Sharing the borders with Bangladesh & India in west and north-west, China, Laos & Thailand in east, north-east & south-east. The Andaman Sea & Bay of Bengal also surround the Myanmar costal region.
The history of what is now Myanmar has been made by a succession of peoples who migrated down along the Ayeyarwaddy River from Tibet & China, and who were influenced by social and political institutions
The country is divided in seven States and eight Divisions. In seven States, the majorities- Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine & Shan are living in their respective States. In eight Divisions, the majority of Myanmar peoples living- Ayeyarwaddy, Bago, Magwe, Mandalay, Naypyidaw, Sagaing, Thanintharyi and Yangon. Each state and division is subdivided into villages, village tracts, township and district.
The Names of the Country
In 1989, the colonial names were changed to the real names with Myanmar ascents. Those new names are not new for Myanmar peoples.
The climate of Myanmar and other countries in Southeast Asia follows a monsoon
pattern. During the half of the year of the year that the sun’s rays strike directly above the equator, the landmass of Asia is heated more than in the Indian Ocean. This draws moist hot air from over the ocean onto the land, bringing the rains southwest monsoon. When the tilt of the earth brings the direct sunrays south of the equator, the heating of the Indian Ocean draws the cooler dry air of the northeast monsoon from the highlands of Asia across the countries of South and Southeast Asia. As a result, Myanmar has three seasons:
the hot season, the rainy season and the cold season. The hot season runs from late February to end of May. At the end of this season, the average monthly temperature reaches over 35°C in many pars of Myanmar. The rainy season starts from the beginning of June to the early of October. By July rains have brought the average temperature down to 29°C in Mandalay and 27°C in Yangon. The cold season is from the middle of October to middle of February. Average annual rainfall varies from about 5000 mm on the coastal region to about 760 mm at Mandalay.
A census taken in 1983 counted 34 millions; as of today’s population is estimated
to be about 56.2 millions with an annual growth rate of around 2.1%. Approximately
74% live in rural areas. The largest cities, in declining order, are Yangon,
Mandalay, Pathein, Mawlamyine, Taunggyi and Sittwe. Yangon appears to have 5 millions, Mandalay around 1 million, the remainder 800,000 or fewer.
National literacy 81.5%
Infant mortality rate 79 per 1000
Average life expectancy 59 years
Average citizen consumes 2448 calories per day
In the percentage of daily calories taken from rice consumption, Myanmar ranks first worldwide.
According to the World Development Report, 74% of Myanmar citizens have access to safe drinking water, a 252% increase since 1980.
Language & Religion
Most of the linguistic groups of Myanmar are monosyllabic and polytonal, similar
to those of Tibet and China. The official Myanmar language is spoken by the majority of the population, including many of the ethnic minorities. About 15% of the population speaks Shan & Kayin. English is spoken among the educated and the country contains a sizable number of speakers of Chinese.
More than 86% of the people of Myanmar are Buddhists; most of them adhere to the school of Buddhism, as Buddhists in neighboring Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. The everyday practice of Buddhism is a well-developed culture of animism, the worship of spirits known as Nats. This culture provides a basis for many Nat festivals and for much of traditional medical practice. Christians (mostly Baptists) have also long formed a part of the population (about 15%) and there are a significant number of Muslims as well.
The population of Myanmar is about 56.2 millions. The overall population density
is about 67 persons per sq km, one of the lowest in East Asia. The population
is more than 75% rural, with almost half of the urban population found in the three largest cities: Yangon (about five millions), Mandalay (about one million)
and Mawlamyine (about five hundred thousands). More than 69% of the population is Myanmar, ethnically to the Tibetan and the Chinese. In addition, several minorities with their own languages and cultures inhabit the country. They are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine & Shan.
