Welcome to Myanmar

Myanmar; officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also known as Burma, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is the largest country in Indochina Peninsula, covering an area of 676.577 km2. The land was also known as Suvarnabhumi, Golden Land - in ancient times, and today, with its rich natural resources and diversity of attractions, it still deserves to be called the Golden Land.

Myanmar is bordered in north and northeast by China, in east by Laos and Thailand, in south by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal and in west

Myanmar; officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and also known as Burma, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is the largest country in Indochina Peninsula, covering an area of 676.577 km2. The land was also known as Suvarnabhumi, Golden Land - in ancient times, and today, with its rich natural resources and diversity of attractions, it still deserves to be called the Golden Land.

Myanmar is bordered in north and northeast by China, in east by Laos and Thailand, in south by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal and in west by Bangladesh and India. The land was also known as Suvarnabhumi, Golden Land - in ancient times, and today, with its rich natural resources and diversity of attractions, it still deserves to be called the Golden Land.

The traditional capital and by far the largest city is Yangon (Rangoon), but in late 2005, the government began transferring many government ministries to the new capital, Naypyidaw, in central Myanmar.

Myanmar has a 2.832 km long coastline which defines the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal, running from the Bangladesh border in the northwest down to the Malay Peninsula and Thai territory in the southeast.

According to the statistics of 2014, the population of the country is estimated at 51,4 million. The Union of Myanmar has divided into seven States and seven Divisions and made up of 135 ethnic groups of which the main national races are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. Although Burmese is the major and official language, more than a hundred local and regional dialects are spoken throughout Myanmar. English is spoken in business circles and it’s possible to get by in English in major tourist areas, although a few words of Burmese are appreciated.

Southern Myanmar consists largely of the western slopes of the Bilauktaung Range, which constitutes the northern base of the Malay Peninsula. Northern Myanmar, which comprises the great bulk of the country's area, consists largely of the broad river valley of the Ayeyarwady River (Irrawaddy River). Originating high up in the very eastern extremity of the Himalayas, the Irrawaddy rushes down through great mountain gorges in northern Myanmar before spreading out into one of the largest river deltas in Asia. Both of Myanmar's principal cities - Rangoon and Mandalay - are situated along the Irrawaddy, and the river is navigable for almost two thirds of its length. The Irrawaddy valley is surrounded by a great horseshoe of mountain ranges, which rise in the east to the highlands of the Shan Plateau.

Enclosed within the mountain barriers are the flat lands of Irrawaddy, Chindwin and Sittaung River valleys where most of the country's agricultural land and population are concentrated. The vast majority of Burma's people live in the lowland regions of this river valley, in the Irrawaddy basin. This fertile expanse, which sits within the tropical monsoon belt, is one of the world's great rice-growing regions. Each of ethnic groups have historically dominated a particular area of the country.

Myanmar may be one of the poorest and least developed countries in Southeast Asia, but it has quickly become a sought after tourist destination - especially since everyone is curious to find out first hand what the formerly closed-off nation looks like.

Myanmar History 

The history of Myanmar (also known as Burma) covers the period from the time of first-known human settlements 13,000 years ago to the present day. The ancestors of present-day Myanmars, the Pyus and the Mons established several kingdoms throughout the country from the 1st Century to the 10th Century.

Another group, the Bamar people, entered the upper Irrawaddy Valley in the early 9th Century. It was the Bamars who established the first Burmese Empire – Pagan Kingdom (1044–1287), the first-ever unification of the Irrawaddy valley and its periphery. Under King Anawrahta, they conquered Thaton - capital of the Mon people and took a legendary 30,000 prisoners back to Pagan. Pagan (Bagan) became the first capital of a Burmese kingdom. The Pagan Empire encompassed the areas of the present day Myanmar and the entire Menam Valley in Thailand and lasted two centuries. Thousands of temples were built, and the arts flourished.

Emperor Kublai Khan, at the head of Mongol army that was in their time the most powerful military force on earth, sent a first demand for tribute from Burma in 1277. The Khan's demand for tribute was met with defiance by the Burmese King Narathihapate, and the Mongol invasion started to roll in. Ironically, Narathihapate was poisoned by his son, who later lost the kingdom to the Mongols in 1287 at the battle of Vochan.

The Mons and the Bamars withdrew to the South, where they founded the enchanting city of Bago. In the North, descendants of the Tai people, called the Shan, founded a kingdom at Innwa. Soon, the Mons and the Shans went to war, at almost exactly the time the Europeans started moving into Asia.

