This was one of our very last minute picks. And our best decision all trip. While looking for a place to break journey between Myawaddy and Yangon, I read about the small town of Hpa-An that most claimed had an easy, countryside charm that was difficult to articulate. Having spent just two days there, we came away with an uneasy feeling that though this was our first stop, it couldn't be topped. We couldn't have been more right. Hpa-An is a tiny town in Southern Myanmar that hardly wishes to compete with the big four in tourism in the country -- Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay and Yangon -- in that it has no particular spectacle that is its showpiece. What it lacks in a showstopper it more than makes up for in its vibe however. As soon as you step out of the town, the surrounding countryside is awash in refreshing paddy hues and some truly amazing caves, pagodas and water bodies. And the complete lack of tourists make sure you have all the time in the world to just stand there and take it all in without the slightest hint of urgency.
Being a country that has so recently opened its borders so recently, there can be a frustrating lack of information about the land border crossings. So when we did cross over into Myanmar from the Mae Sot-Myawaddy check post, we were feeling particularly triumphant about it all going through so smoothly. ... Until we found out that the single-lane highway that connects Myawaddy to the rest of the country runs in opposite directions on subsequent days: odd days East and even days West. Effectively reducing your chances of getting out on the same day by a dramatic 50%! It was something we hadn't even remotely conceived of, and we paid for our lack of creative imagination by having to be stuck in a dusty, sleepy border town with nothing to do for a whole day. Lesson learnt.