The major population of Myanmar migrated into the Ayeyarwaddy River Valley
from the north, bringing their spoken languages, their gender roles, and several varieties of food and medicine. From India on the west came the institutions
of religion and government, but without the Indian caste system of social hierarchy. India was also the source of Pali, the sacred language, and of the Devanagari script in which the popular language is written, along with astrology and some kinds of food. The firm grounding of Buddhism in Myanmar
culture contributed over the years to the building of many pagodas, which stand proudly to prove the grandeur role of Myanmar culture.
The social ideal for most Myanmar citizens-no matter what their ethnic background
may be-is a standard of behavior commonly termed “Myanmar-ness”.
The degree to which a Myanmar can conform to these ideals matches the degree of respect he or she will receive from associates. Although high rank will exempt certain individuals from chastisement by inferiors, it doesn’t exempt
them from the way they are perceived by other Myanmar. This goes for foreigners as well, even though most first time visitors can hardly be expected to speak idiomatic Myanmar or recite Buddhist scripture.
Some Courtesies at Pagodas/Monasteries
Myanmar is the land of Pagodas, which overwhelm the country, forming the fascinating landscapes. When we visit those pagodas and temples, which are considered
the most important, there are some advices to be careful.
*Please take off the shoes and socks when we enter the pagodas, temples or monasteries compounds. We have to go on barefoot and it would be more convenient
to wear the slippers during the trip so that we can easily take on and take off before and after visiting one pagoda to another.
*Please wear decently; long pants or longyis are highly appreciated. Please keep shoulders covered.
*Please visit the pagodas, temples or monasteries according to the clockwise.
*Buddha images are sacred objects, so don’t pose in front of them for pictures and definitely do not clamber upon them.
*It is possible to take the photos to the pagodas, temples (except some archaeological monuments) or the people. However, it would be better to ask the permission
if we want to make the persons nearby.
*As in other Buddhist countries the head is the highest part of the body-spiritually as well as literally. We should never deliberately touch somebody else on the head or pat a child on the head.
*The feet are the lowest part of the body; don’t point your feet at somebody.
*Indicating something with the foot is considered as the rude manner; please be careful not to lay down the feet toward the Buddha or the monks or even the normal persons.
*Monks are not supposed to touch or be touched by women. If a woman wants to offer something to a monk, the objects should be placed within reach of the monk, not handed directly to him.
*When we speak with the monks, the elder peoples or some high level persons, we should maintain the attitude of humble respect.
Some Courtesies in Social Life
Myanmar people are very friendly, moderate and expect the guests.
*A good consideration to preserve the polite way to the pagoda, they also apply in the daily life such as, wearing decently and don’t indicate with the feet.
*When we pass near or in front of the elder people, we bow our body in terms of showing respect.
*We don’t touch anyone of the opposite sex. Even we don’t shake hands and it is a bad manner.
*We always give or receive the things with the right hand, but the left hand has to keep on the right forearm.
*The men always walk on the right side of the ladies (only between couples), as we believe that the potency of the men is on the right side.
*Most of the Myanmar ladies and children wear Thanakha, Myanmar traditional cosmetic, made of bark from natural wood. They mainly apply on the cheek, the arms and the feet. This preserves to be fresh and make the skin to become soft.
The Myanmar people wear simple and elegant. It is a unique country in South East Asia where the majority of the people maintains the traditional costume. Due to the hot climate, both men and women wear longyis, except for those in the military, who wear trousers. The longyi is a loom woven length of cloth draped around the lower body and legs and tied at the waist. Male and female longyis also differ in the patterns printed or woven into them. On top men wear a light shirt, covered by a typical jacket on formal occasions. On the head, wear a gaungbaung, which for a farmer can be a simple length of cloth twisted around the head like a turban, while a government official at a formal event will have one made of silk and stretched over a light wicker frame. Women wear a long or short-sleeved blouse. Because of the hot weather and rains, sandals are worn rather than shoes. Umbrellas are carried throughout the year to keep off either sun or rain.
