Htan San Cave in TaunggyiThe Htan San Cave in Taunggyi
San Cave Hten | Latest for Nowhere
Pa-O Kadetten take a rest from soccer and posing for pictures near Hopong in the south of Shan State. Entering a cave means leaving the easy to see way points that indicate where you are in the game. Situated 42 kilometres eastwards of Taunggyi in the Pa-O countryside of South Shan State, Hten San Cave is no different.
The cave was found by a 10-year-old priest called Shin Borida. He kept his discoveries hidden for a long period of his life, using them as a place of mediation and exchanging them only with the ghosts who were there. Finally, the friar asked these ghosts if he could open the cave to the people.
Troubled minds agreed, but on the condition that a ceremonial be performed to help move to another cave near by, where they would settle and where people would be inadmissible. Shin Borida and other friars performed the ceremonial, and the ghost-free cave Hten San was opened to the general public on 12 February 2009 on the occasion of Union Day.
However, it was not until early 2013, when the city of Hopong was blacklisted from the government's list of restricted areas for foreign nationals, that the cave was made available to the world. From Taunggyi I drove on a rough, winding street through a scenery of sun-burnt mountains and cave-aged rock.
When we arrived in Hten San, we were amazed that the entrance fees for aliens were predatory 20 US$, which the Pa-O ticker found too much. Acknowledging that the famed Pindaya Caves just off Aungban could be seen by aliens for $3, he added that he did not dare to challenge the price system introduced by the cave's curator.
No, but he did offer to lead us through Hten San and then take us to another cave that was not yet open to the people. San Hten proved to be much better than Pindaya, whose inherent beauties are hidden behind the thousand brightly drawn Buddha pictures.
In Hten San, several beautiful Shrines were set up at strategically important locations, but even the unadorned underground surroundings are given a lot of room to live just for their own good. The leader of the cave system declared that the whole cave system was about 6000 ft (1818 meters) long, but so far only about a third of it has been made inaccessible.
Then we came back into the sun and went to the second cave. On the way our leader pointed out the closed entry to the third cave, in which the "spirits and souls" of Hten San are nowadays. "It' unfortunate to step into the ghosts and disrupt them," he said.
Meanwhile, the second cave, known as the Meditation Cave, was even better known as Hten San. According to our leader, the fiduciaries were planning to keep the cave in its original state, except for a small "swimming pool" located on a high cliff and destined for an island called Nan Lu Hyawm, from which the exceptionally pretty Pa-O wives are said to come from the nearby neighborhood.
However, he told us how during World War II during the Allies they escaped by cowering in the cave of Hten San and fleeing through a back door; how 30 years ago the meditation cave of Pa-O was used by Pa-O Daoits to camp the bodies of their homicides; and how the area was interspersed with "bottomless" dirt holes into which the above mentioned Daoits were tossed when they were caught by Pa-O village dwellers.
Meanwhile, Hopong has been a flash point for malicious battles between the Myanmar military and the Pa-O insurgents until the early 90s when treaties of war were signed. Now the area is at rest, and Shin Borida has a large fan base among the natives, many of whom are emulating him by eating strictly vegetable food.
While visiting Hten San Cave, some monks waiting for the monks to appear every day hung in a pavillion near by, where free vegeterian food was catered for. As we walked past a large building that Shin Borida's followers had made for his mom, we paused to take pictures of a group of pre-adolescent Pa-O squads wearing disguise and running around in soccer.
In the convent we were informed that the worshipped friar had just gone to Hten San Cave - maybe he had come by while we were photographing the Cadet. If we had known Shin Borida and had used his power to explore my brain, he would have discovered a little dismay at the $20 entrance fees and profane unvegetarian thoughts about drowning my fangs in a delicious Hopong deep-fryer.