Myanmar history dates back to the early 11 th century when king Anawrahta unified the country and founded the First Myanmar Empire in Bagan more than 20 years before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The Bagan Empire encompassed the areas of the present-day Myanmar and the entire Menam Valley in Thailand and lasted two centuries.
The Second Myanmar Empire was founded in mid 16 th century by King Bayinnaung. King Alaungpaya founded the last Myanmar dynasty in 1752 and it was during the zenith of this Empire that the British moved into Myanmar . Like India , Myanmar became a British colony but only after three Anglo-Myanmar Wars in 1825, 1852 and 1885. 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 4 th January 1948 after 62 years under the colonial administration. It is remarkable to note that Myanmar is the country that regained her independence first though she was the last country occupied by the British in this region.
Since late 1988, Myanmar has replaced the centrally planned economy to a more liberalized economic policy based on market-oriented system. In moving towards a more market oriented economy, Myanmar has more liberalized domestic and international trade, promoting the role of private sector and opening up to foreign investment.
Foreign Investment Law, new Central Bank of Myanmar Law, Financial Institutions of Myanmar Law, and Myanmar Tourism Law has been enacted and Chambers of Commerce has been reactivated.
Myanmar is richly endowed with renewable and non-renewable energy resources which are being exploited by the State sector with the participation of local and foreign investors.
Agriculture remains the main sector of the economy and measures have been taken to increase productivity, diversification of crop patterns and revitalization of agriculture exports.
Myanmar has the total area of 676,577 sq. km, it is about the size of Texas and the size of United Kingdom and France combined. Geographically, Myanmar is the largest country in South-East Asia Peninsula sharing borders with Bangladesh , India , China , Laos and Thailand .
MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS
Myanmar is forest-clad mountainous country. Three parallel chains of mountain ranges run from north to south: the Western Yoma or Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma and the Shan Plateau. They begin from the eastern extremity of the Himalaya mountain range. The snow-capped mountain Hkakabo-Razi at 5,881 meters (18,000 feet) is the highest in South-East Asia . Most of Myanmar ‘s snow-capped mountains are located within the state of Kachin, either near the borders of China or India . It may take 40 days for tourists to complete the tour to the base camp, thus let us recommend you to try the snow mountains of Mt.Pongkan on the Indian border where trekking and soft adventure tours are also available. These mountain chains divide the country into three river systems: the Ayeyarwaddy, the Sittaung and the Thanlwin. The Ayeyarwaddy , the most important river, about 2,170 km (1350 miles) long, and its major tributary, the Chindwinn, 960 km (600 miles) long, constitute the greatest rivering system in the country. As it joins the sea, the Ayeyarwaddy forms a vast delta of 240 km (150 miles) by 210 km (130 miles). According to these mountain chains and river systems, the country can be divided into seven major topographic regions: the Northern Hills for trekking and mountaineering, the Western Hills, the Shan plateau, the Central Belt, the Lower Myanmar Delta, the Rakhine Coastal Region at beaches and Tanintharyi Coastal Strip.
Myanmar has the effects of the Monsoon in different parts of the country. Temperature varies from 38C to 19C; humidity from 82.8% to 66%. Generally, Myanmar has three seasons, The rainy Season (June to September), The cold season- (October to February), The hot season (March to May). The ideal time to visit Myanmar is during the cold season. However, rainfall in Bagan and Mandalay is very low, even in the rainy season.
Myanmar is a union of many nationalities; speaking over one hundred languages and dialects. The term Myanmar embraces all nationalities. The major races are the Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. Padaung races with long neckes are very popular and attractive for tourist. There are seven States and seven Divisions in Myanmar .
The population of Myanmar is at present over 52 million with the Bamar, the majority race, making up about 70 percent. The average household size is estimated at 3 or 4 people. As regards education in Myanmar (according to the figure of 1993), the literacy rate stood at 81%. Yangon is the capital of Myanmar and has a population of over 5 million. Other cities with a large population are Mandalay , Mawlamyaing, Bago and Pathein.
Myanmar is the lingua franca. English is widely understood in cities like Yangon, Mandalay , Bagan, etc., Cantonese, Flukiness and Mandarin can also be used in the business circles here.
Over 80 % of the people embracing Theravada Buddhists. There are also Christians, Muslims, Hindus and even some animists. However there is full freedom of worship for followers of other religions. Christian missionaries have been active in Myanmar for over 150 years. Among them, the American Baptists were first on the scene.
Myanmar lies on the crossroads of two of the world’s great civilizations – China and India . Its culture is a blend of both interspersed with Myanmar native traits and characteristics. Buddhism has great influence on daily life of the Myanmars . The people have preserved the tradition of close family ties, respect for the elders, reverence for Buddhism and simple native dress. Myanmars are known for their simple hospitality and friendliness.
The dominating color of the national flag is red. The rectangular space at the upper left corner is blue. In it could be seen the figure of a paddy stalk and a pinion encircled by 14 white stars of uniform size. The paddy represents the peasants while the pinion stands for the workers who form the majority of the people in the country, 14 uniform white stars symbolize the equal status and union spirit of the 7 States and 7 Divisions that constitute the Union of Myanmar.
The white in the flag signifies purity; the red indicates bravery and upright nature of the people; and the blue stands as a symbol of peace and stability in the country.
LOCAL TIME IN MYANMAR
Myanmar Time is 6:30 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. For example on a Monday at midnight in Yangon , it will be:
New York (Eastern Standard) 1230 hours on Monday
London (GMT) 1730 hours on Monday
Bangkok 0030 hours on Tuesday.
