With million pagodas, dense forests, abundant wildlife, friendly people, rich culture, vast natural resources and underdeveloped coastal resorts, Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is certainly a beautiful corner of Asia.
The Country and Capital City
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Formerly Burma)
The capital city of Myanmar(Burma) is Naypyidaw (Royal Capital) which follo the by former capital city of Myanmar, Yangon as the largest city and Mandalay as the second largest city.
Myanmar national flag has horizontal stripes of yellow, green and red with a big white star in the middle. The three colors of the stripes are meant to symbolize solidarity, peace and tranquility, courage and decisiveness. The state flag was adopted in 2010.
Location: Myanmar is located on the continent of Asia (the largest country by geographical area in Southeast Asia as subcontinent) and is a member of ASEAN Union. Myanmar has neighboring countries with Bangladesh on the west, People’s Republic of China on the north-east, India on the north-west, Laos on the east, Thailand on the south-east and Bay of Bengal to the south-west with the Andaman Sea.
Area: Myanmar, has a total land area of 676,578 sq km (261,227 sq ml) making it about equal to the combined size of France and Great Britain.
Population: Myanmar has a population of 55.7 million (2014 estimate), of whom 80 percent are rural dwellers and 20 percent urban.
Time zone: Myanmar Standard Time is 6 hours and 30 minutes ahead of GMT(Greenwich Mean Time).
People: Myanmar, presently recognize no fewer than 135 separate nationalities living within the union. Myanmar has a population of over 51million, of whom 80 percent are rural dwellers and 20 percent urban. Myanmar has seven minority-dominated states: Kachin, Kayah(Karenni), Kayin(Karen), Chin, Mon, Rakhaing(Arakan) and Shan. There are seven divisions populated mainly by Bamar(Burman): Ayeyarwady(Irrawaddy), Magway(Magwe), Mandalay, Bago(Pegu), Yangon(Rangoon), Sagaing and Tanintharyi (Tenasserim).
History: From the earliest times with the settlement of the Mon (the first historic group) to occupy Myanmar(Burma), descending of the Tibeto-Burma family the Pyu, the Tai (as a part of the Nan Chao Kingdom) and follow by the Bamar (eventually led to the first Burmese Empire) that would in turn fall prey to European imperialism. It was in the late 19th century, Myanmar was annexed as a province of British India, a move that still has repercussions today. However, in 1935 when the agreement ‘Government of Burma Act’ was signed Myanmar with the rise of nationalism was gaining greater autonomy. Meanwhile, with the help of the Thakin organization and collaboration with the Japanese, Myanmar was convincingly won the battle. There are however, the consecutively struggling among the colonial constitution of the British political initiative, Myanmar finally granted the total independence by 4th January 1948.
Culture: Myanmar is historically influenced by Theravada Buddhism, the majority cultures is primarily Buddhist. There are two main types of Buddhist monuments in Myanmar which containing building pagodas and temples for the Buddha commemoration. Monasteries are built to form the spiritual centre of the village or district in which it may stand. Traditionally, it functions as a place of worship for monks and lay people alike, as well as a school, social centre and even a hospital. The path of life among every separate ethnic nationalities is still dominated by old values in Myanmar.
Language: Myanmar’s official language is Burmese. Myanmar has as many as 242 languages and dialects are spoken within the country, among these Shan, Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Rakhine and Mon are recognized regionally.
Religion: Myanmar is primarily a Buddhist country with close to 90 percent of the population following Theravada Buddhism; the rest of the population is split among as high as 20 percent are Muslim, 4 percent Christianity, and 2 percent in other religion such as Hinduism and Islam.
Economy: Myanmar’s GDP is US$112.97 billion (PPP) or a per capita GDP of US$1739.843 (PPP). It is growing by about 5.5percent yearly. Myanmar is one of the world largest producer of agricultural goods, textiles, wood products, construction materials, gems, metals, oil and natural gas. The private sector dominates in agriculture, light industry, and transport activities, while the government controls energy, heavy industry and rice trade.
