Sardar Caves – Hpa An, Myanmar (Burma)

like other holy places In Myanmar’s Tswegabin Mountains, Sardar Cave has been adorned with hundreds of Buddha statues over the years.

The landscape surrounding the small town of Hpa-an in Myanmar’s Kayin State combines lush open fields with a single bulbous mountain range. At the base of such a mountain is a steep staircase, painted white. Once at the top, a narrow path leads you into Sardar Cave, hollowed out of the rock. Buddha statues are like signposts of various shapes and sizes, beckoning visitors in the dark.

Hundreds of tiny golden icons not much bigger than playing cards form a mosaic on the right side of the cave. You’ll pass a pagoda the size of a minivan before the light fades. Visitors must take off their shoes. The stench of bat droppings fills the nostrils. Sometimes you can hear the screeching of bats.

Inside the mountain, the painted faces of Buddha statues flashed from time to time as you walked in the dark. Karen State is famous for its Buddhist sites, but Sadar Cave is truly a natural wonder as well as a holy place.

Flashing lights illuminate stalactites that drip from the ceiling and stalagmites that rise from the ground, all formed over centuries. In one part of the cave, a shaft of sunlight shines directly on one of the largest stalagmites.

The trail ends at the entrance to the open water, where local boatmen will continue your journey from flat wooden canoes, paddles in hand, out of the caves and into the pristine blue lagoon. Paddle around and watch fishermen hunt for lunch against the backdrop of limestone rock walls.

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