Caves full of Buddhist statues, incredible rock formations and a deserted lagoon.
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.