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The Hpa-An River View Motel, Hpa-an - Update 2018 Rates
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Although Hpa-an is the official capitol of the Kayin (or Karen) state, it has the unmistakable feeling of a city.
Although Hpa-an is the official capitol of the Kayin (or Karen) state, it has the unmistakable feeling of a city. Hpa-an was a rather isolated, somewhat neglected village until the street extension was finished. Things change fast with the construction of a new motorway connecting Hpa-an with the Thai borders at Mae Sot and Yangon, as well as the improvement of customs posts at Myawaddy.
Historically a center of markets and traffic junction for the neighbouring area, today wealthy locals from the far northern regions benefit from the new access, as the Thais flood the Thai borders on their vacation-weeks. Khao San Road and Chiang Mai now offer'direct' Yangon travel connections through Myawaddy and Hpa-an as an easy country road between Thailand and Burma, and many of the more daring ones seem to interrupt the trip with a stop in this area.
The Hpa-an was described as filthy - perhaps dilapidated - but in comparison to neighboring provincial capital cities it lacks the broad roads and imposing architectural style of Mawlamyine and is almost the opposite of neat, neat Dawei. This is true for the city centre of Hpa, but the small, twisty and overcrowded alleys give it a lot more timber and sheet metal than cement.
This small city itself has not too many places of interest to offer - once you have made a setting sun in the Shweyinhmyaw Pagoda, run around Lake Kan Thar Yar and have seen the early bird markets, then it is a very nice city to stay in. Situated on the Salween River, with a relaxed atmosphere and some of the country's most scenic scenery in the immediate vicinity, Hpa-an is becoming a favourite destination for overseas travellers on their way to the more historic travelers.
With Hpa-an as a basis you can see Saddar, Kaw Kathaung, Kawgun and Bayin Nyi Caves as well as Zwegabin, Kyauk Kalat Pagoda (it is gloriously expressed "chocolate") and Lumbini Gardens further away. The Hpa-an is still far from becoming Burma's Pai or Vang Vieng. Hpa-an has existed as a harbour on the important Salween or Than Lwin River for some time, but it has a restrained past and is lacking both the vestiges of the old Mon civilization and the magnificent architectural heritage of the UK colonisation that other South Myanmar cities have.
Today, with a relatively homogeneous Karen people, the city has a different flair than its neighbors, although Bamar officers and Chinese-Burmese and Indian-Burmese merchants are present in large numbers in the city. While the area is setting up and improving infrastructures, more parts of Kayin State should open up and the vast woods and hills in the northern and southern parts should become more touristic.
The Kahilu Wildlife Reserve is reported to be located to the east along Thailand's Mae Hong Son boarder, with huge, well-preserved forests, while in the southern part, in Tak County, Mulayit is one of the country's last reserves for savage animals and cattle. When you are in this part of the land, don't miss Hpa-an; it's a great little city and it pays to stay a few nights.
The Hpa-an may have one of Burma's most scenic landscapes, located on the southern shore of the meandering Than Lwin and with rugged cliffs that surround the city from all sides. On the other side of the stream is Hpa Pu Hill, and to the southwest and the southeast is the magnificent Zwegabin, the holy Karen Hill.
But the city turns away from the stream. In the crowded, busy center to the west, there is a dense web of old alleys around the old downtown area. There are three major roads leading out of the city: Hwy 58 leads southwards along the riverbank to the viaduct and further west to Thaton and Yangon, about six to sevenhrs.
If you continue along the road you will finally travel the small road to Mawlamyine, while a motorway leads eastwards to Myawaddy and to the Thai state. The majority of the city's more contemporary facilities are located along these arteries, which include the city's newer accommodations, some of which are quite far from the city-center.
In comparison to other ports such as Mawlamyine or Pathein, the shore is quietly situated. A few sanctuaries from which one could admire the sunsets over the pictures of the rivers, a small parc where the natives meet for soccer in the evening and a slightly half-hearted try to walk a boardwalk along the Salween that screams for a pub......
You will find the policestation directly opposite Soe Brothers on Thit Sar Street and the city hospitals on BEHS (formerly School) Street, direction Kan Thar Yar Lake. The KBZ with exchange office and ATM is located on Zay Tan Street, just behind the Lucky and Khit Thit restaurants, while there is a useful grocery store opposite Good Day Bakery on the west side of Main, or Bogyoke, Road.
There was an offical coach terminal down on Main Road on the outskirts of the city, but it seemed almost empty when we looked. Pragmatically -minded local people love to spend their time waiting around the clock for busses in the city center, where all tickets counters are situated.
Apart from that, the center is easily navigable and most accommodations offer simple city plans. Outside the city it can get difficult, with so many calcareous rocks and caverns here, there and everywhere.