Hpa An, a small town, not too far away from Mawlaymyine has all the ingredients to become a prime boutique resort in the future. A small population, relaxed atmosphere, a river, scenic rice fields, picturesque temples, mountains to climb and caves to explore. While the town itself is rather unremarkable, the surroundings are beautiful, yet unspoiled. No ticket charges (a rarity in Myanmar!) and almost no other tourists. Guesthouses offer a cheap and convinient way to check Hpa An sights out in one day. Just for $5 they will take you on a day trip covering all the sights that will easily become a highlight of your Myanmar experience. Best five dollars ever spent.
In a way Hpa An reminded me of Pai, Hoi An and Yangshuo, minus the tourist infrastructure part. For now Hpa An is anything but touristy. Four hotels, two mediocre restaurants with menus in English, one even worse cafe and zero shops. This is how far Hpa An caters to foreign visitors. In this particular case, the lack of tourist services was a clear drawback. After seeing all the sights in one day, there was nothing left to do, no places to hang out and no people to meet. One day spent there and we were ready to move on. On the other hand Hpa An provided an authentic insight of the town life, but then again we got plenty of such experience in Myanmar.
If in the future Hpa An evolves into another Pai or Yangshuo, in a true hipster fashion I will be able to boast that I was there before it was cool.