Full name: Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Common name: Myanmar
Name in the language of Myanmar: Pyidaunzu Thanmăda Myăma Nainngandaw
Main cities: Nay Pyi Taw (capital); Yangon (former capital, largest city); Bagan (historical city); Mandalay (second largest city)
National day: January 4th
National flag: The flag of Myanmar, has three stripes from top to bottom – yellow, green and red – with a white star in the middle. The three colors symbolize unity, peace and tranquility, and courage and determination, respectively.
Myanmar is a new and emerging tourist destination in South East Asia. Known to most travelers as “the Golden land”, Myanmar is rich in cultures and natural attractions. There are numerous pagodas, temples, beauty spots, archaeological sites, snow-peaked mountains, deep forests with abundant flora and fauna, rivers and natural lakes, unspoiled beaches and archipelagos, 135 national races with their colourful costumes and customs, traditional arts and crafts all make up Myanmar the most exotic and fascinating destination in Asia.
Myanmar is a great place to visit at any time of the year. The seasons come and go, but Myanmar’s multifarious attractions endure throughout the year and are growing in popularity.
Visitors will find Myanmar a beautiful and peaceful place with the most hospitable people in the world. The recent years have witnessed the rapid growth in the development of tourism in Myanmar and today’s infrastructure affords visitors an ever-growing choice of accommodation, cuisine and air-conditioned transport. Myanmar may well be changing but its friendliness, the underlying attraction, remains.
LOCATION & TIME
Sharing the borders with Bangladesh & India in west and north-west, China, Laos & Thailand in east, north-east & south-east. The Andaman Sea & Bay of Bengal also surround the Myanmar costal region. The total area of Myanmar is 676,577 sq km and it is the largest country in the South East Asia peninsula, it is divided into seven States and seven Divisions, containing snow-capped mountains ranges, rise to 5881 meters atop Hkakaborazi, the highest peak in South East Asia, high plateaus, fertile central plains of rice fields along the artery of Ayeyarwaddy River (the biggest river with the length of 2000 km), islands, beaches and many others more.
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The history of what is now Myanmar has been made by a succession of peoples who migrated down along the Ayeyarwaddy River from Tibet & China, and who were influenced by social and political institutions that had been carried across the sea from India. First came the Mon, perhaps as early as 3000 BC. They established the centers of settlement in central Myanmar, in the Ayeyarwaddy delta, and farther down the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal.
The first unified Myanmar state was founded by King Anawrahta in the 11th century. It was the zenith period of Myanmar. In 1287, Bagan was conquered by the Mongols under Kublai Khan. In the second quarter of the 16th century, a new Myanmar dynasty emerged from the sleepy principality of Taungoo in central Myanmar by King Bayinnaung. After his death, the invasions of Portuguese, Thais, and Manipuri horsemen brought on the decline of the period. The dynasty was finally toppled by a Mon rebellion in 1752.
In 1752, Alaungpaya founded the Konbaung dynasty by restoring Myanmar rule first at Ava and later in the delta. Then, Myanmar was occupied by the British after three Anglo-Myanmar Wars in 1824, 1852 and 1885 with the last capital of Myanmar Kingdom-Mandalay.
During the Second World War, Myanmar was conquered by Japanese and the British returned back after the war. In 1948, Myanmar gained back her independence.
Myanmar is now moving forwards to market-oriented economic system and most of the business is handed over to private sectors and foreign investments are warmly invited.
The climate of Myanmar and other countries in Southeast Asia follows a monsoon pattern. During the half of the year of the year that the sun’s rays strike directly above the equator, the landmass of Asia is heated more than in the Indian Ocean. This draws moist hot air from over the ocean onto the land, bringing the rains southwest monsoon. When the tilt of the earth brings the direct sunrays south of the equator, the heating of the Indian Ocean draws the cooler dry air of the northeast monsoon from the highlands of Asia across the countries of South and Southeast Asia. As a result, Myanmar has three seasons: the hot season, the rainy season and the cold season. The hot season runs from late February to end of May. At the end of this season, the average monthly temperature reaches over 35°C in many parts of Myanmar. The rainy season starts from the beginning of June to the early of October. By July rains have brought the average temperature down to 29°C in Mandalay and 27°C in Yangon. The cold season is from the middle of October to middle of February. Average annual rainfall varies from about 5000 mm on the coastal region to about 760 mm at Mandalay.
