A few days back, I spent some time in the lovely riverside town of Hpa An. Just up the Thanlwin River from the city of Mawlamyine, Hpa An seemed to be a pretty relaxed city that I thoroughly enjoyed my time in. On a few of the days, I made it outside the city to explore the amazing limestone-formed landscape that surrounds the city. It reminded me a lot of Krabi in Thailand. Jagged limestone karst formations, lots of caves, pretty much beautiful.
Intense heat and a near-sunburn aside, the view was gorgeous and well worth the effort. You’ll notice I’m barefoot in the picture. It’s a holy site for Buddhists, so taking your shoes off is a sign of respect. I’m relatively unused to walking around barefoot, so hiking up a rough, limestone covered path with nothing between my toesies and the ground turned out to not be such a good idea. By the time I got to the bottom, I was about ready to kiss my shoes. I held back though… if you’ve ever smelt my shoes before, you’ll know why.
The next day I decided to do something a little cooler. I decided not to hike another mountain not too far from Hpan Pu and opted to go explore a cave instead. The cave I chose is called Saddar Cave and is a relatively short but incredibly scenic truck ride outside of town.
I caught the truck no problem and flagged down a motorbike to take me the rest of the way on small red-dirt roads that weaved through small villages and fields.
Once I got to the cave, I expected to go in alone, but my motorcycle driver accompanied me. At first I was a little put off, but he turned out to be very helpful in making sure I didn’t get lost. The cave was massive, even bigger than the one I explored in Krabi a few weeks back. Unlike that one, it was more than just a single cavern. Relatively small tunnels linked several more caverns in the cool, dank, darkness under the mountain.
The rock formations were really cool. It gave the cave a dynamic feeling, as if the walls were slowly oozing into increasingly more fantastic formations; which, in truth, they are.
After a time in the bowels of the mountain, we emerged with a great many blinks to a scene straight out of a dream. The cave opened up to a small, picturesque lake with ducks quacking and paddling away on the surface and wooden canoes moored to take people on a ride. There were some locals hanging out on wooden benches, but no foreign tourists in sight. It was awesome.
Instead of taking a ride around the lake (and going into another cave only accessible by water), I sat and talked with some of the locals for a bit. There was a group of them that wanted some pictures with me, so I subjected them to the same treatment. It’s only fair.
After numerous photo-ops and some refreshingly casual chatting, I parted ways with my new friends and headed back into the darkness. The walk back seemed much quicker, maybe since I knew the way. I made it back to the bike and headed back into town, thoroughly content with the way the day had ended up. It was yet another fantastic day in Hpa An!