5 hours east of Yangon we found a quiet, beautiful part of Myanmar, nestled into the valley of the Thanlwin River. Green fields, palm trees and limestone rocks shape the landscape that can easily be explored via scooter. Hpa An is a great place to get some elevation gain into the books and enjoy nice views – not to mention all the excited waving you get when driving behind a truckload of locals!
Hpan Pu Mountain
Getting there requires a boat trip to the other side of the river with one of the locals who will take you for 500 kyat each way. Once on the other side, you then make your way through a small rural village and circle the mountain half way. A stairway at the back of the mountain will get you started which then continues into a small path. When we visited, most of the wooden ladders that you needed in order to get all the way to the top were broken, so that turned out to be some kind of a risky business. Overall it took us about 45 Minutes to make it to the top.
Mount Taung Wine
Getting to Mount Taung Wine takes you even deeper into the rural area of Hpa An, driving along rice fields and roads that are lined with bamboo huts where all the family life takes place in one room. We decided to hike up for the sunset and after having climbed what was mostly steps for about 90 minutes, we were rewarded with a wide view. Make sure you step up your Insta game by taking a shot on the iconic stairways at the very top of the mountain (anyone trying to ruin your shot can be easily pushed over the railing). The path is not lit, so you’ll need a light if you decide to walk up for sunset/ sunrise.
Stepping up our hiking game day by day we went for the highest mountain on day three: Mount Zwegabin, with a pagoda sitting on top at an altitude of 722 meters. Yes, that does not sound like a lot, especially if you like to call yourself sporty (Katharina) or even athletic (we know who) – but it turns out the whole thing is less about hiking and more about stair climbing. Taking this into account plus getting up at 3.30 to be at the top for sunrise, you’ll end up with quite the workout. After putting our names down at the entrance, we started the well-lit path in the dark, surprised by locals coming down who apparently had spent the night on top of the mountain. We arrived in time for the sunrise which we shared with only a handful of people. Being two of the very few Westerners on the mountain that day we found ourselves having to stop for selfies with locals along the way - be aware: people can get quite touchy and like to hug.
Coming down the mountain and leaving the grounds of the monastery you’ll drive through Lumbini Garden – a vast field with over 1.000 (or, according to Bjoern, over 1 Mio.) buddha statues of the same build, arranged in perfect rows which is pretty impressive.
Driving back to our hotel we went a bit off road, going along dirt roads through rice fields, which we highly recommend doing!