Like other sacred sites in Myanmar’s Zwegabin mountain range, Saddar Cave has been decorated with hundreds of Buddhist statues over the years.
The landscape around the small town of Hpa’an in Karen State, Myanmar, combines lush open fields and single, bulbous mountains. At the bottom of one such mountain is a steep staircase, painted white. Once at the top, a narrow path leads you into the Saddar Cave, hollowed out of the rock. Buddhist statues, like road signs of all different shapes and sizes, beckon visitors into the darkness.
Hundreds of miniature golden icons not much bigger than playing cards form a mosaic onto the righthand side of the cave. You’ll pass a pagoda about the size of a small van and the light then weakens. Visitors must remove their shoes. Only then does the stench of bat droppings fill the nostrils. Sometimes you can hear the bats shriek.
Inside the mountain, the painted faces of Buddhist sculptures occasionally flicker into view as you wander through the darkness. Karen State is famous for its Buddhist sites, but Saddar Cave is truly a natural wonder, as well as a holy place.
Flash photography illuminates stalactites dripping from the ceiling and stalagmites rise up from the ground, formed over centuries. In one section of the cave a ray of sunshine beams down directly onto one of the largest stalagmites.
The path ends at the entrance to open water, where a local boatman armed with a paddle next to a flat wooden canoe will continue your journey out of the cave and out onto a pristine blue lagoon. Paddle around and watch fisherman source their lunch against a backdrop of the limestone rock face.
Know Before You Go
The Soe Brothers Hostel in Hpa'an arranges travel to Saddar Caves.