- Encounters with locals
- Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
- Park and garden
- Culture (paddy field, coffee, tea ...)
- Place or Religious Monument
- Off the beaten track
In my opinion, Hpa An (pronounced 'Pa Anne') is a must see during any trip to Burma. You'll feel like you're at the world's end - it's the type of landscape I adore. Hpa An is surrounded by mountains and steep cliffs that house numerous caves. Most have been turned into temples, filled with stupas, thousands of sculptures that cling to the walls and, of course, bats for caretakers.
The center of Hpa An circles a roundabout near to the clock tower. If you travel by bus, you'll arrive here, although you can travel by boat from Mawlamyine. From the center you can easily get to the morning market, which is held near the mosque. There are also lots of Buddhist temples, the best known being the Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda, from which you can see an amazing sunset over the river, with the mountains providing the perfect backdrop.
As for climbing the mountains, I went up Hpan Pu, which is an easy walk and you only have to go a little way to get a great view of the town. You can get to it by taking a boat from the Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda side of Hpa An. Only thing lacking in the town is what and where to eat. There are few places to go and restaurants all close early.
Hpa An has lots of things to see, be it natural wonders (caves, mountains etc) or man-made Buddhist structures (pagodas, statues etc.)
The list is long, but one of my favourites was the Kyauk Ka Lat Monastery, where you'll find pagodas precariously balanced on a crag. You can also visit the Saddar Cave where statues of Buddha, cave paintings and engravings are watched over by groups of monkeys that play on the rough, stony facade. Don't miss out the Lonbani field, which is dotted with statues of Buddha that seem to sprout from the ground, as well as Kaw Ka Thong, with its statues of monks that are lined up one after the other. Finally, there's the bat cave, where each day at sunset thousands of bats head out into the night.
Trust me, you won't be short of things to do and see!