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most likely have to hire a tuk-tuk (K5000) or
motorcycle taxi (K3500) from Hpa-an.

Kawgun Cave CAVE
(admission K3000, camera K500) Ferreted away
in these remote southern hills is a secret
gallery of Buddhist art and sculpture. The
7th-century artwork of the Kawgun Cave
consists of thousands of tiny clay buddhas
and carvings plastered all over the walls and
roof of this open cavern.
Down at ground level newer buddha stat-
ues stand and recline in various lazy posi-
tions. This gallery was constructed by King
Manuaha after he was defeated in battle and
had to take sanctuary in these caves. Impres-
sive as it is today you can only imagine what
it was like a few years back, before a cement
factory, in its quest for limestone, started dy-
namiting the nearby peaks – the vibrations
caused great chunks of the art to crash to
the fl oor and shatter.

Yathaypyan Cave CAVE

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Just over a mile away from Kawgun Cave and
built by the same exiled king, is the Yathay-
pyan Cave, which is a proper cave rather than
a cavern and contains several pagodas as well
as a few more clay wall carvings. If you’re
there during the dry season (approximately
November to April) and have a torch you can
traverse the cave, which takes about 10 min-
utes, after which you’ll emerge at a viewpoint.

Standing proud in the middle of a small, arti-
fi cial lake is Kyauk Kalap, a tall fi nger of sheer
rock mounted by one of the most unlikely
pagodas in Myanmar. The rock off ers great
views of the surrounding countryside and
nearby Mt Zwegabin, and is allegedly the best
place to see the sunset over this mountain.
The compound is a working monastery and
is closed every day from 12pm to 1pm to allow
the monks to meditate. The 30 or so monks
here are vegetarian and free vegetarian food
is served from the temple from 9am to 5pm.
The monastery is also where the highly
respected monk U Winaya, whose solid sup-
port of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is
well known in Myanmar, fi rst resided. U Wi-
naya passed away several years ago and his
body was entombed in a glass case at Tha-
manyat Kyaung, another monastery about
25 miles southeast of Hpa-an. On one night in

April 2007, the monk’s body was stolen (alleg-
edly by soldiers) and has yet to be recovered.
To get to Kyauk Kalap, you can hire a mo-
torcycle taxi from Hpa-an (K2500) or take
a motorised trishaw from Hpa-an market
area to Kawd Kyaik village (along the road
to Mawlamyine) for K500. From there it’s an
easy 10-minute walk.
The descent down the east side of the
mountain takes around 1½ hours, and from
the bottom it’s another 2 miles to the main
road from where you can catch a pick-up
truck back to town. The whole trek takes
roughly six hours or about half a day.
To get to the mountain, there’s a pick-up
(K1000, Monday to Friday) at 8am on Ohn
Taw St in Hpa-an, in front of the high school.
You’ll be dropped off at the Zwegabin junc-
tion, where it’s a 15-minute walk through a
village to the base of the mountain on the
west side past hundreds (1150 to be precise –
don’t believe us? Get counting!) of identical
buddha statues lined up row after row. Alter-
natively, a motorcycle taxi from Hpa-an to the
base of the mountain costs K2500. It’s pos-
sible to overnight on the fl oor of the monas-
tery compound on the summit (give a healthy
donation), which means you can also appre-
ciate the fantastic sunsets. Hiring your own
transport – someone to drop you off on one
side and pick you up on the other – makes
everything run smoother.

Saddar Cave CAVE
This huge cave is simply breathtaking. As you
enter the football stadium-sized cavern you’ll
be greeted by (what else?) dozens of bud-
dha statues, a couple of pagodas and some
newer clay wall carvings, but the real treat
lies beyond these relics. In absolute darkness
(bring a torch; otherwise for a donation of
K3000, they’ll turn on the lights for you) you
can scramble for 15 minutes through black
chambers as high as a cathedral, truck-sized
stalactites and, in places, walls of crystal.
To add to the general atmosphere, thou-
sands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of
bats cling to the cave roof. In places the
squealing from them is deafening and the
ground underfoot becomes slippery with
bat excrement!
Emerging at the cave’s far side, the won-
ders only increase and the burst of sunlight
reveals an idyllic secret lake full of ducks and
fl owering lilies hidden in a bowl of craggy
peaks. There is another cave on the far side of
the lake that is actually half fl ooded, but local
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