Myanmar currency is known as ” Kyat ” which comprises 100 pyas.
Notes :Kyats 5000 ,Kyats 1000, Kyats 500, Kyats 200, Kyats 100, , Kyats 50, Kyats 20, Kyats 10, Kyats 5, Kyat 1.
Coins : Kyats 100, Kyats 50, Kyats 10, Kyats 5, Kyat 1, Pya 50, Pya 25, Pya 10, Pya 5, Pya 1.
Visitors can change their dollars into FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificate which is equal to US Dollars), and then can change their FEC legally into Kyat at the real market rate at licensed money changer shops.
Travelers cheques are NOT normally accepted and are difficult to transact. Travelers are advised to bring US Dollars in cash (small denomination notes). British Pounds, French Frances, German Deutsh Marks and other currencies are difficult to change. Bring US Dollars cash. Major hotels and a few restaurants will accept credit cards.
The voltage throughout Myanmar is 220-230 Volts AC. Most of the international class hotels in Yangon have their own generators. However in other places, voltage varies greatly and power often goes out. Valuable or sensitive electronic equipment like stereos and computer should be protected with the appropriate electronic protection equipment.
Drink only bottled or boiled water.
Bargaining is an art long practiced in Asian countries including Myanmar . So feel free to ask for a proper discount when shopping in places where prices are not marked. Be careful in dealing with sidewalk vendors who may not offer genuine goods at fair prices. Myanmar arts and crafts , mostly pure hand-made, are best souvenirs and prices are very reasonable. Lacquer ware, wood and ivory carvings, tapestries, silverware, brassware, silk and cotton fabrics and shoulder bags are some of the favorite items. For jewelry, there are Myanmar Rubies, Sapphire, Jade and Pearl available at Myanmar Gems Shops. You should only buy from licensed Government shop.
Light causal wears for all year round. A cardigan or light sweater for the cool season especially when visiting upper Myanmar , like Mandalay or Bagan. An umbrella will be useful during the rainy season. Sandals or slippers are convenient as all footwears must be taken off when entering the precincts of pagodas and monasteries. Visitors should not wear shorts or briefs when visiting pagodas and monasteries.
Hats and sunglass are recommended, and an umbrella for the rainy season is a must. Rainy season days often start out sunny but outbursts of rain can be heavy, even if short and frequent.
Government Offices & private and foreign company: 09:30-16:30 hrs Banks: 10:00-14:00 hrs
It is now quite easy to make international direct phone calls and to send faxes, email to worldwide. Internet access is available in most tourist destinations in Myanmar.
Radio Myanmar is on the air in English from 8:30 hours to 9:00 hours in the morning, 13:30 hours to 14:00 hours in the afternoon and 21:00 hours to 22:30 hours in the evening.
TV Myanmar & Myawaddy TV
TV Myanmar & Myawaddy TV with NTSC system, T V programmes start from 7:00 to 8:20 hrs and 16:00 to 22:30 mid-night. Satellite News at 20:45 hours in the evening. On every Saturday and Sunday, T V Myanmar starts from 08:30 hours to 09:30 hours as programs in English . In the afternoon from 12:00 hours to 14:30 hours.
There is a new TV line MRTV-3 starts from 9:00 to 10:00, 13:00 to 14:00 and 18:00 to 19:00.
The New Light of Myanmar and Asia Times are the newspapers in English. The Myanmar Times Magazines are also weekly published in English. Four newspaper in Myanmar – Myanmar Alin, Kyemon (The mirror), Myodaw (evening tabloid), and Yadanabon.
TRAVELING WITHIN MYANMAR
The quickest and most comfortable mode of domestic travel is by Air Bagan, Air Mandalay which is truly first-class regional air carrier flying the latest in ATR – 72 turbo – prop aircraft and Yangon Airways ATR – 72 aircraft. Myanmar Airways operate Fokker aircraft through the country.
Trains, ferry boats and buses are all available for those who want to experience local transportation and meet Myanmar people as they travel.
While no immunizations are formally required, malaria prophylaxis is often recommended by traveler’s personal physicians. Occasionally, typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis vaccinations are also recommended.
It is suggested that only bottled or boiled water be drunk. Hotels all supply bottled water as well as a good selection of Asian and Western foods. It is better not to purchase food from street vendors to eat local food, choose only large, clean and busy restaurants.
Insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites is particularly recommended, especially if you are traveling outside Yangon .
There are now at least two good international standard medical centers clinics in Yangon . It is recommended that you take out health insurance before traveling to Myanmar .
Myanmar food is a cross between Chinese and Indian – with traditional Myanmar curries and soups being the local favorites. Visitors will more commonly be offered Chinese cuisine because it is better suited to the Western palate. However, you can choose Myanmar specialties from menus at international hotels and local restaurants.
All foreign nationals are required to have entry visas to travel to the UNION OF MYANMAR. Myanmar entry visas can be obtained at local Myanmar Embassy or Consulate.
Visas are valid for 28 days can be issued the same day (sometimes within 20 minutes) they are applied for.
Proper “visa stamp on the passport” or specially authorized “Visa on Arrival Approval Letter” is required.
If you have pre-booked your holiday to Myanmar through a tour Operator, a letter can be obtained through a local agent in Myanmar .
There are Myanmar Embassies in the following countries.
South Africa – Pretoria
AIRPORT DEPARTURE TAX
As is the case at most international airports, there is a departure tax. In Yangon, US$ 10 per person is payable, in either US $ or FEC, for departures on international flights. There are currently no airport taxes for domestic flights.