Myanmar: Hpa-An Lodge
For an authentic and unspoiled taste of Southeast Asia’s exotic flavor,the Hpa-An Lodge is the exclusive off-the-grid getaway nested at the base of the breathtaking Mount Zwe Kabin. The protective mountain looms overhead, piercing a dense cloud of tropical mist for an added aura of magic. Laden with winding nature trails, the land’s prominent wildlife is marked by tropical jungle animals, thick reeds of bamboo, lush palms and over 800 species of birds. This region of Myanmar has only recently become open to tourism, the property itself has been fully operational since 2014. Previously a completely untamed plot of dense forestry, the 18 residences of Hpa-An Lodge were conceived and carefully constructed within a year and a half by a collective of visionary Europeans and is currently managed by a hospitable French couple.
For ease of access and maximum exposure to Hpa-An’s hidden treasures, it is highly recommended to secure a professional guide to navigate the virtually untouched scenery of Southern Myanmar. This inland property is cradled into a fertile valley and is a short distance from bordering ancient cities, sacred religious sites and revered local monasteries. You are greeted with an overwhelming welcome of warmth and enthusiasm from a local fanfare that treasures the uncommon opportunity to usher in new guests to their homeland.
At the Lodge, the individual and duplex stilted cottages are arranged throughout the property to behold ultimate privacy and gorgeous views. Constructed from locally resourced stone and wooden planks, the “Karen Style” architecture denotes a simple roof line, large clerestory windows, covered balconies and decoratively exposed structural elements. The cottages are completely self-sufficient and equipped with climate control and a plethora of modern amenities. They are pristine residences with clean contours and simple finishes of wicker, wood, cotton and stone intended to mirror the native ways of harmonious integration with nature, especially by means of indoor/outdoor spatial composition and an overall design that reflects a deep appreciation of the outdoors. Well-placed accents of brilliant orange and streaks of sunlight that dance along the upholstery curate an aesthetic that evolves from sunrise to sunset. Spacious bathrooms, lofty living spaces and bedrooms with adjoining balconies all pay homage to the luminous mountain view. Looking out the windows, these phenomenally framed vistas are all the decoration that could be desired within these walls. Additionally, the service staff is especially endearing, every detail is heartfelt and considerate as seen by the charming presentation of freshly folded laundry and complimentary gifts.
Under a thatched roof, the lodge restaurant serves meals throughout the day from a menu of local and international cuisine augmented by a variety of weekly special dishes. Heavily influenced by neighboring cultures, culinary plates are characterized by the inclusion of flavors such as fermented seafood, fish sauces, unique salads, glass noodles, and pickled tea leaves. Along with open-air dining, the property offers a turquoise tiled lap pool, traditional live entertainment could be arranged, manicured garden paths alongside ponds often graced by swans and even mountain bike rentals to blaze through the nearby trails.
Hpa-An Lodge is centrally located and primed to procure memorable day-trips. For religious significance or simply the striking physical phenomenon, one can visit the famed Dat-da-lun Monastery, the numerous limestone caves of worship saturated in historical imagery, a variety of gilded pagodas and relics, as well as the landmark of Karen State that hosts a remarkable display of thousands of identical Buddha statues in a sacred paddy field of solitude. Private guides can usher you through the dense forest and unpaved roads to partake and observe many other interesting activities such as the bustling food markets, annual festivals, Burmese Kinnayi Kinnaya dancing or a champagne sunset cruise aboard a traditional wooden riverboat on the Than Lwin. Witnessing Burmese daily life is an essential part of the experience in Myanmar as it sets the tone for a mystical yet uplifting mindset gauged by the sheer joy emulating from the genuinely gracious native people.
This sublime countryside is an untamed setting perfected for groups, couples, individuals and phenomenal bespoke experiences to be treasured before the onset of major development efforts. Other than your traveling companions, you may encounter less than a handful of other tourists throughout your stay. You can completely set your own standard of leisure, relaxation and curious enjoyment. The profound looming peak and enchanting ascent of Mount Zwe Kabin are alone enough to humbly transform one’s perspective of the world.