“Hell on Earth” according to Lonely Planet ;-)
After coming back from the monastery on Mt Zwegabin to our guest house in Hpa An we were pretty tired but we had still almost full day ahead of us, and I decided to pay a visit the Saddan cave. Other sights around include temples, monasteries, stupas and nat, by that time I have had enough of those.
I took a pick up to a nearby village travelling on its roof with local people. Some of them were seriously fucked up by betel and kept asking me If i did not want to join the frenzy club yet. Look into his eyes….horror ;-)))
The ride was windy, dusty & a bit rainy, but it was fun to be on the roof. Next – to get a moto taxi to the cave. Once I got off the pick up, i got surrounded by drivers. Price? – 5 000Ks, both ways plus waiting time. What??? The guy at the hotel said – 2 000Ks….After negotiations, the price dropped down only to 4 000Ks…no way, i just walked away. Surprisingly i started walking in the direction of the cave but did not know that yet. One of the drivers chased me and offered 3 000Ks, i continued walking. He chased me again and we agreed upon 2 000Ks, both way plus waiting time. Happily having arrived to the cave I faced two white elephants and staircase leading inside.
The entrance to the cave itself if occupied by buddhas, stupas and golden frescoes. The are already buildings next to the entrance which look like a monastery, here I met a couple of monks. I wonder whether they are going to introduce payment to enter this “holy cave”.
100 meters away from the stupa it became pitch dark and I had to use my head lamp. The cave is quite damp, its floor is wet slippery mud. I had to be quite careful while walking as my feet were “dancing away” in different directions in the darkness. The cave is quite huge. There are some “rooms” which are the size of a medium sized church with the ceiling hiding in the dark. The light from my head lamp could not reach it in some places.
As I came alone, i had to find my way alone. I saw lamps hanging along the way but they were off. I learn later that the lamps will be on, if you come with a guide or a tour. It might be easier, but definitively not so fun as walking alone in the darkness of this creepy place. The cave is full of stalagmites and stalactites standing and hanging around.
Two thirds of the way through the cave there is an opening with some light. From here it will take you another 10-15 minutes to reach the end of the cave, which leads to a small lake.
Not far from the end you will come to this so called “Hell on Earth”. It is a hall with high ceiling full of bats which scream like crazy somewhere up in the darkness. It is quite creepy. But once you get used to the sound it does not seem so scary. I have made a video just to record the sound of these screaming creature for you to feel the atmosphere of complete darkness and this sound.
A bit of walking and you will arrive at the lake. When I came there were several people with boats and decided to take a boat ride for 500Ks.
The captain of the boat was a smiling old man with a towel on his head ;-) No wonder he was so smiley because he was chewing on betel.
The boat took me through a cave(see the video below) to the other part of the lake where met a couple of fishermen. A father and a son. When we were floating out of the cave I caught on my camera the moment when the father was throwing his net into the water. We greeted each other, they were smiley as well. Betel or just being friendly? You never know in Burma.
After the boat trip we returned to the cave and headed back.
On the way back the cave was already lit. All the lamp I had seen before were on and it was much easier to walk. I even did not need my head lamp anymore. First I could not understand, but then started meeting groups of tourists with guides. I met at least three different groups. The cave was not that scary dark inferno full of screaming bats, it was full of tourists.
Strangely all these people were barefoot. I could not understand why the hell all of them were walking in wet slippery mud without shoes. At some point a guy told me that I could not be there (in the dirty cave) in my shoes. I was puzzled. Once I left the cave and was walking down the stairs I saw dozens of pairs of shoes….Now it dawned on me, that this is a “holy” cave and I was supposed to be barefoot. Wait a minute – this is not a temple or a monastery? And do I really have to walk in wet mud? Besides I met two monks upon entering the cave, they said nothing about my shoes…
I still don’t understand why would they require visitors to walk barefoot in the mud. But if you decide to go there with a guide or without you should be ready to this.