Photo: Travelling from Myawaddy to Hpa-an.

Myawaddy to Hpa-an

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Onward travel from Myawaddy was until very recently a rather arduous procedure. Myawaddy is separated from Hpa-an, and indeed the rest of the country, by the Dawna Mountain range and in earlier times the transport infrastructure consisted of a one-lane rough track over the scenic but rugged hills. The road was so narrow that transport was only permitted in one direction each day on an alternating basis. It took a minimum of eight hours, on a good day.

The new road. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy to Hpa-an, Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

The new road. Photo: Mark Ord

In 2015 an impressive four-lane highway, funded by Thailand, finally opened. Highway 58 makes scenic curves and swoops through the mountains, whisking you the 45 kilometres from Myawaddy to Kawkareik district in a little more than an hour or so. Kawkareik is where the mountains meet the plain upon which Hpa-an is located — and it is also where the upgraded road runs out. The remainder is along the old Burmese road, which though narrow and pot-holed is at least on flat ground and has just about enough space for two-way traffic.

Bushfires in the Dawna Range. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy to Hpa-an, Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Bushfires in the Dawna Range. Photo: Mark Ord

Shortly before the halfway point on Highway 58 is a fork, with the left branch heading down to Mawlamyine and the right on to Hpa-an. Myawaddy is approximately 130 and 160 kilometres from Hpa-an and Mawlamyine respectively. Allow around 2.5 to three and three to 3.5 hours for each trip.

The small administrative and market town of Kawkareik has a couple of simple accommodation options — the Honey Hostel and Smile World Guesthouse. We even came across an English-speaking, part-time guide in Kawkareik offering tours of her home town (T: (097) 9229 6774). As the tours are only at weekends we weren’t able to check them out, butthey consist of guided visits to the local market and some handicrafts and cottage industries. After Kawkareik are a bunch of good roadside eateries.

A toll-booth on Highway 58. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy to Hpa-an, Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

A toll-booth on Highway 58. Photo: Mark Ord

Trouble did flare up in 2015 between the Burmese junta forces and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), primarily over toll collection on the road. You will see a strong DKBA presence as well as the predominantly Christian Karen National Union in the area. Indeed at some toll points the driver will have to pay both government and DKBA tolls. For this reason, apart from a stop in Kawkareik you will not be permitted to wander off the main highway or lodge at any other roadside village. A rather fragile peace treaty is all that keeps this region from sliding back into a war zone. Locals can undoubtedly see the new economic benefits of peace but the Karen have been struggling for autonomy since 1947. Let’s see.

For transport information on this route see our Myawaddy transport section.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Myawaddy.
 Read up on where to eat on Myawaddy.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Myawaddy.
 Read up on how to get to Myawaddy.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Myawaddy? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Burma Myanmar with Tourradar.

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