"Darling, we really should go to this cave. It's called Saddar or Saddan or maybe Seder? Whatever. It's a temple so you have to walk barefoot. Through 15 minutes of bat poo. It's amazing."
Neil's eyes glazed over happily at the thought of trotting through smushy black matter in the near dark. Across the table, Jess sat with her eyebrows raised, slightly less enthusiasm smattered across her face.
And then she thought, "We may never get the chance to see this place again."
This is always the impetus that inspires us to do and see anything - the possibility that the opportunity will be lost to us forever. It's certainly been our motivator to go the extra mile in this country, and we weren't about to stop now.
So we got up from lunch in Win Sein and rode 20km to Ein Du, which is a small town situated right outside the Sadan Cave. It was like a homecoming welcome parade when we cycled through the main street, with people waving and cheering us on. As we knew that the more direct route to the cave itself wasn't on Google Maps, we kept our eyes peeled for any signs that might direct us there. But we needn't worried. The townsfolk seemed to read our minds and kept shouting "Sadan? That way! That way!" until we reached the dirt track. Grinning with triumph, we turned right and prepared to take on the next seven kilometers with great gusto.
The road was one of those lovely red dirt tracks that crisscross Southeast Asia in your imagination (and pretty often in reality, too). Although bumpy and consequently unpleasant for Jess in particular, whose saddle was really starting to bite by this point, it wasn't all that much slower than a paved road, as long as it doesn't get wet. We had to ride over a stretch which had just been hosed down by someone presumably trying to keep the dust down, and the resultant clay clogged everything up and hauled us to a halt within metres.
It took us more than 30 minutes to finally reach the cave itself. But there's a reason why the phrase, "No pain, no gain" was invented. Because at the end of that road was this:
And eventually this:
It's truly another plane of existence, this. As the captain, Neil unfortunately had to concentrate on navigating us through the grit and grime, but Jess in the back had all the freedom in the world to look around. Gone were the honking trucks, steep hills, and unforgiving heat - that all suddenly seemed a million lightyears away.
We rode up, parked our bike under an awning of trees, and were immediately pounced upon by excited locals. A wee boy about 6 years old was egged on by a group of laughing monks to speak a few words to us in English, and we happily played along.
The experience through the cave can only be visually described.
A hush came over us. In the blink of an eye, we had been transported back in time.
It was quiet and still, the wind ruffling the leaves in the trees and the fisherman boats making the lake ripple slightly. A few locals were hanging about, waiting to take interested parties in one of those boats across the water, as well as a handful of other tourists who had followed us through the cave. But it was as if everyone had received the decree to keep their mouths shut. Slight murmuring persisted, but on the whole, it was incredibly muted and silent.
We took one of the boats out across the lake and onto one of the rivers threaded throughout the surrounding land and felt the peace and tranquility consume us.
Words can't adequately express what we felt when we were there. We will most likely be coming to terms with this experience for a long time to come.
The Germans call that "Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung".