MYANMAR – A hike up Zwegabin mountain in Hpa-an

“It’s got a good view.”

(Written by Steph)

It was a sentence that drew me into my future, and saw me pushing my husband off the top of whatever he had forced me to hike up in order to get to said view. Nick likes a good view. Normally the kind that requires some sort of laborious ascent. 

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Zwegabin mountain in the distance

Today’s “good view” was from the site of 1000 Buddhas (because we hadn’t seen many already) and was to be earned by walking up 10 times more steps. THE steepest steps I’ve ever seen. There must have been at least 3 step’s worth in each one. Talk about scrimping.

It was scorching hot, and we soon realised why people did this walk in the early morning, not at 2 in the afternoon, like us. That may have been my fault, but let’s not dwell on that…

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Near the start of the trail, in the field of a thousand Buddhas

Twenty five minutes in, Nick consulted his faithful companion, his phone’s GPS, and announced that we were half way there.  Spurred on by this news, we accelerated our speed, just about managing to say “mengalaba” (hello) to each person who was descending. There were 100s of them, each smiling and greeting us, perhaps wondering why we were the colour of lobster and quite so drenched. A great deal of them had children with them, who they were carrying in their arms or in slings. I couldn’t imagine many English families hiking that far with their children. But comparatively speaking, we are a nation of weeds, socialised to take the easy route. Or maybe I’m speaking for myself.

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That pagoda is where we're heading. And the path goes almost straight up.

After 50 minutes, it was clear we were nowhere near the top, and I was cursing the misinformation from Nick’s phone. The summit of each winding staircase only revealed, in turn, another: just as steep and with no clue as to how many more proceeded. My “had enough” moment came 2 sweaty hours in, just as two tourists appeared round the bend. “It’s about 5 minutes,” one said. “Ten,” corrected the other. Pffff. We did as any sane person does for motivation – we put the Lion King soundtrack on the phone and sang Hakuna Matata til we reached the top. I’m sorry Nick – being married to me is doing nothing for your street cred.

So, what was the point of all this? At the top stood a monastery, and apparently you could sleep there. Images of monks silently moving through stone archways conjured in our minds. It sounded quite special, and something we might not be able to repeat, so we would do it.

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Our bathroom facilities
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Sunrise

It must have been “wear what you like” day that day. Either that or there was only one actual monk living there. There was a beautiful moon that night, and we had some nice company. Nick was happy taking photos and pottering about, but a small part of me was gutted to find out that there was a festival…at the bottom of the hill!  Lights dotted the landscape below and music echoed through the valley, but we would have our special night in the monastery, even if it did have only one Monk. Did I mention that he snored like a bear? It was definitely fairly far removed from what we had expected, and yet, it was at least memorable.

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Our room for the night. Check the monk's portrait on the right

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