Temples and underground rivers of the distant Myanmar
Geographical Area: Indocina peninsula - Myanmar - Shan State, Central-Eastern Myanmar, about 700 km north-east of Yangon.
The peninsula of Indochina contains some of the most important karst regions on our planet. There are numerous karst areas characterized by limestone towers, wide closed basins and stretched ridges wher altitudes are fairly low. In general these areas have been little explored due to difficulties of access and socio political reasons.
Currently the state of Myanmar, called Burma up to 1989, is an area that is still poorly investigated from the speleological point of view, mainly because of strict limitations imposed on tourism and, more generally, on the activity of foreign researchers.
In 2002, our member Tim Stratford started the collaboration with Yangon University that allowed us to carry out a first reconnaissance expedition in 2004 to Shan State, central Myanmar. It was immediately clear that there was great potential for geographical exploration. Later, thanks to the collaboration with the Italian Institute of Speleology and the University of Bologna some important agreements were signed and it was possible to carry out a full exploratory expedition in February 2005.
The “Myanmar” Project
The “Myanmar” Project took place in 2005, with the first real expedition in this country of a thousand natural and human faces, thanks to the University of Yangoon.
Explorations focused mainly around the town of Kalaw with its long calcareous ridges crossed by subterranean streams. From an early study of satellite images and land surveys this area already appeared very rich in karst features. Our expedition revealed the potential of an area that will become a new frontier in speleology for the coming decades.
Many caves are places of worship frequented by the local people devoted to buddhism, but there are many others that, due to the difficulty of access, represent real challenges even to most experienced speleologists.
The 2005 expedition was only able to test some of the most promising areas, where have been detected large underground streams that promise long and exciting explorations. After a pause lasted 7 years, La Venta Association has resumed the research in this country as part of a wider international project, the Myanmar Caves Documentation project, coordinated by the German speleologist Joerg Dreybrodt.
Future plans: The central and northern part of the country looks very interesting because of the presence of wide calcareous zones as revealed from maps and satellite images. Also, in the already explored area there are opportunities to discover vast underground systems.
Scientific partner and search institution involved: Istituto Italiano di Speleologia - Università di Bologna, Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi: ISE - CNR, Università di Yangon.