Friday, 2 January 2015


After a very brief spell out of the scooter saddle, we were back in it today, exploring the magnificent scenery and natural features around Hpa-An, this place is quickly becoming one of my 'must see' recommendations.  

There are the rivers, limestone karsts, mountains, farmland, temples, caves galore and so much else going on around this sleepy little town, it was seriously one of the most amazing day's on the bike I have ever had. That good!  This place is a photographer's dream, I only wish I could do it justice with my simple point & click!

We started at Saddar Cave, well that was after navigating tiny back roads and villages to get there, and decided to eat.  We really had no idea what we were ordering but it was some sort of noodle dish, I sent Noi in as the guinea pig and she immediately screwed her face up at the taste...  this was not good news for me- if a Thai girl won't eat something, it must either be Vegemite, or taste really bad! 

 Yes, it was pretty bad, we tried to get through a few mouthfuls so as not to hurt the lady's feelings, but no way could I continue.  it was just horrible!  Oh well, we had to get a bad feed somewhere! With 2 noodle dishes and 2 cold drinks, the bill came in at $2!   I can live with that!

Being a temple cave, as they all seemed to be, we had to take our shoes off, but if you ever visit, take them with you, you will need them at the other side.  You will have to traverse the pretty cool cave barefoot, sometimes through bat shit, but at the other end of the cave you rejoin the sunshine again with a beautiful backdrop of mountains and a small river.

Once out of the cave, for $3, one of the locals will paddle you across the pond in a dugout canoe, under the mountain, then through the rice fields via a tiny stream, the whole thing was really cool and the scenery stunning.  Then it is just a 5- 10 minute walk around the mountain and back to where you started.  We  also gave the temple a $5 'donation' on the way in, it shouldn't be that much, maybe a dollar or 2 if you're ever there.  You would be hard pressed to have such a great experience anywhere for 2 people, for $8 though!  

Another awesome dirt road ride took us to Mt Zwebagin, a pretty spectacular limestone range not too far out of town, you can climb to the temple at the top should you wish to, but a 3 hour climb up ridiculously steep steps, and back down again, was not on my to-do list.

Next up was Kawgun Cave, a pretty impressive spectacle as almost all the caves' surfaces have been decorated with Buddha images, some believed to be as early as the 7th century.  Yathaypan cave was nearby so we rode out to it also, but didn't get off the bike- we were on a mission to find the 'Bat Cave'!

On the way back to town we stopped at Kyauk Kalap Pagoda -

"Another hugely popular site, again towards the western side of Zwegabin and not far off the main road is the Kyauk Kalap Pagoda, (pronounced chalk-galap). Something or a regional icon this tiny temple is balanced absurdly atop a tiny needle-like limestone pinnacle set in the middle of a pond amidst paddy fields at the foot of the mountain. On the tiny island surrounding the rock is a working monastery and though you can’t climb to the summit you can reach a shrine around half way up. The monastery and stupa are also very popular with local visitors."

Then it was back to our room at Golden Sky to chill out for a bit and work out where to find the Bat Cave, an absolute MUST SEE if you're in Hpa An.  After getting some directions from the boss here, we made it out there just after 5pm, time enough to look around and get settled before the show starts at around 5.30 pm everyday.

There were quite a few tourists out there as well as a few locals, the kids in the village on the way in were just adorable, all wanting high fives and waving, grins from ear to ear.  Kids aren't really my thing, but most of the ones here are super friendly and happy, a nice change from the ones in Vietnam that told me to 'fuck off'!

We made our way up steps and steep narrow ladders, right to the top of this small pinnacle and perched ourselves there waiting for the show, the views all around us and as far as the eye could see were just extraordinary, while nearly everybody else was at the base near the cave entrance.   

Before the bats even came out, there were huge birds circling, they too were well aware of what time the show would start and were preparing to hunt the bats for food.  Then suddenly it was on - the cave came alive with squeals and flapping wings, a huge commotion as thousands of bats emerged from the cave every minute, flocking together and forming amazing patterns in the sky.  
This sight alone would have been incredible, but coupled with the awe inspiring scenery surrounding us already, it was just spectacular.  I tried to see this in Borneo, but the bats didn't play ball that day, I'm so glad I finally got to witness it, especially from such an awesome perch.

Back into town for dinner at Lucky1 Restaurant, the food was superb - pork & noodles, Sweet n Sour Chicken, rice, a large beer and a coke all came it at $7.50, I highly recommend the food here.

GPS strikes again!


Saddar Cave

Heavy traffic in the rice canals...


That's a whole lotta Buddha...

Kyauk Kalap

Kawgun Cave - $3 entry 

My 'beast' for the day... actually it was a dangerous piece of shit, no lights, no brakes...  it nearly shook our teeth loose.   After the terrain of the last 2 days, I'm almost happy my bike ain't here!

The Bat Cave

From the top

Bats!  It really was amazing to watch