A census taken in 1983 counted 34 millions; as of today’s population is estimated to be over 54 millions with an annual growth rate of around 2.1%. Approximately 74% live in rural areas. The largest cities, in declining order, are Yangon, Mandalay, Pathein, Mawlamyine, Taunggyi and Sittwe. Yangon appears to have 6 millions, Mandalay around 2 million, the remainder 800,000 or fewer.
The population of Myanmar is over 54 millions. The overall population density is about 67 persons per sq km, one of the lowest in East Asia. The population is more than 75% rural, with almost half of the urban population found in the three largest cities: Yangon (about six millions), Mandalay (about two million) and Mawlamyine (about five hundred thousands). More than 69% of the population is Myanmar, ethnically to the Tibetan and the Chinese. In addition, several minorities with their own languages and cultures inhabit the country. They are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine & Shan.
Language & Religion
Most of the linguistic groups of Myanmar are monosyllabic and polytonal, similar to those of Tibet and China. The official Myanmar language is spoken by the majority of the population, including many of the ethnic minorities. About 15% of the population speaks Shan & Kayin. English is spoken among the educated and the country contains a sizable number of speakers of Chinese. More than 86% of the people of Myanmar are Buddhists; most of them adhere to the school of Buddhism, as Buddhists in neighboring Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
The everyday practice of Buddhism is a well-developed culture of animism, the worship of spirits known as nats. This culture provides a basis for many nat festivals and for much of traditional medical practice. Christians (mostly Baptists) have also long formed a part of the population (about 15%) and there are a significant number of Muslims as well. The firm grounding of Buddhism in Myanmar culture contributed over the years to the building of many pagodas, which stand proudly to prove the grandeur role of Myanmar culture.
The major population of Myanmar migrated into the Ayeyarwaddy River Valley from the north, bringing their spoken languages, their gender roles, and several varieties of food and medicine. From India on the west came the institutions of religion and government, but without the Indian caste system of social hierarchy. India was also the source of Pali, the sacred language, and of the Devanagari script in which the popular language is written, along with astrology and some kinds of food. The firm grounding of Buddhism in Myanmar culture contributed over the years to the building of many pagodas, which stand proudly to prove the grandeur role of Myanmar culture. The social ideal for most Myanmar citizens-no matter what their ethnic background may be-is a standard of behavior commonly termed “Myanmar-ness”.
The degree to which a Myanmar can conform to these ideals matches the degree of respect he or she will receive from associates. Although high rank will exempt certain individuals from chastisement by inferiors, it doesn’t exempt them from the way they are perceived by other Myanmar. This goes for foreigners as well, even though most first time visitors can hardly be expected to speak idiomatic Myanmar or recite Buddhist scripture.
Ways of Life
Myanmar civilization is largely an outgrowth of Indian influences. For the majority of Myanmar’s population, Buddhism is the center of individual life and the monastery is the center of the community. This is especially true in the villages, where most of the population lives. Wisdom is believed to reside at the monasteries and refuge may be sought there. A rite of passage for every adolescent boy is the Shinphyu, in which the boy briefly relives the princely life of the Buddha, and enters into the life of the monastery as a novice monk. At any later time in life he may return to the monastic lie for a longer or shorter period of time. If married, he should ask his wife to do this. The daily life of the village begins with the monks making their rounds in the morning with their alms-bowls. By donating that day’s food, the villagers earn merit, and the monks, who are forbidden to work, are nourished. The annual cycle of life follows the season, with all hands put to work for rice planting when the summer monsoon brings the first rains. The time during the three months of the most intensive rain is the Buddhist lent, when such activities as marriage and hunting are put off, but Nat festivals can be enjoyed.
The Myanmar orchestra that accompanies the theatrical performances in a folk opera consists of a bamboo xylophone, tall bamboo clappers, many kinds of tuned gongs, a small pair of cymbals to keep time, and a six-reeded oboe that carries the theme. That mimics the sound of the human voice speaking in the tonal Myanmar language. In cities and towns music is piped into the streets for the public’s benefit through loudspeakers located in teashops and videocassette recorders bring cosmopolitan musical culture to eve the smallest settlements.
For much of Myanmar’s history, women played a stronger role than in traditional Western societies. From early on they could own property and were independent in economic activities. In religion, however, their place is secondary. Males can become monks and they can earn religious merit in a number of ways; the few women who become nuns and the many who offer gifts to monks usually hope at best to be born as a man in their next reincarnation.
A popular form of recreation is traveling by coach or oxcart to visit a notable pagoda or attend a festival. Football is a prominent sport, even during heavy rains; kites are flown in season; and a frequent occurrence on any day is a local game of Chinlon, in which a small circle of men keeps a ball of woven cane up in the air with gentle blows from the foot, knee, shoulder, or head. Golf is particularly favored among military leaders.
