Where to Stay in Hpa AnIf you’ve just come across the border from Thailand, you’re in for a shock here at your first destination in Myanmar. Hotels are much more expensive and lower quality than you’ll find in Thailand, and you’ll have to put up with some quirky features like sinks (with no exit pipe for the water) that wash your feet at the same time as your hands, sporadic electricity and lime green walls matched with silk pink curtains. We did a tour of some of the hotels in town here’s what we found: Soe Brothers Guesthouse: Clearly a backpacker favourite, with travellers on every floor playing the ukulele, reading the Lonely Planet or checking travel info on their phones, Soe Brothers Guesthouse has cheap rooms with a friendly, social vibe. $10 USD / night for a private fan room with a shared bathroom. $14 USD / night for AC room with a fan. The brothers also have another guest house, Soe Brothers II Guesthouse, which is a bit more upmarket than their first popular venture. L’il Hpa An Hostel: Unfortunately (for us), this charming little place that’s just opened, wasn’t able to accept foreign guests yet as their licence hasn’t been approved. L’il (Little) Hpa An Hostel looks like it will become the trendiest place in town once it’s open! Galaxy Motel: More expensive than Soe Brothers at $20 USD / night, the rooms are marginally better and more spacious. A free breakfast and a very friendly owner make up for the shabbiness. Hotel Glory: We stayed at this hotel for $25 USD / night (35,000 Kyat) which is the best value for money place that we found in town, with free breakfast and more upmarket rooms with small balconies and nice views from the rooms on the higher floors. Hotel Gabana: The swishest place in town with rooms starting at $50 USD (70,000 Kyat). Maybe you can’t afford to stay here, but they do a good café latte and a coconut cake for 2,000 Kyat! Click here for more accommodation in Hpa An!
Things to do in Hpa An
- Hire a motorbike
- Climb Mount Zwegabin
- Visit Saddan Cave – (1000 Kyat entrance fee)
- Other caves
- Get the boat or ride a motorbike to Mawlamyine (Moulmein)
Food and Drink in Hpa AnWhat we found quite strange was the sheer quantity of Thai restaurants in Hpa An! We’d just come from Thailand and were eager to try the local food of Kayin Province, but were disappointed that so many local restaurants advertised ‘Thai food and cocktels!’ However, we did find a few exceptions… Night market by the lake: Every night (while we were in Hpa an at least), a night market congregates around the lake where you can get local street food, fruit, fried snacks and drinks. By far the best food we had in all of Hpa An we had at a small stall near the bridge that was run by two local young men. We ate our fill for 4,500 Kyat for two people – a huge plate of rice, a selection of delicious curried meats, tofu and fish, as well as the traditional Burmese plate of veggies (cucumber, okra, kaffir lime leaves, egg plant) and tea. It was a really lovely experience and we would highly recommend that you go find them! San Ma Thu Restaurant – A veritable buffet of Burmese delights at this ‘choose before you sit down’ restaurant. We chose (because we weren’t allowed to sit down and so couldn’t nosy at other people’s plates) far too much! One curry each is enough as you’re given a soup, a plate of veggies and rice with every one curry, as well as tea and local sweets, which were a very nice touch.
Getting to Hpa AnFrom Mae Sot: From the Mae Sot / Mayawaddy border, it’s around a four-hour drive to Hpa An. Private taxis wait at the border for foreigners and when there’s enough to fill the car (we set off with four people), the journey will begin. We paid 10,000 Kyat each (around $7.50 USD) and the car was much more swish than we’d have imagined! How to cross the border for travel in Myanmar: If you want to travel deeper into Myanmar from the border at Mayawaddy (rather than just make a visa run) you will need a visa. You can apply for a 28-day visa to Myanmar online here (the cost is $50 USD) and you must print out the visa acceptance letter and take it with you to the border. The Mae Sot/Mayawaddy border has only been open since 2015, and at the moment it’s one of the simplest border crossings in SE Asia. We read on the acceptance letter that you will need ‘proof of funds’ for your travel in Myanmar, as well as an onward flight ticket. The Immigration Officials asked us for neither, though we can’t say that this would happen every time! For more information about visas see our updated visa guide here. From Yangon – A direct bus from Yangon to Hpa An takes around 8 hours and will cost 5,000 Kyat. The buses are very comfortable and you’ll stop half way for a decent Burmese style lunch. Or, if you prefer to take the train, it’s a five-hour train journey to Kyaikto, where you can choose to make an overnight stop to visit the Golden Rock or continue another 2 hours by bus to Hpa An.
Where to go next?Kyaikto, Myanmar – Two hours’ bus journey away is the town of Kyaikto, home to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (the Golden Rock) one of the iconic images of Myanmar. Mae Sot, Thailand – This border town in Thailand has been nicknamed ‘Little Burma’ due to the high number of Burmese refugees and migrant workers living in the town. Home to great food and a multi-cultural vibe that’s unusual to Thailand, Mae Sot makes an interesting overnight stop before you continue your journey into Thailand.
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