The definitive landform among the many outlandish limestone outcrops and massifs blistering the otherwise flat terrain beyond Hpa-an is Mount Zwegabin (2,373 ft/732 m), whose forested flanks surge upward from the vivid green rice fields. Legend has it that the hill is the home of local spirits and souls.
Reached via a steep flight of stone and cement steps, Zwegabin’s summit holds a small, lonely monastery, staffed by a couple of young monks who welcome visits from the odd party of pilgrims willing to brave the heat and the vora- cious troops of macaques that patrol the approach path. After a stiff hike of around two hours, the effort is repaid with an astounding view that is at its most sublime around sunrise. To reach the top in time, how- ever, visitors will have to set out in the middle of the night, as foreigners are no longer permitted to spend the night in the monastery.