Our reason for visiting Mawlamyine was so we could take the scenic boat ride to the small town of Hpa An four hours north of the Thanlwin river. We had heard about the journey from friends we met in Vietnam who took the ride just two months previously so were surprised to learn that the twice weekly ferry between the two towns had stopped running. Just my luck I thought as we were faced with no other option other than to charter our own boat at a hefty $10 each or take the super cheap bus which would have taken a fraction of the time. It was clear to me which option was best after the recent weather and seeing grey clouds that morning, however, I decided to go along with Jaimie and Emily and take the boat ride which turned out to be incredibly beautiful.
Apart from our boat breaking down leaving us an hour behind schedule and leaving no time for any toilet or food breaks, the journey took us past some of the best scenery I’ve seen in Myanmar including lush green hilltops lined with pagodas, sandy shores of the river and fields of rice. After five hours the boat rocked up at Hpa An where a tuk tuk was waiting for us for the ride to the friendly and good value Soe Brothers Guesthouse (it’s worth splurging on a room with aircon or ask for one upon the bottom floor else you will get too hot!).
Emily had to leave early the next day so we enjoyed one last traditional Myanmar meal together at San Ma Tau restaurant which consisted of curry with unlimited rice and hundreds of weird and wonderful side dishes. Thank god it was the last as Myanmar food is something I just can’t seem to enjoy, apart from the Chinese and Indian dishes and the Shan noodles!
The sun was setting and we wanted to explore the area before dark as Emily so we jumped on a boat to a small island to climb the Hpan Pu Mountain which we were told was a great place to watch sunset. With only an hour to spare it was a hard and steep climb made harder as I tried to reach the top point of the mountain which clearly was accessible and my ability to rock climb barefoot proved pitiful.
Each rock I grabbed came away in my hand and I soon realised that the side of the mountain had experienced a landslide which was why the climb was so difficult. I decided to give up on the idea of reaching the point and skidded down before enjoying an incredible sunset with views over the lush landscape. It opened my eyes to a part of Myanmar I never knew existed.
We enjoyed an amazing sunset from the boat on our way back to shore before heading for a walk around town where we spotted a lady selling the most wonderful looking papaya salad but sadly she had sold out by the time we placed our order. So instead we settled for the next best thing, a few super cheap (60cent) ice cold beers at Lucky 1 Chinese restaurant before heading to the other Chinese opposite called Khit-Thit where food prices where near half that of Lucky 1’s.
Emily left the next day and myself and Jaimie had planned to hike Mt Zwegabin in time for the monkey feeding at 11am. This meant we would have had to get up at the crack of dawn and the idea of sleeping in seemed much more appealing. So our only full day in Hpa-An famous for it’s range of adventure activities, sitting in a local tea house sipping coffee whilst munching on Shan noodles and cake.
If it wasn’t for our “day off” as travellers I would have never come across the deliciously moist banana bread in a local convenient. Fresh proper banana bread in Myanmar, would have thought! I could have spent a good few days in Hpa-An especially if I had a motorbike or better still, a mountain bike but unfortunately time did not allow and we had our last Myanmar night bus to catch back to Yangon.
Living life, loving travel,