|8 December 2008
The scenery around Inle Lake, south-west of Shan State’s capital Taunggyi, is breathtaking and one of my favorite places to be in Myanmar. With two of my sisters-in-law and my youngest brother-in-law we stayed in a hotel in Nyaungshwe: a village at the north side of the elongated lake. This is the place where most of the tourists stay for a visit around the lake.
We had breakfast as early as possible and went to the jetty where boatmen with their boats wait to bring locals and tourists to various places around the lake. My Myanmar friend Ko Kalaw Nge accompanied us on this degree confluence visit and has hired the boat of his brother-in-law Ko Nyunt Phe who would bring us to the degree confluence. Most roads around the lake are in a bad condition or are only sandy trails. By boat is the fastest and most efficient way to get to the degree confluence. The confluence is located south of Yebu Village, an eighty-two kilometres and four hours and a half trip by boat and near the shore of another lake far south of Inle Lake.
Water from the surrounding mountains flows into Inle Lake and leaves the lake in the south where the water flows into the Belu Chaung River. At this side of the lake is the Golden Island Cottages Hotel Nampan, build on stilts above the water like many other houses on the lake. In this hotel we had to arrange a permit and a tour conductor of the Pa-O collective who accompanied us while traveling further south. The Pa-O is one of the major tribes living in Shan State.
In December the water in the Belu Chaung River is high and has flooded the surrounding land, making it ideal for growing rice in the dry season. The water on the paddy fields was at least one metre deep, which allowed us to make many shortcuts and we literally sailed over the paddy fields through beautiful coloured lotus flowers.
Halfway the river at Mawbe Bridge is a checkpoint where they inspected the permit before we were allowed to continue our journey. The end of the river is widening before flowing into Inle Lake Deep South. Here is a village called Sagar (Sankar) located on the east shore. Sagar is famous for its beautiful zedi (stupa) ruins standing in the water like a flooded village of old chimneys. This is also the most southern part of Inle Lake where ordinary tourists are allowed. We had to go further south, crossing also this lake and heading for the next. Another full speed hour guided by my GPS receiver brought us to the shore near the degree confluence.
We went ashore and left our boatman. According to my GPS receiver it was only one kilometre in a straight line to the degree confluence, situated halfway on a hill which overlooks the lake and the island Lwe Pan Son to the south. We followed a bullock cart trail in the direction of the degree confluence. Soon we decided to take a strait route walking uphill trough the scrub and bushes and climbing over stones to the waiting degree confluence.
Finally, after many scratches on arms and legs and collecting many sticking seeds to our trousers, we reached the spot. Unfortunately there was nothing interesting to see. Thanks to the bushes there was hardly any view. We were surprised to discover that the degree confluence was along a footpath. If we had known that before, it would have saved us the trouble of going cross country. The footpath was going down to the same trail which we had left too early. But more important than the stumble through the bushes and the disappointing view was the fact that this was my tenth successful degree confluence visit in Myanmar!
We sailed back to Nyaungshwe in three hours and a half where we celebrated our successful degree confluence visit with a dinner party at the home of my friend’s family.