After the Phaung Daw Oo Paya festival, I left Inle lake and by night bus, headed through winding mountain roads towards Hpa-an, leaving behind the shan state and entering the Karen / Kayin state, of which Hpa-An is the capital. The quiet town sits on the banks of the Salween river.
The quiet town sits on the banks of the Salween river and is surrounded by lush green fields, sodden from the rainy season, against the backdrop of jagged mountains.
Hpa-an is known for its religious caves, such as Saddar cave. At the entrance, we made a donation and a smiling gap-toothed monk pressed a small parcel into my hand. What it was I don’t know, it was some sort of strange squidgy black substance wrapped in plastic. He said it was “good for health” and that I should boil it in water, but I decided to pass on that. Instead, I bowed my head, thanked him, and headed into the cave.
Rock formations peek out of the darkness, the floor is slippery with rain water, and it absolutely reaks of bat droppings.
After a long walk, passing small shrines in the gloom, climbing slippery stairs, crossing bridges and ducking under stopping ceilings, we reached the mouth of the cave on the other end.
Where you are faced with the decision of paying too much for a small rickety wooden boat, or climbing back up all the slippery steps and walking back through the length of the cave. Regardless of this, the view was quite spectacular…
Although it was quite pleasant, I don’t like being railroaded into huffing, haggling and paying for things.
The boat takes you under small caverns where you have to lie on your back to avoid scraping your head on the ceiling…
In these situations, you have to accept being ripped off a bit, and resolve to let it go and enjoy your surroundings…
Hpa-An is pleasantly peaceful and quiet, and although not much else to do, is a perfect respite from a busy city or touristy area.
Have you been to Hpa-an? What did you think?