The Myanmar language lends itself well to poetry and puns since words are usually one syllable long, beginning and ending with consonants, while the vowel in the middle carries one of the several tones-low, high and short, or high and falling. Classical poems of four lines with four syllables in each line followed a complex rhyme scheme. A wealth of satirical puns plays on exchanging
Art & Architecture
Secular art is rare in Myanmar; most sculpture and painting is confined to a Buddhist context. Many large pagodas were constructed by kings and rich people seeking to earn religious merit. These pagodas consist of a massive central spire decorated with plant and animal designs and lesser shrines around the base; they are often topped by a jewel-encrusted hit, or umbrella. There are thousands of ancient pagodas in the old capital Bagan, others in the area of the former capital at Madalay, and the grand, gold-encased Shwedagon
Myanmar’s truly indigenous dance forms are those that pay homage to the spirits or members of the spirit world. In special spirit festivals, one or more spirit is invited to possess the body and mind of the medium; sometimes members of the audience are possessed instead, an event greatly feared by most Myanmar. Spirit dancing styles are very fluid and adaptable, and are handed down from older festival dancers to their offspring or apprentices. In contracts, few of Myanmar’s
classical dance-drama styles are entirely indigenous. Most arrived from Thailand during periods of Myanmar conquest of Thai kingdoms in the late 1700s.
The most Myanmar of the dances feature solo performances by female dancers who wear dresses with long white trains which they kick into the air with their heels during the foot movements-some outside observers see a Chinese influence in these movements. Around 2000 dance movements are catalogued by Myanmar dance scholars, including 13 kinds of head movements, 28 eye movements, nine neck movements, 24 ways of moving only one hand plus 23 using both hands, 38 leg movements, eight body postures and 10 walking movements. Classical-dance Myanmar is currently enjoying a revival in Myanmar is occasionally
Myanmar marionette theatre presents colorful puppets up to a meter high in a spectacle that many aesthetes consider the most expensive of all the Myanmar arts. Developed in the 18th century, it was so influential that it became the forerunner to drama as later performed by actors rather than marionettes. Some marionettes may be manipulated by a dozen or more strings; certain spirits may sport up to 60 strings, including one for each eyebrow. The marionette master’s standard repertoire requires a troupe of 28 puppets including Thagyamin (king of the gods); a Myanmar king, queen, prince and princess; a regent; two court pages; an old man and an old woman; a villain; a hermit; four ministers; two clowns; one good and one evil spirit; a Brahmin astrologer; two ogress; an alchemist; a horse; a monkey; a mythical sea serpent; and an elephant. The figures bring together the talents of singers, puppeteers, musicians, woodcarvers, embroiderers and set designers.
Myanmar music, which features strongly in any festival, can be rather hard for unaccustomed Western ears to enjoy. As with other Asian music it is very short on the harmony so important in Western music and tends to sound “harsh, tinkle and repetitive”. Traditional Myanmar music is primarily two-dimensional in the sense that rhythm and melody provide mucho of the musical structure, while repetition is a key element in developing this structure; subtle shifts in rhythm and tonality provide the modulation usually supplied by the harmonic dimension in Western music. These techniques have been rediscovered in Western musical trends like the minimalism of Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Brian Eno. There is also a significant amount of improvisation in live performance, an element traditional Myanmar music shares with jazz.
Myanmar has a tradition of kickboxing that’s said to date back to the 11th century, although the oldest written references are found in chronicles of warfare between Myanmar and Thailand during the 15th and 16th century. Myanmar kickboxing is very similar in style to Siamese kickboxing although not nearly as well developed as a national sport. In fact Myanmar boxing matches are never seen or heard on television or radio, and only occasionally reported. The Myanmar term chinlon refers to games in which a woven rattan ball about 12 cm in diameter is kicked around. Informally any number of players can form a circle and keep the ball airborne by kicking it soccer-style from player to player; a lack of scoring makes it’s a favorite with Myanmar of all ages. A popular variation-and the one used in intramural or international competitions-is played with volleyball net, using all the same rules as in volleyball except that only the feet and head are permitted to touch the ball. It is amazing to see the players perform aerial pirouettes, spiking the ball over the net with their feet. Football is the craziest and most interesting as in other countries. Many people know all the names of the football players with their numbers wearing on the shirts.
