Myanmar is recognized by many as the Golden Land for good reason. Burma, as it is still more commonly known in the west, is a country of magnificent, ancient Buddhist temples, broad flowing rivers, lush mountain forests, interesting cities and vastly contrasting countryside. It is a fascinating country and a real treat for travelers. It is not only a voyage into a different geographic region, but also into another time, another world. Everywhere a stranger travels, he or she will be welcomed with kindness, helpfulness and gentleness..
Highlights in Burma include Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, Pyay, and Mandalay, with its beautiful temples Bagan and Paga. Myanmar is often called the land of festivals (see events) and the land of Pagodas. Each destination within the country offers a compelling and diverse look at the history and development of the country from its hill tribes that live as people did hundreds of years ago to the vibrant capital of Yangon. All Sightseeing opportunities abound and there is a lot to see and do in this colorful country where time seems to have stood still.
Myanmar’s terrain includes white-sand beaches in the west and a fertile delta in the south, dry plains in the center and long rivers. In the north there are ice-capped mountains seldom ascended, virgin forests hiding precious orchids, and white-water rivers where intrepid adventurers can test out their rafting skills. The very essence of nature is found in several wildlife parks and thick jungles where rare birds and butterflies find refuge. These parks, cris-crossed with animal trails to entice the determined trekker, provide sanctuary for endangered species such as leopards, tigers, crab-eating mongooses, the Asiatic black bear, and the beautiful red panda with its bandit mask, thick red fur and striped fluffy tail.
The ethnic origins of modern Myanmar, known historically as Burma, are a mixture of Indo-Aryans, who began pushing into the area around 700 BC and the Mongolian invaders under Kublai Khan, who penetrated the region in the 13th century. Anawrahta (1044–1077) was the first great unifier of Myanmar.
In 1612, the British East India Company sent agents to Burma, but the Burmese doggedly resisted efforts of British, Dutch, and Portuguese traders to establish posts along the Bay of Bengal. Through the Anglo-Burmese War in 1824–1826 and two subsequent wars, the British East India Company expanded to the whole of Burma. By 1886, Burma was annexed to India; it then became a separate colony in 1937.
During World War II, Burma was a key battleground; the 800-mile Burma Road was the Allies' vital supply line to China. The Japanese invaded the country in Dec. 1941, and by May 1942, had occupied most of it, cutting off the Burma Road. After one of the most difficult campaigns of the war, Allied forces liberated most of Burma prior to the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
Burma became independent on Jan. 4, 1948. In 1962, left-wing general Ne Win staged a coup, banned political opposition, suspended the constitution, and introduced the “Burmese way of socialism.” After 25 years of economic hardship and repression, the Burmese people held massive demonstrations in 1987 and 1988. These were brutally quashed by the State Law and Order Council (SLORC). In 1989, the military government officially changed the name of the country to Myanmar.
In May 1990 elections, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide. But the military, or SLORC, refused to recognize the election results. The leader of the opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Although the ruling junta has maintained a tight grip on Myanmar since 1988, it has not been able to subdue an insurgency in the country's south that has gone on for decades.
On November 13, 2005, the seat of government was removed from the capital Rangoon to a mountain compound called Pyinmanaa. More than 1,000 delegates gathered in December 2005 to begin drafting a constitution, which the junta said was a step toward democracy. The convention adjourned in late January 2006 with little progress. Officials said it would resume by the end of the year.
Time: GMT + 6.5
Area: 676,552 sq km (261,218 sq miles)
Population: 48.9 million Density: 72.2 per sq. km. (27.9 per sq. mile)
Capital : Nay Pyi Taw (administrative capital)
Government: Socialist republic since 1974. Power assumed by the army in 1988.
Head of State: Senior General Than Shwe since 1992.
Head of Government: Prime Minister Soe Win since 2004.
Language: The official language is Myanmar (Burmese). There are over 100 dialects spoken in Myanmar. English is spoken in business circles.
Electricity 230 volts AC, 50Hz
Geography: Myanmar is a diamond-shaped country extending 925km (575 miles) from east to west and 2100km (1300 miles) from north to south. It is bounded by China, Laos and Thailand to the east, by Bangladesh and India to the north and by the Indian Ocean in the west and south. The Irrawaddy River runs through the center of the country and fans out to form a delta on the south coast. Yangon stands beside one of its many mouths. North of the delta lies the Irrawaddy basin and central Myanmar, which is protected by a horseshoe of mountains rising to over 3000m (10,000ft), creating profound climatic effects. To the west are the Arakan, Chin and Naga mountains and the Patkai Hills, the Kachin Hills are to the north and to the east lies the Shan Plateau, which extends to the Tenasserim coastal ranges. Intensive irrigated farming is practiced throughout central Myanmar, and fruit, vegetables and citrus crops thrive on the Shan Plateau, but much of the land and mountains are covered by subtropical forest.
Religion: 87% Theravada Buddhist. The rest of the population is Hindu, Muslim, Christian or animist.
Social Conventions: Handshaking is the normal form of greeting. Full names are used, preceded by U (pronounced oo) in the case of an older or well-respected man's name, Aung for younger men and Ko for adult males; a woman's name is preceded by Daw. Courtesy and respect for tradition and religion are expected. For instance, shoes and socks must be removed before entering any religious building and it is customary to remove shoes before entering a traditional home. When sitting, avoid displaying the soles of the feet, as this is considered offensive. Small presents are acceptable and appreciated, although never expected. Shorts and mini-skirts should not be worn. Do not take unnecessary risks, penalties for drug-trafficking range from five years’ imprisonment to a death sentence. Homosexuality is illegal. Give due respect to the monks. Keep the younger ones on the safe side when you walk together. Avoid spitting in front of elderly people and take your hat off inside the house. Try to cover your mouth when you use tooth-picks and avoid criticism in front of strangers. Do not meddle in family matters and avoid borrowing anything from a guest. Be humble, avoid praising your own talent or wisdom. Asking anyone about income matters or being fussy is not appreciated by locals, especially when you are guest.
Photography: There are restrictions at ports, airports and harbors, and in similar areas elsewhere. It is courteous to ask permission before taking photographs of people.