Photo: Gorgeous Zwegabin.

Zwegabin

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The massive and dramatic limestone outcrop known as Zwegabin dominates the landscape around Hpa-an. At some 725 metres, this is the highest and largest of the myriad jagged karst formations that jut abruptly out of the otherwise pancake flat paddy-fields here. The Karen consider the outcrop sacred and it has become Kayin State’s symbol. Hpa-an’s football team is even called Zwegabin United.





Zwegabin is the area’s main tourist draw. Apart from actually scaling the mountain itself you can visit numerous caves, temples and sites that dot the foot of its sheer limestone cliffs. The entire region was once a shallow, tropical sea, where shells and coral hardened over millions of years to form limestone deposits and where surrounding softer strata have since been eroded, leaving these spectacular features rising out of and dominating the plains. Aeons of rain and underground watercourses carved the caverns, tunnels and chambers you see today.

Beautiful Zwegabin seen from Kyauk Kalat. Photo taken in or around Zwegabin, Hpa-an, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Beautiful Zwegabin seen from Kyauk Kalat. Photo: Mark Ord

As is true of many Buddhist areas (though of course these days many Burmese Karen are Christian), any cave worth its name is worth a temple conversion. The most famous in Zwegabin are Saddar and Kaw Kathawng, with the former lying at the far southeastern end of the massif and the latter northwest, closer to town. Saddar is a walk-through cavern with pool and boat trip awaiting on the far side to take you back to the entrance, while Kaw Kathawng comprises a series of shallower cave temples.

Other notable karst formations include the spectacular limestone, stupa-topped pinnacle of Kyauk Kalat. This picturesque and much photographed temple lies on a small man-made island in a scenic pool, with the Zwegabin cliffs providing a backdrop. Kyauk Kalat is on the western side of the massif and is conveniently located between Saddar and Kaw Kathawng, close to popular Lumbini Gardens or ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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