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At the base of Zwekabin Mountain is the Field of a Thousand Buddhas, where untamed foliage creeps up over the plinths supporting the identical Sitting Buddhas. The large pond here is a serene spot to settle when contemplating or recovering from the ascent up Zwekabin Mountain. Watching the sun rise or set from the 800 metre-high summit is one of the finest things to do in Hpa-An.
Not far off are the Kawt-Ka Thaung Caves with a colourful array of Buddha images. Over the river one can visit the Bayin Nyi Caves to bathe in the spring pools, and the ‘Bat Cave’ where guides stir a myriad number of the creatures from their slumber to fly over the heads of the assembled crowd. At the famed Sadin Cave one can take a small boat through the Hades-esque interior.
Roughly translated, Hpa-An’s curious name means ‘frog vomit’. This derives from a legend that tells of a naga (a mythical ‘snake dragon’) which swallowed a frog. However due to the gem in the frog’s mouth, the naga vomits both frog and gem onto the banks of the Thanlyin River where Hpa-An is now situated. Images of the said frog can be found throughout Hpa-An, including a particularly large one at the Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda.
December or January is a particularly good time to visit Hpa-An, with the chance to witness the lively Kayin New Year festivities, featuring dancing and kickboxing competitions.