The Myanmar calendar subscribes to both the solar and lunar months, thus requiring an intercalary 30-day 13th month every second or third year. Therefore, the full moon days may change from one month to another in the usual calendar. The Myanmar months are:
Myanmar Month Highlight of the Month Calendar Month
Tagu The Myanmar New Year March/April
Kason The Watering of Buddhist Tree April/May
Nayon The Monk Examination May/June
Waso The Robe Offering Month June/July
Wagaung The Month of Offering July/August
Tawthalin The Boat Festival August/September
Thadingyut The Light Festival September/October
Tazaungmone The Tazaungdaing Festival October/November
Nadaw The Literacy Festival November/December
Pyatho The Equestrain Festival December/January
Tabodwei The Harvest Festival January/February
Tabaung The Pagoda Festival February/March
Planning The Trip
Getting into Myanmar: There are currently three international airports in Myanmar (Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw).There are direct air-links connecting Yangon with Bangladesh, China(Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Korea.
Passports & Visa: Visitors to Myanmar must present a valid passport with at least 6 months validity and a tourist or business visa obtained at one of Myanmar’s oversea embassies or consulates. (For e-visa please visit http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/ for more information). An entry visa for tourists (EVT) is valid for 28 days. Children above seven years of age, even when included on their parents’ passport, must have their own visas.
Climate: Like all countries in Southeast Asia’s monsoonal region, Myanmar’s year is divided into three seasons. The “cool season” (November-February) is the most pleasant time to visit Myanmar, the “dry season” (March-June) and the “rainy season” (July-October) this is a time, a high humidity may bring in the country and also subject to much rain during this time.
Currency: Myanmar’s official currency is the Kyat(MMK). Notes are in denominations of Kyat 10000, 5000, 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Travellers should ensure they arrive in Myanmar with their entire travel budget in US dollars, as ATMs are still very hard to come by (although this may change). The bills should be unmarked and in excellent condition, as money changers are reluctant to deal with damaged notes. Don’t expect to change any rumpled, torn US dollar bills. Moneychangers accept only crisp, clean (and mostly uncreased) bills, and tend to only take the ‘new’ US dollar bills (with the larger full-frame heads). It is also recommended to carry small change as large notes may be difficult to change. Euros are now also accepted in banks, but exchange can be time consuming. Be aware that concerns over counterfeit money mean that some US Dollar bills with serial numbers beginning with AB or BC may not be accepted. Since now hotel rooms, air tickets are priced in US dollars, so it is recommended to bring enough US currency to cover these expanses.
Any amounts over $2000 per person are supposed to be declared upon arrival.
Appearance: Dress in Myanmar is casual but neat. Lightweight and appropriate to the prevailing climatic conditions, is the generally accepted mode of dress. However a sweater or jacket is recommended to bring along if the visitors is planning to visit the hill stations or plateau area, especially in the cool season.
Electricity: 220-230 volts AC, 50Hz. Square two-pin and three-pin plugs are used; some hotel sockets can accept multiple types.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs: It is unlikely that credit or debit cards will be accepted; it is best to check with your card company prior to travel. Myanmar is only just starting to introduce ATMs, and even then only in Yangon and major tourist hubs. Currently these should not be relied upon, and travellers should bring enough US dollars to cover their entire trip when they enter Myanmar.
Traveller’s Cheques: Not currently accepted, although this may change. Please bring plenty of US Dollars in cash.
Working Hours: Business Hours is usually from 0900am to 1700pm (Monday to Saturday except Sunday and Public holidays) for private companies and 0930-1630 (Monday through Friday except Weekend and Public holidays) for government offices.
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, Maung for younger men and Ko for adult males; a woman’s name is preceded by Daw. Courtesy and respect for tradition and religion is 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 (in most modern residences this is no longer observed except in bedrooms). 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.
Tipping/Gratuity & Donations: While tipping is not customary in Myanmar, putting a little extra ‘presents’ for restaurant staff, porters and other service workers is considered polite. With most Burmese people earning a low wage, a modest tip will be accepted graciously by most (even if they’re not asked for) in exchange for a service. It’s a good idea to keep some small notes (K100, K200, K500) when visiting a religious temple or monastery, as donations may be asked for. Also, you may wish to leave a donation.
Country Code: Myanmar calling code is +95 and the internet access code is .mm
Tips: Travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of a journey. So, tourists are advice to buy travel insurance in their own country before the start of their trip.