Hpa-An, pronounced with a silent “h” offers a laid-back, backpacker vibe. Taking the bus into the town, you’re welcomed by a stunning array of mountains. Unfortunately, the country has started mining some of these mountains, as well as deforesting the surrounding areas.
This town is jam packed with activities. The most popular attractions are the cave pagodas. There are several of them located in the surrounding areas. I took a tour from my guesthouse to visit them all in one day. I’d highly suggest them, as many of them are pretty spectacular. Just remember to dress appropriately, as these are pagodas built within caves.
Another popular, but extremely strenuous activity to do is to climb Mount Zwegabin and visit the pagoda at the top of the mountain. The highest mountain in the area, at about 23,000 feet, Mt. Zwegabin is about a 20 minute tuk tuk ride away from Hpa-An.
It’s around 2 hours of continuous stair climbing up to the top. I’d suggest starting the climb around 3p.m. on the East side of the mountain. This way the sun isn’t directly beaming down on you and you’ll be there for the sunset – which you definitely don’t want to miss. The East side of the mountain is also a tad less steep, with breaks between the stair climb.
You can stay the night at the top of the mountain for $5. It’s nothing fancy, but you’ll be pretty exhausted from the climb. There’s also one vegetarian restaurant at the pagoda. Although I did hear of a lot of people getting sick after eating their food, so proceed with caution. Bringing your own supply of nibbles and snacks is probably a good idea.