Buried deep in the rural hinterland west of the Chindwin River is one of Upper Burma’s less-visited gems, a complex of Buddhist cave temples hol- lowed from a oddly shaped outcrop of sandstone near the village of Pho Win Taung (also known as Hpo Win Daung). The name translates as “Mountain of Solitary Meditation” and the site, which holds more than 520 rock-cut chambers, has about it an aura of great sanctity, despite being in generally poor condi- tion, with no visitor facilities beyond a ticket office and a handful of basic local food stalls.
Carved between the 14th and 18th centuries, the first group of caves, close to the village, con tain numerous wood and stucco Buddhas, and a few retain some vibrant murals of geometric patterns and episodes from the Jatakas. Local guides are on hand to show visitors around – worth employing to help fend off the aggressive macaques who pat- rol the stone steps con necting the various sites. A smaller, more recent complex of 46 rock-cut monuments lies about half a mile (1 km) beyond the village at Shwebataung, where the entrances to the cave chambers are approached via a series of steep stone stair cases hewn from an impressive lime stone cliff face.