The inspiration for the Hpa-An Lodge emerged during a dinner in Yangon among a group of Burmese and foreign friends who have been living and working in Myanmar for many years. They thought that while the southern states were open for tourism, the region lacked anything in the way of high quality accommodation. With the goal of attracting visitors away from the established tourist circuit to an exciting new destination, they set about realising their dream.
A French carpenter and local designers were hired to build a cluster of wooden cottages at the foot of Mount Zwekabin, a spectacular limestone outcrop which rises from emerald rice paddies. The 18 individual cottages are built from pyinkado, a hardwood similar to teak that is abundant in the region.
Hpa-An Lodge, Karen State’s first boutique property, is run by an experienced European General Manager, and supports the local community by employing 60 people from nearby villages who have been trained to the highest hospitality standards.
Experience the unique culture of Myanmar’s Karen and Mon regions
Myanmar is finally opening up after years of isolation. Foreign tourists are now able to travel to previously inaccessible areas of the country, including Karen and Mon states, two fascinating and beautiful regions in the southeast.
Fringed by the Andaman Sea and its thousands of islands to the west and the Dawna Hills, a range of mountains which borders Thailand to the east, the area showcases some of Myanmar’s most spectacular scenery. A patchwork of hills and plains punctuated by limestone karsts is bisected by the majestic Salween River, which flows more than 2,000 kilometres from its source in Tibet through Myanmar until it reaches the Andaman at Moulmein.
Buddhist pagodas and shrines dedicated to forest and field spirits are dotted around a landscape that is abundant with verdant rice paddies, teak forests and groundnut plantations. Spirituality, which forms an essential component of the region’s rich cultural tapestry, is evident in its network of caves where generations of artists have decorated the walls with Buddha images.
Visitors to the region will also be enamoured by the warm welcome on offer. Karen and Mon people are renowned for their generosity, hospitality and relaxed approach to life. Local traditions proved resilient throughout Myanmar’s long period of isolation, enabling people visiting the region today to immerse themselves in authentic cultural www.hpa-an-lodge.com experiences.
Land area: 12,055 km 2 (size of Qatar)
Population (according to the 2014 census): 2.05 million. Mon communities also live in Karen State and the Irrawaddy Delta. Mon account for about 2 per cent Myanmar’s population.
Capital: Moulmein (Mawlamyine or Mawlamyaing).Population: 300,000–500,000.
Religion: Buddhist (majority), Muslim and Christian minorities, animist.
Languages: Mon, from the Mon-Khmer family of languages, is still spoken by many Mon although most speak Burmese as a first language.
History: The Mon, like the Karen and some other ethnic groups, originated on the Tibetan plateau, were also among the first people to settle in Myanmar. They also introduced Buddhism to the country. The Mon ruled over the southern half of the country until the 11th century when their capital, Thaton, was taken over by a Burmese king. Recent history has seen armed conflict between rebel forces and central government, but a ceasefire has brought peace to the state.
Land area: 30,400 km 2 (roughly the size of Belgium)
Population (according to the 2014 census): 1.5 million. The majority of the local population is ethnic Karen. Other large Karen communities live in Yangon, the Irrawaddy Delta and the Bago region. Karen account for about 7 per cent of Myanmar’s population.
Capital: Hpa-An. Population: 50,000–126,000 - Religion: Buddhist majority, Christian minority. These religions also incorporate animist rituals. - Languages: There are a dozen Karen dialects. The two main dialects are Pwo Karen, mainly spoken by Buddhist communities in the plains, and Sgaw Karen, spoken in Christian hill areas.
History: With roots in the Tibetan plateau, the Karen were among the first people to inhabit Myanmar. Karen State was home to an armed struggle between Karen separatists and Myanmar’s central military government ever since the country won independence from British rule in 1948. A reconciliation process led to a cease-fire in 2012 and pacification has continued since. It is hoped that building an integrated tourist infrastructure and sustainable development that is respectful to local culture can help further stabilise the region and generate an income for its people.