The underworld of myanmar
It is dark, cold and humid. I’m stumbling with no shoes over sharp stones and bat excrement deeper into this cave. In front of me a huge stalagmite is building up. I try to keep my balance on the slippery ground. He must be build up in thousands of years. A fresh breeze of wind from behind reminds me that I have almost reached the exit of the cave. The first sunbeams fall into the darkness and reveal the true extent of this cave.
I am on the way in the caves around Hpa-an. In the karst mountains of the Kayin state in eastern Myanmar, these idyllic and almost mystical places have been formed millennia ago. Caves are considered a sanctuary in the Buddhist faith of Myanmar. For this reason, they can only be entered barefoot. An often very unpleasant challenge. But the size and variety of the cave systems then compensate for the physical inconvenience. And after a day in the sun, the coolness is a welcome refreshment.
The caves are decorated with various religious inlays. Stupas, Buddha statues and smaller temples bear witness to homage. In the walls are particularly beautiful reliefs hit. A paradise for the photographer, a sanctuary for the religious and a place of wonder for the visitor.
Charm of nature
The way to Hpa-an was well chosen. Lying sixty kilometers from Mawlamyaing, we cover the distance by boat. A very special way of moving. Here are still views of nature, which have long been lost in the bus. We stop at small villages, enjoy the hospitality of the people, visit rarely discovered temples, which are not listed on any map. Nature still has the charm of the untouched, civilization is still largely occupied with itself.
And even in the mountains around the village many roads are only accessible via dusty pistes. This limits the number of visitors very much. Either borrow a moped or rent a driver for a day. Larger visitor crowds are not to be expected. And Hpa-an also makes a pretty provincial impression. Although mentioned in the guidebooks, no tourist scene has yet formed. The few culinary highlights have to be found and accommodations are rare.
Not only the caves are a highlight of this region. The karst mountains provide several hours of climbing, which are rewarded with great views. In the evenings, small fires bring a veil of mystery about the land. Picturesque stupas point to heaven on pinnacles.
I return to this area a year later. A ride on the bike through the heat of the Kayin State with its red dust is one of the most beautiful routes that Myanmar has to offer.
And which place is named after an amphibian – Hpa means frog. So much originality must be visited, even twice.