A country town capital

Though Hpa-an is officially the capital of Kayin (or Karen) State, it has the distinct feel of a country town. Until recent road upgrades were completed, Hpa-an was a rather remote, somewhat forgotten settlement. With the completion in early 2016 of a new highway linking Hpa-an to the Thai border at Mae Sot and Yangon plus the improved border crossing facilities at Myawaddy, things are changing rapidly.

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Traditionally a market centre and transport hub for the surrounding region, these days well-heeled local visitors from farther north are profiting from its new accessibility as Thais flock over the border on their holiday weekends. As a convenient land crossing between Thailand and Burma, Khao San Road and Chiang Mai tour agents now offer ‘direct’ tickets to Yangon, passing through Myawaddy and Hpa-an, and many of the more adventurous seem to be breaking up the journey with a stop in this picturesque region.

Hpa-an's glorious landscapes. : Mark Ord.
Hpa-an's glorious landscapes. Photo: Mark Ord

Hpa-an has been described as scruffy -- perhaps ramshackle would be more polite -- but compared to neighbouring state capitals it does lack say the wide streets and stately architecture of Mawlamyine and is almost the antithesis of tidy, orderly Dawei. What passes for downtown Hpa-an still displays far more wood and corrugated iron than concrete, but the narrow, winding and cluttered lanes do give it charm in ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,200 words.)

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