Published/Last edited or updated: 24th June, 2016
The Shweyinhmyaw Pagoda in the centre of town is Hpa-an’s most attractive and popular temple among locals and visitors alike. Constructed on rocks lapped by the waters of the Than Lwin or Salween River, the temple consists of a series of platforms connected by staircases and walkways featuring various shrines, stupas, the obligatory ancient bodhi tree and several spectacular viewing spots.
With a west-facing perspective, the best time to visit is sunset, with views up, down and across the river with its karst backdrops spectacularly beautiful. It is pretty good though at any time of day. The actual temple buildings include your default large gold chedi plus an assortment of minor Buddhist and local nat shrines and a less standard giant frog statue. While they are interesting, it’s really the view that makes this the town’s top tourist site.
If atmospheric sunset views of misty, forest shrouded outcrops along the river aren’t enough, then Shweyinhmyaw also overlooks a fishermen’s jetty, so you can see the dusk wharf activities, with boats transporting Karens home to their nearby villages or fishermen bringing in the day’s catch. Local women clad in vivid sarongs taking selfies with their mates or couples gazing at the sunset are the icing on a photogenic cake.
Don’t leave it too late in the day, but for a nominal charge taxi boats will transport you from the adjacent jetty to the opposite bank of the river, from where you can walk through farmland to the foot of the limestone outcrop Hpa Pu. When you reach the foot of the mountain, follow the track round to the Than Lwin side, from where a steep path and steps lead to the top. There were a couple of signs in English last time we looked, but any local will point you in the right direction. Count between 15 minutes and an hour depending upon your fitness levels, but fantastic views are guaranteed. The path was under repair when we last visited in mid-2016, and you may or may not be able to get to the highest point depending upon how work’s coming along or whether any new rockfalls have occurred.
A boat load of locals will pay less than 1,000 kyat each one way, so price will depend upon how many passengers you have. If you want to hire your own boat, 5,000 each way ought to do it, or just wait and hitch a ride with home-bound locals. Don’t forget to arrange a return trip and don’t leave it too late. The view back across Hpa-an and Zwegabin is east facing so early morning, when there’s also plenty of boat traffic, is best anyway.
The pagoda’s location in town is central, so it’s just a short walk from most Hpa-an hotels and guesthouses. The easiest way to get here is probably to head down to Thida Street and then take a left. You’ll see Shweyinhmyaw where the street makes a sharp curve to turn back from the riverbank to join Main Road. The huge gold stupa is on a slight rise so you can’t miss it. Out front you’ll probably see a tourist coach or two negotiating the narrow street plus a few tuk tuks waiting around for those who lodge further afield. Late afternoon several snack and drink stands pop up outside the religious paraphernalia shops.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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