Lush green paddy fields and limestone cliffs create a beautiful landscape in southeastern Burma’s Karen State, home to the ethnic Karen people.
The Kawgun cave, a natural limestone cavern, is about two miles from the state capital Pa-an, and can be reached by motorbike on a cement road. Along the way, a bridge crosses over the Salween River, where police and military officers once checked the IDs of anyone who passed, though the checkpoint has been removed since the political reforms of 2011.
Many visitors, including foreign tourists, stop at the Kawgun cave, which is filled with Buddha statues and Buddhist artifacts dating back to the seventh century. Ethnic Mon people also travel to worship there, driving cars and motorbikes from Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, which borders Karen State.
During a visit by The Irrawaddy, Karen monks were taking care of cave grounds. Some monks
said the cave had been damaged by a government-owned cement factory that is situated on the west bank of the Salween River. They said the cement company routinely blasts the mountains of the Kawgun area to extract limestone. Buddha images in the cave have been cracked as a result.
At a swimming pond near the cave, local people and youths splash and play in the water.