Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a country that can also be considered as 'The Jewel of Southeast Asia' for its rich culture and unscathed landscapes. Myanmar was ruled by an oppressive military junta for several decades isolating the country itself from all types of international influences. However, after recent political changes the country is open once again and welcomes travellers to its many unique destinations. Apart from the country's eventful history, the daily lives of different Burmese people, vast eco-diversity, virgin landscapes, lifespan river systems, and unspoiled beaches are also parts that add up to create the alluring characteristics of Myanmar. Myanmar is home to over 54 million people consisting of 8 major Burmese ethnicities as well as 135 ethnic minorities who have lived in amity amid weal of woe for thousands of years.. The Burmese people are also often described as the most friendly, happy faced people in Asia. Unlike several other Southeast Asian countries, Myanmar still hold several mysteries unknown to a large percentage of the free world including the world's richest pagoda called 'the Shwedagon', ancient 10th century stupas and shrines in Bagan, wooden architectures in Mandalay, unique lifestyles amidst the Shan plateau, unspoiled white beaches, and the only snow-capped mountains that can be found in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar is in Southeast Aisa and has an approximate area of 676,577 sq. km [261,228 sq. miles]. It is an elongated piece of land measuring at 2,090 km [1,300 miles] long and 925 km [575 miles] wide. The country has a long coastline starting from the southern tip of Bangladesh along the Bay of Bengal up to Victoria Point [Kawthaung] on the Andaman Sea measuring at 2,832 km [1,760 miles] long. The coasts and mountain barriers form natural frontiers with Bangladesh & India in the northwest, China in the northeast, Laos in the east, and Thailand in the southeast.
There are several evidences that suggest that many ancient dynasties in Myanmar had reigned for centuries going even before the pre-Christian era including King Okkalapa, ruler of Suvannabhumi who built the Shwedagon Pagoda over 2500 years ago. Some of the major dynasties are The Vesali dynasty of Rakhine, The Tagaung dynasty at Hanlin that ruled during the second century AD, and the Pyu dynasty.
In 1044 AD, King Anawarahta consolidated the kingdoms and founded the First Myanmar Empire at Bagan which extended over to the Menam Valley in Thailand. He also established Theravadas Buddhism in Myanmar. He also pioneered several innovations that led to the development of cultural art forms, dance, music, architectural designs for the construction of temples and pagoda, public utilities, dams, roads, and education. The Bagan dynasty reigned for over two centuries, however it was plundered and devastated by the Mongol hordes under Kublai Khan in the 13th century.
In the 16th Century, after driving the Mongols away, King Bayinnaung re-consolidate the kingdom and founded the Second Myanmar Empire [Hanthawaddy dynasty]. The Second Myanmar Empire was much bigger than the first, spanning from the borders of India to parts of Thailand and Laos. The King built a new capital city called Hanthswaddy where present day Bago lies and established a grand place to the south of the Shwemawdaw Pagoda called the 'Kanbawzathadi'. King Bayinnaung reigned for 30 years and succeeded the crown to his son King Nanda. The new king was unfortunately not as competent as his father and led to the collapse of the Second Myanmar Empire in 1599 when King Bagyi of Rakhine and King Thihathu of Inca formed an alliance to attack him. Several years later in 1752, King Alaungplaya from the Konebaung dynastly re-unified Myanmar once again and founded the Last Myanmar Empire. During the 133 years of reign of the Last Myanmar Empire, three Anglo-Myanmar Wars were fought in 1824, 1852 and 1885. Parts of the land were ceded and finally the whole country was annexed and colonized under the British. During the Second World War the Japanese Forces invaded and occupied Myanmar in 1942 to 1945, but they retreated as soon as they lost the war. After two and a half years of re-occupation by the British, Myanmar finally gained independence as a sovereign state on 4th January 1948.
The demography of Myanmar is made of eight major national races namely the Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakkine and Shan. It is also home to 135 ethnic minorities that live scattered in various parts of the country. As of 2015, the population of Myanmar is recorded to be over 54 million people.
Myanmar is located between two ancient civilizations of China and India, from which several characteristics of Myanmar such as lifesytle, fine arts and food are derived from. Buddhism, originating in India, is one of the greatest influence that India had on the Burmese way of life. The Burmese people have maintained Buddhist teachings and traditions over the years, inculding a deep reverence for spiritual monks and clergies. Religious full-moon festivals are also an engraved part of burmese culture and these festivals are celebrated uniquely all around Myanmar.
Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion in Myanmar, and over 80 percent of the country's population is recorded to be Bhuddist. Other relgions such as Christianity, Islam, Hindu, other Sectarian beliefs including animists and Nat worship can also be found in Myanmar, and there are various mosques and churches that are located in Yangon.
The climate is usually of tropical with a humid and hot since Myanmar is located within the tropical belt. Temperatures are much cooler in mountainous areas than compared to flater landscapes. The coolest period starts from mid November until end of February, and the average temperature is usually between 15-24°C. The hottest period starts from March until the end of May and the temperature usually averages between 25-33°C. The Monsoon period from June to October usually averages in about 15 inches of rain fall and temperatures between 18-28 C.
Since 1988, the centrally planned economy was repealed for a more free market oriented economy. This increased business activites in the private sector for both domestic and foreign trade. However, Agriculture, forest produce, minerals, oil, fisheries are still the main sectors that contribute to the GDP of Myanmar. Apart from these old industires, another major sector that has a significant chunk of Myanmar's economy is the Tourism industry which boomed as Myanmar became more lenient with policies regarding trade with foreign countries. Today, the country is making steady progress in rehabilitating itself by constructing necessary infastructures such as dams, bridges, railways, roads, buildings, electricity and public utilities.
I'd like to tell you that we had a wonderful time in Myanmar and all travel arrangements were perfect...
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