Climbing the steep trail up to Mt Zwegabin Monastery, led me on a hot and humid adventure to a spectacular view of Hpa An. After three weeks in Myanmar, this experience was my favorite along with exploring the temples in Bagan.
How to get to Mt Zwegabin
The first thing you will need to do is organize your transport to Mt Zwegabin. It is possible to have a taxi or tour take you there but I suggest renting a motorcycle or moped. I was staying at Soe Brother’s guesthouse and downstairs is a very friendly, English speaking man who runs ‘Gud Luck Motorcycle’. He gave us a moped and two helmets for 6000 kyat for 24 hours, approximately 5 USD. The taxi will take you there for about 4000 kyat, but probably not at three in the morning.s
I decided it would be a good idea to wake up at three in the morning so if there was a sunrise we would be at the top to witness the magic. I was visiting in September so it was an early start for no sun but you can’t win them all.
From Hpa An. you will want to drive for about thirty minutes to the Lumbini Garden entrance. From the road, you will see a big red and golden arch on your left-hand side. Turn down this road and drive past the rows of Buddha statues. Keep driving until you hit a dead end with temples and buildings surrounding you. The trail begins here through another small arch.
There is another entrance on road 85. It’s known to be steeper and a quicker journey to the top.
How long is the trek to Mt Zwegabin
The trek is very steep and mostly stairs. It can get quite grueling on the quads. Therefore it really depends on your physical shape as to how long this trek takes. For an in shape, young ahtletic type of person it could be done in just over an hour. For the average human being who dislikes stairs budget about two hours.
* I found this Myanmar Itinerary helpful as I planned my backpacking travels throughout the country.
I also hiked Hpan Pu Mountain while in Hpa An
Hiking to Mount Zwegabin Monastery
The hike does not ease you in at all. At four in the morning, we found ourselves on a natural stair climber, in what felt like 100% humidity. Make sure you bring a torch or at least a phone light as the trail has drop-offs at times and you could be in big trouble without light.
At the top of the mountain is a huge golden Stupa and a monastery. Monks live and practice here so be respectful at the top, remove your shoes and leave a small donation if you like.
Hot tip: don’t open any food at the top as you will soon enter a full-blown battle with the local monkeys. I’ve been across Asia and these monkeys were the craziest I’ve encountered. I carried my water bottle as a weapon (of self-defense of course) as I tried to walk around the monastery. One large monkey, in particular, hated me and kept charging, snarling and scaring the shit out of me. They all retreated to the forest after 9 am.
We arrived at the top Mt Zwegabin at 6 am but we were inside of a cloud and couldn’t see any of the views. We patiently waited as bit by bit the cloud blew off. It never entirely cleared but our patience was rewarded as there were many moments we had a great view. We deserved it as we ended up spending five hours at the top enjoying the view when we had it. In the summer months, the weather may be clearer.
If you head down the back of the Monastery there is a toilet block. It may not sound like the best spot but we chilled up here with a huge dropoff below us, dangling our legs over the edge and watching the fog roll by. It’s my favorite spot in the monastery and much cooler than next to the big stupa.
Stay safe and happy hiking.