Galaxy Motel had organised our tour for us. Most visitors to Hpa An will use old favourites Soe Brothers, but let it be known that Galaxy does great tours too!
A new mode of transport - 'thoun bein'
Now, the thoun bein isn't just any old tuk-tuk. It is a bruising adventure. You get thrown around everywhere. Try to avoid sitting at the very back! You will need to hold to those side bars for dear life to avoid a concussion. It is painful, and tiring, and hilarious. I've never laughed so much while being in so much pain. It made the car drive down from Myawaddy look like flying first class. It was an awesome experience...but expect to be uncomfortable.
Kaw Ka Thawng cave
Pro-tip - do not walk through the cave in jandals (thongs, flip-flops...you know). Take walking shoes! You are walking through actual bat shit. The cave roof is lined with thousands of sleeping bats, and you are walking through absolute darkness and it's slippery as hell. I broke my jandals, nearly fell over, but worst of all, my jandals flipped bat shit up the back of my white shirt I was wearing. I spent the rest of the day being laughed at by locals and my friends....and my shirt never recovered.
Pro-tip two - have a hat for the boat. It takes about 20 minutes or so and there is no shade. We were there in November and it was really hot, too hot to be in the sun without a hat. The boat ride was pretty serene, after I got over the fear of it sinking. I'd love to do that again.
Lunch! And christening the shewee
After that flurry of excitement, we took twenty minutes to chill out at the swimming hole with the local Burmese dudes. Oddly, the Burmese were swimming in their clothes - jeans and all! I guess they dry quick in that heat. And there were hardly any women swimming. There was even a whole pool where women weren't allowed in...something to do with Buddha.
Kyauk Ka Lat Paya
Bat cave! And our final stop
Don't skip Hpa An. It's beautiful.