Akauk Taung cliff carvings, some two hours by motorbike from Pyay, is well worth making the effort to reach for those with the time as while, back to brass tacks, it is just a series of carvings in a cliff face, it is actually far more from that, taking in a long ride through very attractive rural scenery, a small village and a boat trip.
To reach the site you will first need to hire a motorbike in Pyay for the ride to Akauk Taung, some two hours away. While you could in theory ride this yourself, there is almost no signposting and the final turn off the main road is not signposted in English at all. We opted for a guide, which didn’t massively increase the cost of the trip — though it turned out he didn’t know where the site was either — at least he had the language skills to ask for directions.
Once you reach the village of Tonbo, you’ll need to hire a boat for the 30 minute downriver trip to the carvings — even in the pouring rain, we had no problems sorting this out — they’ll find you.
The story goes that back in the day this was a taxation point with all passing boat traffic having to pay a levy before passing onwards. On occasions like ours, when the weather totally sucked, boatmen may have anchored for a stretch before moving on. While they waited, they’d pray for good fortune and perhaps carve a Buddha into the cliff front.
The carvings stretch for a long way, across a series of cliffs, becoming increasingly elaborate along the way — while the reclining Buddhas are particularly impressive, there are hundreds of carvings all up. Towards the end of the cliff, there is a place where your boat can tie up and you can then follow a cliff-face trail that leads up eventually to a cliff-top pagoda from where you can enjoy views up and down the river (weather permitting).
Watch your footing along the trail as there is no guardrail and after rain it can be very slippery, with a sheer drop down to the water.
To visit here from Pyay will take the best part of a day — especially if you get lost repeatedly. Nevertheless, if you have the time up your sleeve, it is worth doing.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 3rd August, 2015.