Caves provide a natural shrine room to honour Lord Buddha

Aung Kyaw Tha

CAVE exploration, as a holiday activity, is widely popular throughout the world. But, unlike in other countries, caving is not popular for recreational purposes among local people. Most caves known in Myanmar are full of Buddha images. So, in Myanmar for Myanmar nationals, cave exploration is either for a pilgrimage, traditional and cultural festival or professional studies.

Recently, however, foreign visitors have begun visiting the caves, either as part of a professional excursion or as tourists (mostly vacationing anthropologists and archaeologists). According to sources from tourism industry, some scholars and academics like anthropologists and archaeologists mostly from Europe and Japan visited Myanmar caves for exploration on a professional basis. Altogether, there are fourteen cave exploration sites in Myanmar according to sources from tourism industry. They are three cave sites in southern Shan State, one in Mandalay Division, two in Mon State and eight in Kayin State.

Among the caves in Shan State are Pyadalin cave, where primitive people of the Stone Age lived, near Ywar Ngan Township; Myinmahti cave near Kalaw Township; and, Pindaya Shwe-oo-min cave in Pindaya Township.  One cave site in Mandalay Division is Peik-chin-myaung cave in Pyin Oo Lwin Township.

There are two caves in Mon State, Bayinnyi cave in Thahtone Township and Khayone cave in Kyeikmayaw Township. Eight caves can be found in Kayin State. They are Sadan cave, Phakat cave, Htaungwi cave, Yathepyan cave, Kokgon cave, Wepyan cave, Pathone cave, and Kokka-thaung cave.  U Thet Zaw Naing from Supreme Services Team (SST) Tourism Company Limited told Myanmar Times that Pyadalin and Myinmahti caves are very rarely visited by tourists or local people. "The significance of Pyadalin cave is that the existence of murals which are believed to date back more than 10,000 years," he said. Pyadalin cave is a dead-end cave.  The significance of Myinmahti cave is that it is not a dead-end. People can walk through to the other end of the cave.

Among caves in Myanmar, Pindaya Shwe-oo-min and Peik-chin-myaung caves are regularly visited by tourists. "Almost every tourist coming to Shan State visits Pindaya Shwe-oo-min cave and those coming to Pyin Oo Lwin visit Peik-chin-myaung cave," said U Thet Zaw Naing. "There are about 8000 Buddha images of varying sizes, an ancient Buddha image made of bamboo, and many stalactites in Pindaya Shwe-oo-min cave," he said. "And there is a legendary saying that there is a tunnel in that cave which reaches Bagan, in the central part of Myanmar," he added. As of Peik-chin-myaung cave of Pyin Oo Lwin, many local people like to take baths in the water coming out from the cave.

All the eight caves in Kayin State have traditional festival during the water festival in April each year.  "Local people visit caves and celebrate the water festival, and it is quite famous," he said.  Of the two caves in Mon State, Sadan cave has significance.

"Kyauk thway can be found in Sadan cave, it is a walk-through cave, and world’s smallest mammal – bats – can also be found," he said. Kuayk thway is a kind of soil in black colour. When it is dissolved in water, its colour changed into blood colour. People believe that drinking Kyauk thway dissolved water can increase their energy. SST Tourism Company is planning to launch the first cave trip in Myanmar in November. "We started writing the itinerary for a cave trip in March this year. We plan to launch a web site of our cave trip very soon, as this will be the first formal cave trip in Myanmar," he said.

 • The Union of Myanmar
 • The challenge ahead
 • See Myanmar from a luxury
 • Taking a look around town
 • Sit back and take a luxury
   river journey to Mandalay
 • First arrived as a tourist, but
   found it impossible to leave
 • Meditation: the best way to
relax during your holidays
 • Beat the heat and take a taxi
 • A holiday spent by the ocean
   will wash your troubles away
 • Wherever you spend the
    night, Myanmar pays a rich
 • Four wheel drive into the
 • A land of ethnic diversity
   linked  by a common bond
 • Caves provide a natural shrine
    room to honour Lord Buddha
 • The annual journey by
   pilgrims keeps history and
   beliefs alive
 • Tasting regional cuisine is one
   of joys of travelling
 • Search for a whale shark
   leads  to treasure
 • Elephant trekking is a rare
   experience outside Myanmar
 • Let the natural mineral springs
   of  Lashio sooth your aches
   and pains
 • The life of a tour guide