Hpa-An is definitely a place that has benefitted from Myanmar opening up, and it has become part of the tourist map due to its location as a way to cross over the Thai-Myanmar border. If you take this route then you should think about spending a night and day in Hpa-An, because although it is small and definitely rustic, it’s still a great place to experience local Burmese life and has a few nice attractions to recommend it.
Kan That Yar Lake
One of the great joys in Hpa-An can be walking or cycling around the city, and if you do decide to go on a walking tour, then heading to Kan That Yar Lake is a great choice. The lake itself is very picturesque and has a peaceful quality that can be very welcome in Myanmar, and it is also a good place to do some traditional lakeside activities such as ride on the pedalos for rent, or feed bread to the fish. All in all it is rather sweet. If you are hungry after walking around then there is even a little cafe that sells welcome beer and food which makes a nice spot to watch the sunset over the lake.
Shweyinhmyaw Pagoda is the prettiest temple in Hpa-An and is always packed with locals, which shows you that it’s a popular spot in town. The temple’s beauty in part lies in its location on a series of rocks on the Salween River which means that it is a stunning place to be at sunset. If you make it here, it’s a good idea to climb up one of the staircases that run all over the pagoda until you get to one of the viewing platforms where you can then wait for the sunset show. Obviously, make sure you are on the west side of the temple at sunset time.
One of the best attractions in Hpa-An is the morning market which sees people coming in from the nearby villages, and you will find a mix of products on sale, including food, electronics, clothes, and many other things you didn’t know you needed or wanted. Go early and spend the morning sampling the local products like fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as spices and freshly caught seafood. If you want to see how life in Myanmar really plays out on a daily basis then this is the place to see it.
Hpa-An is not a place that is on everyone’s itinerary and it doesn’t have as many of the big ‘hits’ in terms of sights and attractions as other places, but if you using it to cross over into Thailand then it is definitely worth stopping in for a night. It is far more low key than many other places, but also less touristy and a great example of Burmese life away from the obvious hubs.