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Pa-An, Kayin State

Mount Zwegabin

Pa-an lies east of Thaton and is a relatively easy bus ride from Yangon, with the journey taking around eight hours. A more attractive route form a landscape point of view, however, is by ferry from Mawlamyaing (Moulmein), which is the capital of Mon State and lies to the south of Pa-an. This four-hour trip takes you up the Thanlwin (Salween) River to the port of Pa-an. A few years ago, ancient cave paintings and inscriptions were found in the mountains surrounding the city, bearing witness to the fact that the region has been inhabited for many centuries.

The city offers relaxation and the opportunity to explore the magnificent countryside all around, either by taxi or motorbike. The moment you set out along the road to Mawlamyaing, you will be stuck by the extraordinary shape of Mount Zwekabin, which the Kayin venerates as a symbol of peace. It is more than 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) high, and is difficult to climb, so you will need to take plenty of water with you. However, an early morning hike, when the mists are creeping across the forested slopes, can be richly rewarding. After a few hours' climb, the narrow jungle paths and steep steps will lead you to the summit, from which on a clear day you will have a superb view over the valley. You will also inevitably find wild monkeys waiting for you, expecting you to fill their stomachs with some delicacy or other. At the foot of Mount Zwekabin is a large field containing thousands of over-lifesize statues of the Buddha.