Ways of Life
Myanmar civilization is largely an outgrowth of Indian influences. For the majority of Myanmar’s population, Buddhism is the center of individual life and the monastery
is the center of the community. This is especially true in the villages, where most of the population lives. Wisdom is believed to reside at the monasteries and refuge may be sought there. A rite of passage for every adolescent boy is the Shinphyu, in which the boy briefly relives the princely life of the Buddha, and enters into the life of the monastery as a novice monk. At any later time in life he may return to the monastic lie for a longer or shorter period of time. If married, he should ask his wife to do this. The daily life of the village begins with the monks making their rounds in the morning with their alms-bowls. By donating that day’s food, the villagers earn merit, and the monks, who are forbidden to work, are nourished. The annual cycle of life follows the season, with all hands put to work for rice planting when the summer monsoon brings the first rains. The time during the three months of the most intensive rain is the Buddhist lent, when such activities as marriage and hunting are put off, but Nat festivals can be enjoyed. The Myanmar orchestra that accompanies the theatrical performances in a folk opera consists of a bamboo xylophone, tall bamboo clappers, many kinds of tuned gongs, a small pair of cymbals to keep time, and a six-reeded oboe that carries the theme. That mimics the sound of the human voice speaking in the tonal Myanmar language. In cities and towns music is piped into the streets for the public’s benefit through loudspeakers located in teashops and videocassette recorders bring cosmopolitan musical culture to eve the smallest settlements.
For much of Myanmar’s history, women played a stronger role than in traditional Western societies. From early on they could own property and were independent
in economic activities. In religion, however, their place is secondary. Males can become monks and they can earn religious merit in a number of ways; the few women who become nuns and the many who offer gifts to monks usually hope at best to be born as a man in their next reincarnation. A popular form of recreation is traveling by coach or oxcart to visit a notable pagoda or attend a festival. Football is a prominent sport, even during heavy rains; kites are flown in season; and a frequent occurrence on any day is a local game of Chinlon, in which a small circle of men keeps a ball of woven cane up in the air with gentle blows from the foot, knee, shoulder, or head. Golf is particularly favored among military leaders.
The core of the Myanmar diet is boiled rice, combined with a little spicy meat or fish and some vegetables. Also popular for breakfast is a hot noodle soup flavored with coconut. A favorite sauce is ngapi, which is made from fermented fish or prawns and gives off a pungent odor. Several varieties of bananas along with coconut are the main fruits, while a wide, variety of more exotic fruits are also enjoyed, such as the mangosteen, the custard apple and the durian. The common drink is weak green tea, which is taken tepid throughout the day in small cups. There are many good restaurants throughout the country, mainly in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle and their surroundings, which serve quality food at reasonable prices. Thai, Chinese, European, Indian & Myanmar cuisines are available. Eating at the street restaurants can be wonderful Asian experience but it is not recommended unless the restaurant has been recommended by experienced guides.
Myanmar offers a high level of health and welfare services. The number of hospital beds is about 30000 for about 10 per 10000 of population. Rural health centers have grown and there are 15000 doctors, 11000 nurses and 9500 midwives. Even though it is in the area of Malaria, it doesn’t contain the whole country. Only some parts, which are very forestry or mountainous zone, for example, the extremely northern part, the jungle area, etc. It accepts considerable international aid in combating the extensive AIDS epidemic. The international community offers limited assistance in drug control programs.
