(STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION)
Knowing how closed off to the outside world Myanmar was until only recently, makes the country a sought after destination, and it will exceed every idea of paradise lost.
Golden stupas in the thousands, bald monks with begging bowls, Hindu-Buddhist temple ruins stretching beyond eyes reach, and a welcoming, accommodating, and curious population is what meets the traveler. Also, the interesting cuisine consists of elements from neighboring countries.
It is only during the last 5-6 years that Burma has opened up to large scale tourism, which has been the result of political reforms and the military easing restrictions on previously closed off areas. Today it is possible to visit the most attractive cities and regions, which all offer great nature, architectural, and cultural experiences.
Most notable is Rangoon and Mandalay, and the area around Bagan and the Inle Lake. Also possible is more active travel like trekking and river cruising.
Hotels have sprung up like mushrooms, boasting high levels of service, and a good domestic airline infrastructure makes traveling longer distances easy.
With Burma’s first lady Aung San Suu Kyi surprisingly in political charge of the country, the Burmese are expressing a renewed belief in the future which is felt everywhere.
Buddhism is highly prevalent and has always been the main focus in an existence dominated by poverty, isolation, and a brutal military regime.
New winds are blowing across the country, welcoming every guest to the last of the great cultural lands of Asia.
Be aware that many regions/states are still not easily accessible. The very isolated mountain terrain to the northeast, north, and northwest are extremely impassible, and often require a special permission from the authorities.
Area: 262,000 sq mi / 679,000 sq km
Geography: Consists of the central lowlands, with the rivers Ayeyarwady and Chindwin flowing from North to South. Impassible mountains with peaks as high as 19,300 ft / 5,881 m make for a natural northern border.
Coastline: The 1,200 mi / 1,930 km long coastline faces the Bay of Bengal, with a fertile river Delta to the south. Even further south the country narrows to 30 mi / 50 km between the sea and Thailand.
Population: 60 million inhabitants, of which 68% are Bamar (ethnic Burmese), 10% Shan, 7% Kayin, 4% Rakhine, with the rest divided between a large number of other ethnic groups. Myanmar is divided into 7 so-called states for each of the major ethnic groups, but there are a total of 135 ethnic minorities, and more than 100 languages are spoken.
Capital: Naypyidaw, est. 2005 as an island in the middle of the jungle, is with its 1 million inhabitants the administrative capital. Yangon (Rangoon) is the economic capital with 6 million inhabitants.
Climate: Depending on location, the climate and temperature varies greatly. The best time to visit is between October and March when it’s not too hot and humid.
explore myanmar’s attractions
THE SHWEDAGON PADOGA
OLD CAPITAL MANDALAY
The floating villages
myanmar: a brief introduction
Immigration by the Bamar people from the north created the basis for the establishment of the Bagan Kingdom during the 9th century. Later the kings expanded the territory and established an irrigation infrastructure across the country. During this time Buddhism was also adopted, and the unique writing characters are developed. Later kings fail to hold the kingdom together, and the northern part is invaded by the Mongols in 1287. The power vacuums, which appeared, were exploited by a number of ethnic groups that established their own minor kingdoms. The rivalry between these lasted the following 500 years, during which shifting alliances with and invasions by China and Thailand greatly influenced who held on to power. During this time the capital shifted from one city to the next, while the French and English increasingly eyed opportunities because of the country’s enormous natural resources. The English first entered in the early eighteen hundreds, with Mandalay as the last to fall under British control in 1885. The English introduced administration, law, education, hospitals, and railways, but was primarily focused on the large quantities of hardwood, rice, and not least precious stones.
People protests were persistent and combined with notable influence by the monk community the nationalism flourished during the 1930s. During this time one person stood out, Aung San, who became the symbol of the desire for independence after WWll, but he was shot dead in 1947 by political rivals before the country gained independence. Numerous political groups tried to take power during the following years, and skepticism among the many ethnic groups did not make it easier to unify the country.
It would be the military that dissolved parliament in 1962 and introduced a military regime, which through a revolutionary council nationalized all aspects of daily life, with catastrophic consequences for the economy in a country that used to be among the wealthiest in Asia. The daughter of the national hero, Aung San, returned from England in 1988, just the year when large public protests grew. More than 3,000 people died because they were shot by police. Aung San Suu Kyi established the National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory in the 1990 election that the junta overruled and then locked her away in house arrest. The Burmese have fought more recently against the military regime, again in 2007, and then saw the entire southern part of the country flooded by the typhoon Nargis in 2008, before Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released in 2010.