Mae Sot to Hpa anfrom Mae Sot to Hpa
Scruffy Town with amazing Jura scenery!
Crossing the Thai/Myanmar Myanmar frontier at the edge of Mae Sot/Mayawaddy, the unkempt city of Hpa An is the first traveler you will encounter. After a four hours ride from the frontier we reached our destination and it was rainy and gloomy when we tried to find a proper place to spend the day.
As we awoke in the early hours and it was still foggy over the hills, I began to wonder (prematurely) what all the turbulence around this city was. It was our friend's favorite place in Myanmar, but why? There were no ninosaurs..... but we saw a huge line cross the street just a few moments outside the city and some of the most astonishing landscapes I have seen in Southeast Asia!
When you have just crossed the Thai frontier, you will experience a surprise here at your first Myanmar stop. Holidays are much more and inferior to Thailand, and you have to come to terms with some quirkier things like washbasins (without a tap ) that washes your legs with your hand, occasional current and limette coloured wall combined with silky rose drapes.
We' ve visited some of the city' s properties we found here: Soe Brothers Guesthouse is clearly a popular backpacking destination, with travelers on every level who play the udulele, read the Lonely Planet or call up information on their mobile phone, and has inexpensive rooms with a welcoming, socially responsible atmosphere. 10 US$ / overnight for a privately owned fans room with common bath.
14 US$ / per day for AC room with ventilator. L'il (Little) Hpa An Hostel looks like it's going to be the most trendy place in the city once it's open! Soe Brothers at $20 US$ / nights, the rooms are slightly better and more roomy. Overnight in this $25 US$ / overnight stay (35,000 Kyat) is the best value we have found in the city, with free breakfasts and more upscale rooms with small balcony and beautiful view from the rooms on the upper levels.
This is the most elegant place in the city with rooms from $50 US$ (70,000 Kyat). You have to stay on it for quite a while (the track is particularly rough in the wet season!) before you find another signpost leading you to the caves. However, if it is a liturgical event, you will probably be able to listen to the caves before you see them, as they blow up the mountains for the visitor to listen to loud noise.
It is a very impressing cavern with a large room, giant salagmites and galactites and a nice opening at the end of the cavern leading to a hidden one. It is possible to return by ferry to the beginning of the caves for 2,000 Kyat. But what has spoiled my experiences is that because the caves are a sacred Buddhist place, you are not permitted to carry your boots anywhere in the caves.
When I noticed the shield at the entry of the cavern showing the various animals found here, including carcasses and lethal corpses, I could not keep my eye on the damp, slimy floor on which I walked and did not appreciate the inherent beauties of my area! The Kawgun Caves are home to thousand of earth buddhas and mural paintings from the seventh century.
Near the Yathaypyan den there are also antique murals and some caves. There is a famous'bat cave', you guess it - hens! Shortly before sundown, thousand of bat flies out of the cavern to eat and come back in the sun. Mawlamyine' s drive is scenically attractive and interesting, passing dramatically karstic hills, paddy paddies, two large hanging footbridges and timber buildings on stilt walkways over marshes.
Nights fair at the lake: Each evening (at least while we were in Hpa) a small overnight fair is held around the site, where you can get fresh produce, fruits, roasted treats and bar. It is about four hours to Hpa An from the frontier Mae Sot / Mayawaddy. We have a taxi waiting for a foreigner at the frontier and when it is enough to fill the vehicle (we start with four people), the trip begins.
Crossing the Myanmar frontier: If you want to go further into Myanmar from the Mayawaddy frontier (instead of just getting a visa), you need a visitor permit. Here you can request a 28-day Myanmar Myasim Visa on-line (the costs are $50 USD) and you will need to take the document to the Myanmar/Borders.
Mae Sot and Mayawaddy have only been open since 2015 and are currently one of the easiest crossing points in Southeast Asia. On your receipt we say that you need a cash register and a connecting airfare for your trip in Myanmar. You can find more information about them in our revised guidelines here.
Or if you would rather take the tram, it is a five-hour ride by rail to Kyaikto, where you can spend the night to see the Golden Rock or another 2 hrs by coach to Hpa An. Kyaikto, Myanmar - Two hrs drive away is the city of Kyaikto, home of the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (the Golden Rock), one of Myanmar's landmarks.
Sot Mae, Thailand - This Thai frontier city has been called "Little Burma" because of the large number of refugee and immigrant labourers in the city. Mae Sot is home to a great meal and a multicultural atmosphere that is unique to Thailand and makes an interesting night out before continuing your trip to Thailand.