Meanwhile, back in the cave, all is pandemonium! The kids from Tat Ein village are exploring and touching, laughing and shrieking. Was that a bat that just flew by? Aaaahhhh!!! And, of course, everyone is posing for the camera. Hey, gotta have some photos to show the folks at home!
We had over 90 people in the group — mostly students and novice monks from the village, but also some teachers and parents — so I was slightly concerned that we might lose a few of them while traipsing through the stalagmites and stalactites, but I certainly wasn’t to keep count of them all; let the teachers and senior monks round them up if anyone went missing.
The site of our explorations on this day was Htam Sam Cave, a relatively unknown (at least among foreign tourists) cave, but a mighty impressive one, in Shan State, about a 1-hour drive from Taunggyi. The cave boasts huge ceilings and some very cool rock formations. Alas, no flocks of bats flying around inside (at least in the regions that we explored) but plenty of Buddha statues and shrines.
The main concern, other than losing a few kids, was making sure nobody fell down or had any accidents while in the cave. There were shallow pools of water in some areas, making the ground quite slippery. And naturally, the curious children had to touch every wet rock or weird looking stalagmite that they saw, plus they couldn’t resist the urge to run around and chase one another. Just kids being kids!
Admission to the cave is free for locals, but if you are a foreigner, you’ll be forced to pay a $20 admission fee. Comparing that to zone fees at nearby Inle Lake or the more famous Pindaya Caves, the ticket for Htam Sam Cave is way over-priced, but then again it truly is a spectacular natural wonder and well worth a visit.