Unless you want to relax for few days in a quiet small village, one day/two nights should be enough to explore the caves spread in the surrounding of Hpa-An.
One option could be to join a guided tour, but if like me you prefer to explore at your peace without a strict plan I would suggest you to rent a motorbike for a day.
The “crazy” 😉 expense for of 5/6 euros gives you a motorbike for two people for the day: I think it worth the freedom gained.
The rental place is just on the side of Soe Brothers guesthouse and together with the motorbike provides you with a detailed map and some suggestions on which cave not be missed.
The walk through this magnificent huge natural cave takes more around half an hour surrounded by statues but even better stalagmites and stalactites hanging from the roof and collected to the bottom of the cave.
Reached finally the end of the cave you will be happy to discover that is possible to avoid walking all the way through the cave and shorten it by far getting a lift by wooden rowing boats. They actually sail through another cave to reach a field where you will have any way to do a short 10 min walks. But before boarding one of these boats don’t be lazy and explore a bit more: following the concrete bridge you can reach the entrance of a new long cave, less busy and also for this a bit special and free to explore in the most dark corners and rooms.
Other two caves worth a visit in Hpa-an
Once paid the entrance fee you are allowed to visit a cave filled with hundreds of statues and a huge laying Buddha, but also to climb the steep stairs to the small pagoda on top of the mountain and enjoy an amazing view. Near the sunset is both better for the light and the reduced heat while climbing up.
– Yathaypyan cave:
It is my favourite. The entrance looks like a cut half way up the mountain’s wall. Various statues and pagoda are inside the mountain’s mouth. A small path guide you inside the mountain to explore the cave long more than a couple of Kms till other two entrances. It’s t the second entrance that we sit down waiting for the sunset to end and start feeling bats flying on our heads while gaining the open air for a night of hunting-
Another typical attraction in the town is the climb of Hpan Pu mountain to enjoy the sunrise from the top. The pagoda on the summit is not enough attractive for me to postpone my minivan to the beaches by another day.. you will have to tell me what I missed.
How to reach Hpa-an:
Daily buses directly connects Yangon to Hpa-an. Be aware if you take the night bus that it will drop you somewhere between 1 and 3 am in a small town so better book in advance and inform the owner of your arrival time.
I actually did the opposite, but luckily someone was sleepless that night 😉
If you are coming or heading Dawei or more South most probably you will have to change from a bus to a mini-van in Mawlamyine. Also in this case the mini-van would drop you in Dawei in the middle of the night. The travel by mini-van is not the most comfortable, but the more you go South the worse will be (Dawei Kawthoung is even worse path).
All the buses usually make a stop in a small “restaurant” along the way.
Where to stay in Hpa-an:
The cheapest solution: Soe brothers guesthouse (basic rooms from 20k Kyat)
A little more comfy and not too expensive is Galaxy hotel
Good food at:
Despite the touristic appearance the food was pretty good and economic at Sunshine