Our earlier post covered Burma’s Mon State so we’ll take up our South Burma tour photos where we left off with the very scenic boat journey up the Thanlwin, or Salween, River from Moulmein, (Mawlamyine), to the Karen State capital of Hpa-An. Great boat, helpful skipper and wonderful landscapes made for an excellent trip not forgetting a memorable stop in an exceptionally friendly little Karen village on the river bank.
The bridge over the Thanlwin River, which forms the northern edge of Moulmein Town, is Burma’s longest at around 3 kilometres.
Made a stop en route to stretch our legs at a tiny and somewhat remote Karen village which turned out to be the highlight of the boat trip. Probably met half the village’s incredibly friendly inhabitants; took tons of group photos and it was great to see that the enjoyment was clearly mutual. We’ll be taking them back plenty of photos when we visit the village on our next trip.
The scenery wasn’t bad either! Our late afternoon cultural tour of Hpa-An did degenerate slightly, though at a stretch it was continuing the nautical theme, as we discovered a strategically placed lake-side cafe with cold Myanmar Beers and psychedelic paddle boats!?
A charming, small provincial town which still sees few tourists Hpa-An is the capital of Karen or Kayin State. Dinner was at the San Ma Tau, a well known local restaurant serving up traditional specialities and where the staff did their utmost to cover every single inch of our table in food! The home-made lime pickle being a big favourite.
The following day was a tour through some of the truly spectacular limestone mountains surrounding the town including caves and cave temples, pagodas atop limestone pillars, underground streams all interspersed by emerald rice paddies and traditional Karen villages. So, here are a few shots of the local scenery!
The awesome Sadan Cave deserves its own post but the hike through the cave, coming across the hidden pool, a trip up an underground stream and the dug-out canoe through the paddy-fields was certainly one of the tour highlights so more on that later.
You could spend a lot of time exploring the fascinating area around Hpa-An, as well as just hanging out in the bustling market and friendly coffee shops but…. places to go, people to see as they say.
So, a return drive and a night in Rangoon before heading off west into the Irrawaddy Delta region for a stop at the lively riverside town of Pathein. If we thought Hpa-An and Moulmein were friendly we were nearly swamped in Pathein market where the extremely enthusiastic locals clearly do not see many tourists. Since many of the experienced travellers in our group had concluded Burma was certainly one of the most friendly countries around and Pathein was the friendliest town yet in the country there was some debate as to whether Pathein could, therefore, qualify as the world’s friendliest town?!
Past Pathein, over a range of low hills populated by Karen villages, (and an admittedly pretty awful road!), lay the beckoning white sand of the Bay of Bengal coast. Or more correctly silver since the low key beach resort of Ngwe Saung, translates as ‘Silver Sand’. Low key for now at least though evidence of construction everywhere means it’s going to change pretty fast. (Now is a good time to go!)
Can’t complain about the view and indeed the rooms, food, top class service of our resort set on the stunning beach made this a fantastic place to chill out for a couple of days at the end of the tour.