The core of the Myanmar diet is boiled rice, combined with a little spicy meat or fish and some vegetables. Also popular for breakfast is a hot noodle soup flavored with coconut. A favorite sauce is ngapi, which is made from fermented fish or prawns and gives off a pungent odor. Several varieties of bananas along with coconut are the main fruits, while a wide, variety of more exotic fruits are also enjoyed, such as the Mangosteen, the custard apple and the durian. The common drink is weak green tea, which is taken tepid throughout the day in small cups. There are many good restaurants throughout the country, mainly in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle and their surroundings, which serve quality food at reasonable prices. Thai, Chinese, European, Indian & Myanmar cuisines are available. Eating at the street restaurants can be wonderful Asian experience but it is not recommended unless the restaurant has been recommended by experienced guides.
Healthcare in Myanmar is expected to continue to improve along with its economy and living standards.
As a traveler in Myanmar, you will most probably visit typical tourist sites, where you can access decent healthcare services. However, you do need to be aware that outside Yangon and Mandalay, decent healthcare services may be difficult to find.
Healthcare services in Myanmar are considered among the worst in the world.
According to a health survey in 2015 funded by USAID, only 55% of children age 12-23 months had received all basic vaccinations. In some states, the rate was as low as 34%.
Availability of healthcare services is not evenly distributed, with rural areas having much less access than urban areas. Access also varies from state to state, with poorer states having much less healthcare access.
In addition to malaria and dengue fever, HIV is a serious problem in Myanmar. UNAIDS estimated that in 2015 there were 220,000 people in Myanmar with HIV.
Despite this less than ideal situation, there are signs of steady improvement in Myanmar’s health services. Improvement is indicated by various statistics, including a declining maternal mortality rate.
Myanmar’s maternal mortality rate in 1990 was 453 per 100,000 live births. In 2015, it had decreased to 178 deaths per 100,000 live births. Despite the significant improvement, the rate is still much higher than in developed countries, most of which have fewer than 15 deaths per 100,000 live births.
What to Do Before Your Trip
Before travelling, you should take out comprehensive travel insurance as well as taking the necessary vaccinations to prevent certain diseases. Commonly recommended vaccinations are: hepatitis A & B, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, Japanese encephalitis B, rabies, tuberculosis, yellow fever, and typhoid. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
Bring any prescribed medicines for the duration of your travel,and also basic medical supplies. Even though buying over the counter in Myanmar is possible, it is not recommended, as sometimes medicines may be counterfeit or expired.
Pregnant women need to be extra-cautious in planning a trip, especially since during the first trimester there is a higher risk of miscarriage and during the third trimester there is a higher risk of complications emerging.
For malaria prevention, we recommend taking a course of anti-malaria tablets. Malaria is a high-risk disease in pregnancy, so WHO recommends that pregnant women do not travel to areas with malaria such as rural areas of Myanmar, as no anti-malarial drugs are completely safe in pregnancy.
What to Do During Your Trip
During your travel, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of getting sick, such as:
Stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids, especially during the hot season when it is easy to become dehydrated.
Do not drink tap water, but always drink bottled water. Avoid ice and watered-down juices.
Be careful what you consume, as unsanitary food can cause diarrhea. Street food usually looks appetizing, but is not always hygienic. When going to restaurants, it is best to go to places with a high turnover, where the food is more likely to be fresh.
Use insect repellent to avoid insect-borne diseases. Insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria are particularly common, as there are many mosquitoes. It is best to have taken vaccinations for these diseases before you depart.
Be cautious with animals. There are several tourist sites, including Mount Popa, where you will find monkeys. Please be careful and do not feed the monkeys, as they can become aggressive and bite.
What to Do If You Get Sick
Avoid traditional medicine or remedies, as these sometimes involve questionable practices with risk of complications. Burmese society is steeped in mystic beliefs. If you do take herbal medicines along with western prescriptions, make sure your doctor is aware of this.
Be cautious when buying medication over the counter, as fake medications and poorly stored or out-of-date medicines are common. If possible, bring basic medicine with you from your own country.
If you think you may have contracted a serious disease, do not delay in finding the nearest reliable healthcare, as it is better to be assessed by a doctor than to rely on self-treatment.
Diarrhea is the most common problem a traveler faces in Myanmar.Treatments consist of staying well-hydrated, drinking hydrating solutions, and taking antibiotics.
