My partner had not been well in the night (thanks to some dodgy food – which was actually meant for me…sorry about that!) and was still feeling the effects the next day. As he lay snoozing, I pondered what to do with myself. It was quite hot and stuffy in our room so I decided to venture out for a little while and explore some more of Hpa-An, a small town in the south.
We had arrived the day before from Mawlamyine, on a fun and fairly short (for Myanmar!) bus ride. The bus was a little, let’s say battered and had no suspension to talk of! We were given pride of place at the front of the bus so we had a great view of all the goings on – the locals and their wares, the conductor, who would shout at people as we passed through villages and deal with newcomers, who would spit betel nut juice every few meters (these red stains on the ground can be found everywhere across Myanmar) and would hang out the side of the bus! It was a great ride!
Once we arrived in Hpa-An, we were unloaded from the bus and told where we could find our guesthouse. This town felt a lot nicer than Mawlamyine, it felt friendlier and a bit more laid back….
I had nothing to base this on, it was just the feeling I had when we started off towards the guesthouse. The town was hot, hot, hot and as we picked our way over the rubble, rubbish and dirt on the sides of the roads I thought I was going to melt away.
The guesthouse wasn’t too far though and I was relieved when I could shrug off my backpack in the reception area. The guesthouse was fine, the room was ok and the bathroom was better than some we had experienced. It also had a nice roof terrace with great views across the town. The area was quite stunning and you could see across the river to Mount Hpar Pu that we climbed (that culminated in a slightly hair-raising experience for me, clambering up the final few steps almost on my hands and knees due to the sheer drop on each side!!).
The guesthouse was based in the centre of the town, so I grabbed my bag and my camera and wandered down the road, taking in the scenes around me. It was busy with people out and about doing their shopping from the market and roadside stalls. I was not hassled or bothered and I found that a smile was greeted with a beaming grin in return.
I had no particular route in mind, I was just enjoying pottering around. I wandered down a few of the chaotic lanes, enjoying the fact that I was on my own. I entered the market where things got even more chaotic.
Eventually I came to the Hpa Ya Gyi Wi temple. We hadn’t explored this one yet so I stepped out of my flip flops leaving them at the entrance and stepped onto the cool tiles and walked in. There was hardly anyone about and it was immensely peaceful. I walked into the temple centre and had a look around. A few people came in to worship and I hung back to give them some privacy.
It was very hot (just like every other day!) so I found a bench just outside in the shade and sat down. I had found a lot of the temples that we had visited very calming and this one was no different. I enjoyed a few quiet moments to myself watching the flocks of pigeons fluttering around the complex and exchanging polite smiles with those who passed.
This experience stuck in my mind because I felt very much at peace there. There wasn’t anything particularly spectacular happening or much to see, but I loved sitting there soaking up the atmosphere and just gathering my thoughts. It was our last stop and almost the end of our Myanmar journey, I was going to be sorry to say goodbye!