Myanmar is primarily an agriculture country. About two-third of the working population is engaged in growing or processing crops, while about one-tenth works in industry. Before World War II Myanmar was the world’s major rice exporter. After the war, the area of land devoted to agriculture slowly recovered, but as the population grew the surplus available for export never reached the earlier level. For a while forestry was the major export earner. Today, tourism, though small by international standard, is the major source of foreign exchange. From 1962 to 1988 the country was closed to the world and in the 1990s, the military government
took over the power and has opened the economy to market forces, particularly inviting foreign investment.
Education is free and compulsory for primary and middle schools, but fees are charged for high school. Secondary education consists of four years of middle or vocational school and an additional two years for high school. About one-fifth of the secondary school-age population is enrolled in school. About 85% of the population is truly literate. There are also many universities and colleagues, mainly in the big cities.
Myanmar is a very friendly and safe country. You can go around the cities, towns and villages without any worry even in the night time. But basically, there is nothing on the road apart from 22:00 in the big cities and in the small towns or villages everybody goes to bed at about 20:00 or 21:00.
Myanmar can be said ONE OF THE SAFETIEST COUNTRIES in the world.
The railroad system has been owned and operated by the government since British times; it includes about 4000 km of track, but it doesn’t connect with railroads outside of Myanmar. Far more important for moving domestic passengers
and cargo are the inland waterways, which total about 12800 km of navigable rivers and canals, about 3200 km of which are open to large commercial
vessels. Most of Myanmar’s largest towns and cities are river ports.
Highways total about 27000 km, of which about 12% are paved, 65% are gravel, and the rest passable most easily by jeep or ox cart. In the 190s, the government has focused considerable energy o reconstructing roads, often with volunteer or forced labor. Altogether, however, the amount of new road added since 1990 has averaged less than 200 km per year, compared to an average of 970 km per year in previous years. There are extensive road links and several bridge links with Thailand and China. There are four domestic airlines,
Myanmar Airways (government-owned), Air Mandalay and Air Bagan, which are private airlines. Myanmar Airways is used only for the off beaten places, where private airlines do not go due to its poor services, less punctuality and not so reliable. Air Mandalay and Air Bagan operate with modern aircraft ATR 72/42 and F-100 with good services, reliable and punctual. The taxis can be found easily only in Yangon. All the local buses are over crowded and it is not easy to ask the information at the bus stops. In other places, we can find easily the trishaws, the horse carts, the bicycles, etc.
All postal, telegraph, telephone and broadcasting systems in Myanmar are controlled by the government. There are three government TV channels. In some of the big cities, such as Yangon, Mandalay, etc., satellite dishes are used.
The postal service is quite slow but it doesn’t cost a lot. A postcard from Yangon
to abroad can take more or less three weeks but it costs only 50 kyats. If we mail from outside of Yangon, it can take more.
Telephone system is now easier than before, but it quite expensive.
The mobiles outside of Myanmar don’t have the network in Myanmar. The country does have its own networks for using internally (mainly in the major highlights such as Yangon, Mandalay & Bagan).
The internets are available in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan but yahoo & hotmail
accesses are banned. We can open our new account with other accesses
to receive or send the messages. In Yangon & Mandalay, we can find some services, where we can have access to internets and e-mails.
IDD country code of Myanmar is 95. The area code of Yangon is 1, of Mandalay
& Bagan are 2 and, of Inle Lake is 81.
The most common units of weight used in Myanmar are viss, pounds and ticals. One viss equals 3.6 pounds (1.6 kg) or 100 ticals. One tical equals 16 gm.
At the retail level, rice and small fruits or nuts are sold in units of volume rather than weight; the most common measure is the standard condensed milk can. Eight cans equal one small rice basket or pyi and 16 pyi make a jute sack or tinn. Petrol and most other liquids are sold by the imperial gallons (4.55 liters). One exception is milk, which is sold by the viss.
Length & Distance
Cloths and other items of moderate length are measured by the yard (91.5 cm). Road distances are measured in miles (one mile=1.6 km). Shorter distances
in town or in the countryside may be quoted in furlongs. There are eight furlongs in one mile; thus one furlong equals about two-tenths of a km.