Sleeping at the Monastery (Mt Zwegabin) – Hpa An, Myanmar



When visiting Hpa An, I quickly added one more thing to my bucket list – An overnight stay at a Monastery, on the top of Mt Zwegabin. Where the monks live. That’s after climbing nearly 4000 steps to the very top, in the ridiculous heat.

2 days later, I ticked it off.

Sleeping at the Monastery ( Mt Zwegabin )
Hpa An, Myanmar

 

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Tino (my Myanmar travel buddy) and I have heard of the Monastery right before we got to Hpa An, so naturally as soon as we checked into our hostel – we asked for more information.

We’ve been told that yes it’s a thing. But it might not be possible due to the rainy weather and the steep steps on the way up to the top of the mountain, which is 750 metres high.

A day later, we packed our small backpacks and decided to risk it. We headed for Mt Zwegabin.

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First of All

Try to make it for the sunrise or sunset – this will make your experience even more unforgettable.
So, check the times before you go / plan your trip.

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What To Bring

It may not seem like a big deal, but trust me – hiking those steps in the crazy heat will be a challenge even for the sporty ones. Yes it will. So..

  • Water (at least 1 litre)
  • Small towel
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush etc.
  • Mosquito Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Some money
  • Sleeping Bag Liner (Optional)

Clothes:

  • Wear comfy shoes – hiking boots or running shoes are best due to the grip, especially when slippery
  • Change of clothes (you’ll need them). Sporty & breathable. For ladies – a sports bra will be your best friend.
  • Raincoat / poncho

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Costs to Consider

5,000 MMK (£3) : When reaching the top, you will be asked to make a donation to stay overnight. In exchange, we received a bed each, a pillow, blankets and the use of the bathroom/toilet.

2,000 MMK (£1.20) : If you would like to have breakfast in the morning. More on this below.

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How To Get There

Scooters
Price: 7,000 MMK (£4.50)
We decided to rent out scooters as we planned to see some places on the way.

Tip: It’s worth to try and arrange the rental a day before – we managed to get the owner to let us bring the scooters back the next morning at 8. Usually, they ask for them on the same day. The petrol cost 1,500 MMK (under £1) – for most of the day of driving around.

Parking: It seems that you have to pay for parking outside the SouthWest side, we left ours outside the eastern side (the steeper of the two) and were not charged a penny.

Motor Taxi
Price: 2000 MMK (£1.30)
It takes about 30 mins and the taxi will drop you off right at the bottom of the mountain.

 

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The Climb

There are two sides SouthWest – the more popular with tourists due to the unique sight of the hundreds of Buddhas and a monastery at the very bottom. The other being the Easters Side – steeper but quicker, extremely slippery in wet conditions.

We decided to make it for the sunset and had about 1.5 / 2 hours to go – we’ve chosen the East side.

As soon as we arrived at the bottom, we were being warned by the local man, trying to stop us from going ahead “It’s very dangerous, very slippery, not good.”

We thanked him for the concern but still went ahead.

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Now, as some of you may know – I am nowhere near being a ‘sporty’ person, but for some reason this didn’t seem to worry me much. Until we started going up, and it hit me.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

After a few minutes, the heat quickly made us realise that it won’t be that easy, oh no. The seriously steep steps and my allergies (plus my unfit condition) – made it feel like the bricks were literally pushing me the opposite way.

I think my body went into a bit of a shock and my face ended up looking like this:

zwegabinOk, it was super red but you cannot see it here :p

We also quickly understood why people warned us so much. The steps go through a few small waterfalls / streams which make it feel like walking on an an ice-ring.

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We were sweating like there’s no tomorrow. I seriously have never ever sweated that much in my entire life.
Nice, I know. But, this is why you need a change of clothes.

 

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The Experience

Arrival :

At the arrival to the top of Mt Zwegabin, you will be asked for the donation and receive a string / wrist band.

Getting to the top already felt like a reward, but looking all the way down at where we just came from left me speechless. As soon as we arrived, we dropped our bags and run to see the sunset. It was beautiful.

The sunset, the views, the greenery, even the floods that in a strange way made it more beautiful – it was all so dreamy.

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Room :

We got showed to our room. It was very simple and no luxury, but everything that you could possibly need – a bed, blankets and pillows.

One thing worth remembering is to check the beds for bedbugs – I do this everywhere I stay, even nice hotels. There were clear signs on some of them, but I quickly found replacements that were just fine.

Please don’t let that to put you off – the only reason I am writing this is so you are prepared, maybe by the time you visit there may be none at all – it can happen everywhere.

After we ate some snacks, I walked out of the room and was completely shocked..
 I was in the clouds.

zwegabinI don’t have a picture from then, but this is what I mean by being in the clouds. The top of the mountain is completely hidden.

Sunrise? :

The plan was to have a shower, go to bed early and wake up for the sunrise.

We woke up to what sounded like a rain storm outside, I went to check if it’s really that bad and quickly open the door, then closed it even quicker. It was madness.

After seeing the beautiful sunset the previous night and considering getting my only change of dry clothes wet.. I walked back to bed.

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Breakfast :

As mentioned above, it costs 2,000 MMK (£1.20) to have breakfast. I believe it is around the same for lunch and dinner, but I’m not sure. Try to tell them as soon as possible whether you would like to have any meals so they can be prepared in advance.

There are also some snacks and drinks available but it will cost you about double as much as it does at the bottom.. now try to be understanding here. Of course, my first reaction was along the lines of “woah.. this much for..? :o” And then, I was quickly reminded where I was and how difficult I found to go up those stairs.

Now imagine going up those stairs with drinks and food, everyday.

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I put my head down and felt the shame running through my veins. Especially, when going past one of the man carrying the ‘delivery’ on our way down.

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After packing our bags and thanking for our incredible stay, one of the monks invited us to follow him to see his favorite view. Absolutely stunning.

It was also very obvious how much the Monk loves where he lives – he was getting carried away with the pictures as much as we were plus showing us every single shot.

I loved it.

Oh yes, you will most probably be woken up by the hungry monkeys who will be chilling right outside the room or anywhere around the Monastery, waiting for food from the Monks. 🙂

 

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Tips

Be considerate to the ones living at the top of the mountain, as it is a monastery – wear appropriate clothes.

If it rains and your clothes get wet – most probably they will not dry till the morning, due to the damp weather conditions at the top of Mt Zwegabin. So, once again – bring a change of clothes.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget where we actually are and how incredible of an experiencing we are going through. So, whether it’s while watching the sunset, or sitting anywhere at the top of the mountain – try to stop and appreciate the beauty of where you are 🙂 <3

 

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