Site Name:Phar Pawn Caves
Area: La Mu Khoe, Kyaik Maraw Township, Mon State, Myanmar
Site Description: Phar Pawn is a pagoda located within a natural limestone cave, with a huge network of caverns behind and below. Despite being in Mon State, the area itself is majority Kayin as are the surrounding villages. The cave network is very extensive and you should not enter without a guide, it is said that someone recently tried this and got lost for two whole days. The caves are very impressive inside and are still in an entirely natural state, there has been no clearing of rubble or attempt to create a path for tourists. This also means there is an abundance of wildlife including bats, worms and spiders. The sheer size of some of the caverns and the incredible rock formations within make this one of the best natural caves in Myanmar, and it’s natural state makes it perfect for those seeking adventure. If you’re looking for a site where few foreigners have yet been, this is one to check out.
There is no entrance fee at the site and the local guides are all volunteers, but it is recommended to make a donation at the pagoda if you enjoy the experience. Another great thing about this site is that you can enjoy a free lunch in the monastery after your tour.
Travel Advice: Due to the terrible condition of the dirt roads to the site it can take up to two and a half hours to reach from Mawlamyine. The roads really require an enclosed 4WD to avoid choking on the dust and being thrown about by the potholes and ruts. A new road is planned for 2014 but construction has not yet begun. There are currently no official tours running to the site, but local tour companies or your hotel can arrange transport for you upon request.
It is not recommended to go during the wet season as much of the cave fills with water and becomes inaccessible.
Be Aware: As this is a sacred Buddhist site footwear should be removed as you enter, this includes during the caving. If you are worried about walking through a lot of mud and bat poo, this is not for you. You should dress respectfully and cover shoulders, knees and cleavage at all times. These caves are not suitable for children, the elderly, anyone with medical conditions that prevent physical activity or anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. If you consider yourself clumsy I would also steer clear, there are many slippery ledges with long drops which could cause serious injury or death if you fall. No safety equipment is available at the site, but it is recommended to wear comfortable clothing and bring a torch as you will be doing a lot of climbing and the caves have no natural light. Local guides do not speak English, only Kayin and Myanmar, but pay close attention to what they show you within the caves for your own safety.
The major roads which go in and out of this area also connect to some townships in Kayin state which are forbidden for foreigners to visit. Make sure you are aware of where you are and aren’t allowed to go to avoid any unwanted trouble.