musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Shan State Cave

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During the trip I took with the group from 90th Street in Mandalay to Shan State back in March, we visited a huge cave. Located about an hour’s drive from Taunggyi, Htam Sam Cave is a very impressive natural attraction, more interesting in my mind than the more famous Pindaya Caves, also in Shan State. It’s also much bigger and easier to navigate.

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As usually happens during these trips, I let Ko Maw Hsi and our driver, U Kyaw, select a few sights to see and this was one of their picks. I’d only vaguely heard of this cave before, knowing that it was “discovered” by some villagers only a few years ago and until very recently foreigners were not even allowed to visit. But now that permission has been granted, foreigners are welcome, uh, just as long as you pay the steep $20 entrance fee. That’s right, twenty US bucks! Compare that to the $5 charge at Pindaya and something seems out of whack. When the monk at the ticket table announced the fee, I audibly gasped and expressed my outrage. And when they told me that I would have to give back the laminated “pass” that my twenty dollars bought when I was finished with my tour of the cave, I expressed even louder disapproval. “For twenty dollars I think I should get some sort of souvenir to keep,” I suggested.

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At this point I was speaking so loudly that I may have been scaring the monk and his comrades, so he quickly granted my request, no doubt hoping that I’d get the hell out of the way before I made a total scene. Usually I’m not so demanding and belligerent, but the high ticket price really did throw me for a loop and wasn’t going to meekly accept it without voicing my opinion. In any case, the caves themselves really were impressive. If you’re in the Taunggyi area, it’s well worth a visit.

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