Nicoto di Conti, a Venetian, was the first European to encounter Burma in 1435. The Portuguese made the first trade agreement in Burma with the viceroy of Martaban in 1519.

In the second half of the 16th century, the Taungoo Dynasty (1510–1752) reunified the country, and founded the second Burmese Empire. Later, Taungoo kings instituted several key administrative and economic reforms that gave rise to a smaller, more peaceful and prosperous kingdom in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

In the 19th century, following three Anglo-Burmese Wars, Burma was colonized by Britain. On April 1st, 1937, Burma became a separately administered colony of Great Britain and Ba Maw – the first Prime Minister and Premier of Burma.

During the Second World War, Myanmar was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 till the return of the Allied Forces in 1945. Myanmar has become a sovereign independent state since January 4th, 1948 after more than 100 years under the colonial administration.

From 1962 to 2011, the country was ruled by a military junta with absolute power. The name of the country was changed in 1989 by the ruling military government, officially recognized by the United Nations. Some national governments, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and much of the Burmese population do not recognize this name change, since they do not recognize the military government.

Despite multiparty elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party winning a decisive victory, the military junta refused to hand over power. In 2011 the military junta was dissolved following a general election in 2010 and a civilian government has been installed.

Myanmar Culture

As with all countries, Myanmar (Burma) has its own set of unique cultural traditions and idiosyncrasies. Some of these are fascinating; some require sensitivity; some require the visitor to adjust. But above all they combine to make a nation that is as warm and welcoming as any in the world: locals are almost always keen to help out and make friends.

The culture of Myanmar has been heavily influenced by Buddhism and the Mon people. Burmese culture has also been influenced by its neighbors India, Thailand and China. In more recent times, British colonial rule and Westernization have influenced aspects of Burmese culture, including language and education.

Buddhism is the predominant religion of Myanmar and Theravada Buddhism is embraced by about 80% of the population. The Burmese are a deeply pious people and Buddhist activities dominate every aspect of life. Architecture reflects the country's Buddhist and colonial heritage. Buddhist temples are the most important architectural features throughout the country. The Buddhist temple serves as a religious school, a community center, a guest house, a place where the government and other agencies post information, a site for sports activities, a center for welfare services for those who are poor and ill, a morgue, and a center for music and dance. It also carries out economic services such as providing loans and renting lands and homes. Buddhism is at the heart of Myanmar culture and it permeates private and public life. Most young people spend time in monastic education, and monks and nuns hold a revered place in society: they should not be touched; they always sit at the highest place available; and they hold privileges such as the freedom of first class travel on public transport, sometimes with their own reserved places.

If you speak a few words of greeting in Myanmar, it is surely the best way to win the respect and friendship of the people. "Mingalar bar” is a word of greeting in Myanmar that came into wide usage only after the country regained her independence. It translates roughly to mean "auspiciousness to you". Greeting with a smile and a slight bow with the palms pressed together in a prayer (which is known as the 'wai' in Thailand, 'namasté' in India, 'nop' in Laos and 'satu' in Cambodian) is a customarily accepted cultural norm of the Myanmar people.

U.S President Obama uses a traditional greeting to say hello to democratic activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Handshaking is also a normal form of greeting, but only with the right hand; the left hand is associated with using the toilet. 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. There are no inherited family names.

Myanmar people are not tactile. Even with friends and family, in general, they don't touch each other very often. But there are exceptions. Friends smile and touch one another's arms while talking, men may put a hand on a male friend's shoulder, while some friends will hold hands while walking together or going out. Most of the time, someone older will hold hands with a younger person. It is different with children, though. Myanmar people love children and the small children of relatives and friends are hugged and swung into the air, are teased, have their hair tousled, and are played with quite heartily. Their parents don't mind at all.

The lack of development also means is that life in Myanmar exists at a very relaxed pace; people are usually in much less of a hurry, and are more likely to stop to help. This also means that you may have to wait longer to be served – signs of impatience will not be taken well. To westerners' eyes, perhaps one of the less appealing Myanmar traits is betel-chewing. This mild intoxicant is used by many males in Myanmar, and results in a reddening and rotting of the teeth and plenty of spitting, resulting in the frequent sight of red blotches on the streets of Myanmar.

In Myanmar, you will see Burmese women color their (and their childrens) faces with yellow powder. It is the traditional cosmetic known as Thanaka, as a daily cosmetic and skin conditioner which made from Thanaka bark. Burmese women intend to protect their skin form the direct sun ray by putting Thanaka on their skin particularly on their face which is shining yellow on the browny cheeks. The Thanaka wood is not only the sign of beauty but also the peaceful.

Children Wearing Traditional Thanaka Powder

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