Visiting Hpa An is a refreshing experience after spending time in busy Yangon. The weather is a little bit cooler, there is less traffic and less people. There isn’t much to see in Hpa An itself. There is one nice Pagoda with a view over the river where we watched the sunset from on the day we arrived in Hpa An. Besides that, it is simply a cute small town with several restaurants. After sunset we had dinner at San Ma Tau Myanmar Restaurant, which serves really great Burmese food. Be careful with the various sides they serve, as some of them can be quite intense in flavor! Especially Anastasia couldn’t handle the fishy smell of some of the plates.
On the second day in Hpa An, we rented a scooter to go visit the many caves around. As we didn’t want to rush through all the caves, we made a selection based on tips from our hostel host and some googling. We visited the following four caves: Kaw Ka Thaung Cave, Saddan Cave, Kawgun cave, and Bat cave. All the caves were quite impressive and offered a nice mix of the facilitating nature and holy sites in Myanmar. Some caves do ask for an entrance fee while others don’t. As this may change, check with your hostel or hotel regarding fees.
Kwa Ka Thaung was our first cave. We really liked this cave as it had a very interesting interior as well as a nice setting outside as the views around are quite amazing. Also the almost never ending row of monk sculpture is pretty cool! The cave has many Buddha sculptures and a small prayer area inside. Outside there are also some impressive Buddha sculptures including a laying Buddha. This cave is definitely worth the ride as the way there from Hpa An is also very nice.
The second cave we went to is Saddan Cave, which is also the one furthest away from Hpa An. Here you have to pay an entrance fee of 2000 Kyats. It is a very long cave, where you walk all the way to the other side and then take a boat back for 1500 Kyats per person. It has an impressive big entrance with two big white elephant statues in front of it. You have to take off your shoes at the entrance to the Saddan cave. We would highly recommend you take your shoes with you, as after passing the holy sites of the cave you can put your shoes back on (we saw some locals do it). Also it is a 10 minutes walk back to the entrance from where the boat drops you off, which is not pleasant to do bare foot over gravel.
Saddan cave itself is quite amazing, it takes about 40 minutes to walk through it (including admiring the sculptures and taking photos). We were continuously wondering when the cave will end, since we did not know that you can get out on the other side and take a boat… It has a very big laying Buddha sculpture, a prayer area and even a golden pagoda (Zedi).
After some lunch in one of the stalls in front of Saddan Cave we went to Kawgun cave, which we found to be one of the more special ones due to the amount and diversity of the sculptures in the cave. It does cost 5000 Kyats to enter, which is more expensive than other ones, but it is really worthwhile entering. The cave is not huge, but it has so many big and small sculptures. We spent quite some time looking around the cave.
The last cave, which is the last for most tours as well, is the bat cave. Here you also have to pay a fee of 1000 Kyats. This is not a cave that you can enter as it is high up inside the mountain cliff. You can climb to a nice viewpoint of the river. The ladders are not in the best condition, but it looked sufficiently safe for us to climb. The name already gives away what the cave is known for. You should climb back down as it is better to watch the bat spectacle from below. Just before sunset the people operating the entrance to the cave grab plastic jugs and start clapping them together. A few moments later the bats start flying out of the cave from the cliff. It is an amazing thing to watch! There are so many bats, that we were just watching and wondering when the last bat is going to come out… We ended up leaving before the last bat…
In the evening we went to the night market, which had a bunch of different street food on offer. It was full with many locals as well, and it looked like many young couples were going there for date night. So we knew this is a good place to eat! You can be sure to find something that you like there!