It is possible to hire motorbikes across all of south-east Asia and although it incurs risks, it's hard to resist the urge at a very reduced price (compared with the prices of guides) and the total freedom adding excitement to the adventure. I rode a motorbike in numerous places in Asia and Hpa-An is particularly well suited to it !
There's nothing more rewarding than feeling free from one's time and trajectory. After all, that's part of the reason we travel! The natural environment of Hpa-An is worth being analysed outside of an organised tour, away from traced paths on the map they give you upon arriving at your hotel. For those who have a non-motorised vehicle (if you hire bikes, make sure you hire a mountain bike!) the adventure will be even more authentic, leaving behind the fruits of nature to the maximum. However, the distances are long and your time, like your visa, is short! Therefore, motorbikes are a good alternative. In addition, they are easy to hire, you will find them on every street corner.
If you have never been on a motorbike, don't worry, it's time to learn! You will only be able to hire semi-automatic scooters (4 foot-shift gears without a clutch) from 100 to 125 cc. Very easy to drive, you can also ask the person renting the bike to you for a short lesson. Next, the Burmese roads are, much to my surprise, in very good condition. Finally, there isn't a lot of traffic in Hpa-An, which is closer to the village than to the town. I strongly advise you to spend several minutes choosing your helmet: try to find a full-face helmet with a visor... it's not easy. If not, at least choose a helmet with a good strap (my helmet has flown away on roads in Thailand putting both me and drivers behind me in danger) and don't forget your sunglasses if you don't have a visor! From a practical point of view, you will find fuel everywhere at grocery stores along the road, breaking down isn't likely. Leave with a map to ask for help if you get lost (unlikely given that it covers everywhere, and for 3 roads...). Also don't forget your hotel card and the scooter hire card so you can contact them in case of a problem. The saying "prevention is better than cure" also applies to Myanmar!
During your trip to Burmayou will probably pass through Hpa-An and discover its magnificent landscapes scattered with sculptures honouring the glory of Buddha.
- You can start with the famous Kyauk Ka Lat Monastery and admire its pagodas poised on a rock defying it and the laws of gravity.
- Next, the Saddar cave, of which the buried treasures (statues of Buddha, cave paintings and engravings) are guarded by numerous monkeys climbing the stony roughness of its front, is definitely worth seeing.
- Don't miss the Lonbani field, scattered with statues of Buddha which seem to come out of the ground, organised in a straight line, creating a sort of a huge spiritual chess board.
- You can go to Kaw Ka Thong with its monk statues aligned one behind another.
- The perfect place to end the day is the "bat cave", from where millions, even billions, of bats escape everyday at sunset.
- If you want more and you aren't afraid of climbing stairs (allow a lot of time!), you can climb the Zwe Ga Bin mountain which offers an impressive panoramic view of Hpa-An.
Hpa-An is a fabulous place. If you visit it by motorbike you won't have glass separating you from the landscape, you'll be able to stop when you want and take detours of your choice, encouraging you to interact with the incredibly kind locals to find your way.