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Myanmar: Hpa an – The caves and Monastery

It seems every time I write a blog post I have to find another way to describe the ‘green rolling hills’, is Asia just a varied plethora of these?

I never feel as though I’m looking at the same landscape, every time it feels so exciting and new and awe inspiring but am I forever going to be searching for new ways to describe this?

Well I would be so lucky. All to soon I will have to find a job and then what will I have to describe to you but the inside of an operating theatre and if I’m lucky the view out the window, I dare say you wouldn’t want to hear about the gory details of the operation itself.

But why I thought (looking over some green rolling hills), should I go back to an operating theatre at all? My own world seems far to big now to squeeze it into a sterile box and hope for a good day, a happy surgeon.

By now I thought another temple with another Buddha (surprise!) would be taking its toll and I’d have to retreat to some culture detox centre on a beach somewhere with a cocktail in hand admiring the surfers scenery, but right now looking out at Hpa-an in Myanmar I’m wondering what I’d do without my daily monk fix.

Hpa An itself is really nothing to write home about, it’s just a small town south of Yangon going about it’s business like every other town on the Thanlyin River, but it’s what you can access from here that has put it at one of the top places I’ve visited so far.

Soe Brothers Guesthouse, made infamous by Lonely Planet (obviously) continue to earn the high praise they are given if not through the rooms definitely through the tours they offer, and so began an action packed 48hours.

Our lazy day ambling down the river from Mawlamyine had been subdued and uneventful apart from the addition of two to our little crew but by the time we arrived we were ready for some excitement and to explore further than the confines of a small fishing boat and well Hpa An is kind of known for it’s ample supply of caves so we piled into our little truck and headed off in search of  a particular one known for one thing. Bats.

Our savvy boat crew

Our savvy boat crew

Millions and millions of bats, they’re little batty senses plucked up as soon as the sun hit that horizon and they were off for honestly about 25minutes, one continuous plume of bats driving it’s way into the evening sky, swarming into synchronised cloud formations int the dying daylight.

The last of the bats leaving home for the night

The last of the bats leaving home for the night

 

I’d left to Myanmar hearing of an elusive monastery atop Mt. Zwegabin, beautiful sunsets, idealic photos to be had by all and maybe (the evidence was sketchy), you could sleep up there.

We took our chances and set of early afternoon and asked our tuk-tuk driver to pick us up just after sunrise so we could make our cave tour.

The entire way up we played a semi relay with a group of locals also making the ascent, it was good to see it wasn’t only us that struggled with the heat or the copious amount of stairs for that matter.

That evening we watched the sun set over a beautiful rocky mountain setting as the sky turned from blue to a golden kaleidoscope of colour, with pagodas in the foreground setting our scene. The ladies from the surrounding huts cooked tasty vegetarian curries for only 5000kyat and we slept in cell like rooms on just bearable beds, when we finally got bored of the starry skies and late night monk praying… the puppies may have also played part in this distraction.

As far as last minute decisions this had to be the best yet, the feeling of gratitude and continents was just overwhelming and I fell in love with Myanmar all over again.

Totally worth the climb

Totally worth the climb

A blurred pic of our candle lit dinner

A blurred pic of our candle lit dinner

A monk playing protecter to the runt of the litter

A monk playing protecter to the runt of the litter

Late night monk meditation

Late night monk meditation

The cave tour the next  day was haunted by buddhas at every turn, red and gold painted buddhas carved high into cave wall along with elaborate stories of the buddhas journey and of course the elusive hairs.

All leering eerily over us as we traversed slippy little winding paths into expansive back caves, as the day passed I expected to be caved out but each one proved to hide it’s own little secrets, mostly Buddha related but also leading onto large lakes and a surprising boat ride at the end of one.

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Group Cave!!

Group Cave!!

At the end of one of the caves

At the end of one of the caves

Defying gravity with this monastery atop the rock, in the background is Mt Zwegabin

Defying gravity with this monastery atop the rock, in the background is Mt Zwegabin

Front seat on our underground boat trip

Front seat on our underground boat trip

My photos of my couple of days in Hpa An could of gone on forever, I just couldn’t fit all the beauty and serenity in this post and if you’re after a bit of cheap beer and  laugh with the locals then ‘Lucky 1’ in the centre is pretty nice as is ‘Khit Thit’ across the road. Being my ditzy (read slightly tipsy) self I left my phone in Lucky 1 and the guy returned it to me the next day. Lucky in deed.

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