After working hard during weekdays, would it not be nice to have a short weekend trip? Not to worry. We can enjoy scenic views, picturesque caves, sacred sites and historic pagodas just by going on this particular weekend trip. That weekend trip is to Hpa-an, the capital city of Kayin State. It take around 5 hours drive to Hpa-an from Yangon. Right after crossing the Than Lwin bridge, you immediately land in Hpa-an city. There your can begin your explorations:
Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda
Shwe Yin Myaw pagoda is situated at the eastern bank of Than Lwin River. It is also not far from center of the city. The Shwe Yin Myaw pagoda is the famous for its beautiful sunset view. We can see status of giant fog and dragon on the pagoda. There is a viewing tower at the side of the river next to the pagoda.
Kawt Goon Cave
One of the must visit place around Hpa-an is Kawt Goon cave, also known as the ‘Cave of the Ten Thousand Buddhas. It is about seven miles from Hpa-an. It is a natural lime stone cave. When visitors go inside the cave, we can see gallery of terra-cotta which consist of thousands of clay buddhas all over the roof and the walls of cave. The wall carvings are not the only attraction; the passages of the cave are also home to a series of large statues of Buddha.
According to local folktale, the thousands of clay buddhas were built by the Queen Mangaladevi who is a devoted Buddhist and wife of Mon King Manuher. After King Manuher lost war to King Anawyahtar and was imprisoned in Bagan, the cave was a hideout place for Queen. Whether you are sharp-eyed visitor or not, you can see the distinct inscriptions written in ancient Mon language. The entry fees for foreigner is $30 per person.
Kyaut Ka Lat
On the way to Zwegabin, on southern part of Hpa-an, we can see a truly unique pagoda, set on top of an unusual rock formation in the middle of an artificial lake, surrounded by distant hills. From Kyauk Ka Lat, you have a great stunning view of the surrounding mountains, especially, the nearby Zwegabin mountain.
There is a bridge to Kyauk Ka Lat from car parking area over the lake, and we can enjoy stunning scencery with the background of Mount Zwegabin and other moutains, especially at sunset.
The place is unspoiled, peaceful and tranquil. At the base of Kyauk Ka Lat, there is a monastery where one can find cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens living together peacefully. Free vegetarian food is served from the monastry from 9am to 5pm. It closes everyday between 12:00PM and 1:00PM.
Mount Zwegabin is a landmark of Kayin state. Mount Zwekabin is one of the most the tallest in a chain of revered mountains in the country and a pagoda and a monastery sits atop. It is said that encased in the pagoda is strand of a hair from the lord Buddha. At the base of the mountain, there are over 1000 Buddha images hand-carved into the rocks. To get to the peak of the mountain, it will take approximately 2 hours. There is a monkey feeding event every day around 11am at the top. On the way up, you can find small shops selling water and other refreshments. The mountain boasts breath-taking views over the outskirts of Hpa-an. People celebrate Mount Zwegabin festival grandly in the Myanmar calendar month of Tabaung (March in English calendar).
At the base of the Mount Zwegabin, There are about 1,000 identical statues of seated Buddha stupas which are hand-carved into rocks. They look almost abandoned among the trees with shrubs growing wild all around them. Even if you’re not climbing Mount Zwegabin, the Garden is worth a visit.
When visitors reach the other side, there is a small lake covered with water lilies where visitors will find local men waiting with their canoes. Visitors can take a boat ride (cost about $ 1.5 per person) from the end of the cave to reach to the other side of the lake. The boat ride in between the rice fields lasts just a few minutes.
Bayin Nyi Cave
The Bayin Nyi or the Cave of two Twin King’s Brothers is located north of Hpa-An. The closet town is Thaton, Mon State. It situated between the Done-tha-mie river and Than Lwin River. Bayin Nyi is on the side of mountain and a short trek up from the entrance. The cave again is filled with many statues of Buddhas and various stalactites. The cave was discovered about 900 years ago.
There are two pools underneath the mountain also. One pool is cool and the other pool is warm but the waters do not mix. During the latter part of the wet season, there is sometimes a chance to enjoy hot springs as the pools overflow.
Package tours would be the best choice for those without own transport or unfamiliar with Hpa-An. There are lots of local tour companies arranging tours which usually last 2 days 1 night. Most of tours start on Saturday night around 9:00 pm. Prices start from 35,000 Kyats to 45,ooo Kyats including breakfast and lunch. They also provide amenities such as bottled water, tooth brush, tooth paste, wet towel and other refreshments. One tour guide will also accompany the visitors.
It is a natural cave and located 27.2 km (17 miles) south east of Hpa-An, on the HpaAn – Eindu – Mawlamyine Road. Saddan means elephant in Sanskirt. Visitors can walk from one side of the mountain to the other side of the cave. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the end gate of Saddan cave. Upon entering the cave, loads of Buddha statues and a large lineup of Monk statues can be seen lining up the walls of the cave. There is also a huge golden reclining Buddha stature.