Thida st (From Soe Brothers GH, walk up north, pass the market & the mosque and turn left at the end of the street, purple building), ☎ 05821513. Nice and cheap guest house with super fast WiFi. Very clean and nice & helpful staff providing a good map of the town & surroundings. Rental bikes are new and in much better condition than the other places that rent them out and much cheaper too - 7000. Nice common space looking towards the riverside. AC in the hallway so most fan rooms get some cool air. 7000 single, 10000 double bed, 12000 twin beds (fan, shared bathroom) - $15 double bed with attached bathroom and AC.
- Galaxy Motel. Nice, newly renovated motel opened in May 2014, that you will find easily: it´s a 3-story, white, glass window building at the end of the "Soe Brothers" street, just in front of Twan Lang O Guest House. The staff is wonderful, especially the young girl (Omayar) who speaks English really well. Rooms with air con, brand new medium size fridge, wifi in room and private hot water bathroom. They also have good condition motorbikes to rent (both automatic/manual). Single 15 USD, Twin 20 USD. Breakfast add $1.
- Hin Thar Guest House, (From Soe Brothers GH walk north and it will be on your right before passing the mosque), ☎ (058) 21119. Cheap digs. 4,000-7,000 single, 8,000 and up double. Very funny husband and wife team run this place. Cheap 4,000 kyat rooms are cells on upper floor and fan cooled. If you're aiming for one of these rooms try for a room at either end of the hall so you have a window. Otherwise spend the extra kyat and get a more comfortable 7,000 kyat room.
- Yangon AC buses depart at 6:30AM, 7:30AM, 8:30AM, 9:30AM, 1:00PM, 7:00PM from the junction just south of Soe Brothers GH. They all cost 5000k (March 2014) and supposedly take 6 hours (might be 8 to 9 in reality). Arrive at Aung Mingalar bus station, where you can take bus 43 (200k) to Sule Paya; unless you arrive too late and have to take a taxi for 5000k. There is one "VIP bus" costing 6000k and dropping you closer to downtown Yangon, but you'll still have to take a taxi (1500k) to reach Sule Paya area.
- There are utes/pickup trucks with bench seats in the back that seem to go every hour to Kyaiko from the same junction in Hpa-an. Cost is 3000K. Not a very safe way to travel.
- Thailand: to reach the Thai border (to Mae Sot: Several departures in the morning, 4-9 hours. You may find a shared taxi (8,000- 10,000k) or hire a car (about 30,000kyat). The route used to be one-way only (changing direction every day) but the construction of a new road avoiding the last narrow part is almost completed. As of March 2015 most cars already take the new road, allowing circulation in both directions every day. The new road also dramatically shortens the trip as it bow takes 45min to pass over the mountain instead of 3h on the old road. The overall trip in a car will take between 4h (car taking the new road and not stopping forever for lunch) and 9h (bus taking the old road). Check the situation before taking the route and plan ahead if you have to leave before your visa expires or if you have a flight to catch on the Thai side.