If possible, try to avoid public hospitals, as their sanitary standards may not be the best.It is better to find a private clinic with services in English. Reliable medical healthcare can be found in Yangon and Mandalay, but outside these areas it may be difficult to find.
If you find yourself unwell outside of Yangon and Mandalay, it is best to ask your hotel for recommendations of nearby clinics or doctors experienced in treating foreigners.Be aware that the cost for medical treatment in Myanmar is not cheap.
Sometimes payment upfront is required prior to receiving treatment. If the case is serious and you need hospitalization, it may be better to get to a hospital in Bangkok or Singapore, for better medical services. Make sure that this is covered when buying your insurance.
For a list of recommended clinics, hospitals, and doctors in Myanmar, read here.
While you do need to be cautious and keep your body healthy during your trip, do not let such concerns deter you from setting off on this adventure.
Myanmar is primarily an agriculture country. About two-third of the working population is engaged in growing or processing crops, while about one-tenth works in industry. Before World War II Myanmar was the world’s major rice exporter. After the war, the area of land devoted to agriculture slowly recovered, but as the population grew the surplus available for export never reached the earlier level. For a while forestry was the major export earner. Today, tourism, though small by international standard, is the major source of foreign exchange. From 1962 to 1988 the country was closed to the world and in the 1990s, the military government took over the power and has opened the economy to market forces, particularly inviting foreign investment.
Education is free and compulsory for primary and middle schools, but fees are charged for high school. Secondary education consists of four years of middle or vocational school and an additional two years for high school. About one-fifth of the secondary school-age population is enrolled in school. About 85% of the population is truly literate.
There are also many universities and colleagues, mainly in the big cities.
Myanmar is a very friendly and safe country. You can go around the cities, towns and villages without any worry even in the night time. But basically, there is nothing on the road apart from 22:00 in the big cities and in the small towns or villages everybody goes to bed at about 20:00 or 21:00. Myanmar can be said ONE OF THE SAFETIEST COUNTRIES in the world.
The railroad system has been owned and operated by the government since British times; it includes about 4000 km of track, but it doesn’t connect with railroads outside of Myanmar. Far more important for moving domestic passengers and cargo are the inland waterways, which total about 12800 km of navigable rivers and canals, about 3200 km of which are open to large commercial vessels. Most of Myanmar’s largest towns and cities are river ports. Highways total about 27000 km, of which about 12% are paved, 65% are gravel, and the rest passable most easily by jeep or ox cart. In the 1990s, the government has focused considerable energy o reconstructing roads, often with volunteer or forced labor. Altogether, however, the amount of new road added since 1990 has averaged less than 200 km per year, compared to an average of 970 km per year in previous years. There are extensive road links and several bridge links with Thailand and China. There are four domestic airlines, Myanmar Airways, Yangon Airways, FMI, Mann Yadanar Pone, Golden Myanmar Airline, Myanmar National Airline, which are private airlines.
Myanmar Airways is used only for the off beaten places, where private airlines do not go due to its poor services, less punctuality and not so reliable. Yangon Airways, FMI, Mann Yadanar Pone, Golden Myanmar Airline, Myanmar National Airline operate with modern aircraft ATR 72/42 and F-100 with good services, reliable and punctual. The taxis can be found easily only in Yangon. All the local buses are over crowded and it is not easy to ask the information at the bus stops. In other places, we can find easily the trishaws, the horse carts, the bicycles, etc.
Myanmar currency is the Kyat, made up of 100 pyar Currency notes come in the following denomination : K 10000, K 5000, K 1000, K 500, K 200, K 100, K 50, K 20, K 10, K 5, K 1. Nowadays small notes are difficult to find. Visitors are not allowed to bring in or take out it.
Credit can acceptable some hotels and some souvenir shops. ATM Machines are available Big Cities; withdraw about 300 US and 5 US service charges a time.
Banks are open 9:30 to 15:30 weekly. Tourist destination and Big Cities have money exchange counter.
Weights & Volume
The most common units of weight used in Myanmar are viss, pounds and ticals. One viss equals 3.6 pounds (1.6 kg) or 100 ticals. One tical equals 16 gm.
At the retail level, rice and small fruits or nuts are sold in units of volume rather than weight; the most common measure is the standard condensed milk can. Eight cans equal one small rice basket or pyi and 16 pyi make a jute sack or tinn.Petrol and most other liquids are sold by the imperial gallons (4.55 liters). One exception is milk, which is sold by the viss.
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