Myanmar

Overview:

Previously known as Burma, the official name of the country is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. In 1989, the name was changed from Burma to Myanmar. Myanmar is Southeast Asia’s largest country, sharing borders with China, Laos and Thailand in the east and Bangladesh and India in the north. The topography of Myanmar can be divided into three parts: the Western Hill Region, the Central Valley Region and the Eastern Hill Region. Myanmar is becoming a popular destination in the Southeast Asia with array of tourist sights: golden stupas as tall as skyscrapers, ancient ruins, charming hill tribes, unexplored jungles, peaceful beaches and legions of monks. Since 2005, the capital has been located in Nay Pyi Taw, however, Yangon, originally the capital of Myanmar remains the biggest city, commercial centre and arrival point for most visitors. A trip to Myanmar offers something truly unique. 

Myanmar, a land of friendly people, a land of the million pagodas, to name a few, is rich in natural and cultural resources. For its long history and big size, it is an ideal place to experience the archaeology as well as flora and fauna. There are a lot of existing and newly-developed destinations in Myanmar. Not only natural and man-made places but also its friendly people itself are also uniquely attractive.

 

Myanmar has a population of about 53 million. There are 135 different ethnic groups and 8 main national races in Myanmar. All of them have their own traditional cultures, customs and believing systems. The 68% of the population are ethnic Bamar. Other ethnic groups are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhaing and Shan. There is also a significant of Chinese and Indians in the country. Theravada Buddhism is professed by the great majority of the people of Myanmar. About 87% of population are Buddhists, 5% are animists, 4.5% are Christian, 4% are Muslim and 1.5% are Hindu.

 

Myanmar remains one of the most undiscovered destinations offering all the traditional delights of Asia in one country.

 

Destination Info:

This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.

Best time to go: The best time to visit Myanmar is from October till early March when the temperature are quite cool. From March till end-September, it gets very warm. Monsoon is expected from end-May till October when Capital Yangon gets heavy rains during monsoon mainly in the afternoons and evenings but rest of the country remains dryer. Popular areas of Mandalay &Bagan get very light and infrequent showers even during monsoon.

Literacy Rate in Myanmar is 83 per cent and life expectancy is 57 years.


Visa: New Zealanders need a Visa for Myanmar. This can be obtained in advance from Embassy of Myanmar in Canberra or on arrival at Yangon Airport. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the scheduled date of departure from Myanmar. In this case, you will need a letter of confirmation from our local operators, which can be provided in time.Visa can also be applied online through Myanmar Govt's website: http://evisa.moip.gov.mm/

 

Myanmar is very rich in natural resources like petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, some marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas and hydropower.


Currency: The Myanmar kyat, often denoted by MMK, is the official currency of Myanmar. Though the kyat is subdivided into 100 pyas, pya coins are scarce and instead, notes up to 1000 kyat are most commonly used. While the official exchange rate (MMK/USD) has lingered around 6.50 kyats to one US dollar, the currency is known for its extremely variable street rate, which can go as high as 1000 kyats.

There is no need for visitors to change their dollars into FEC (which is equal to US Dollars). You can change your US Dollars into Kyat at the real market rate at licensed money changer shops. Credit cards or Travellers Cheques are not acceptable in Myanmar and it is advisable to carry enough US Dollars in cash.

This is probably one of the few countries in the world where your health is judged by how overweight you are. Plumpness is regarded as a sign of health.


Health: Conditions in Myanmar are different from here and you need to be prepared in advance for a comfortable trip. Health issues and the quality of Myanmar medical facilities vary enormously depending on where and how you travel in Myanmar. Many of the Myanmar major cities are now very well developed, although travel to rural areas can expose you to hygiene-related health risks and inadequate medical care. Though there is no need to take any precautionary vaccinations, it is advisable to consult your doctor well in advance as you will experience major change in climate, environment, food and water and general hygienic conditions. Your doctor will be able to help you prepare better.

Wine-making is a popular industry, there is Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Late Wine and Inle Valley White Wine amongst a horde of other wines.
 

Food and drinks: Although it draws on its' neighbours, it is neither as hot as Thai, as spicy as Indian nor does it resemble Chinese cooking much except in the stir-fry vegetables. Nowadays various kinds of Myanmar food and snacks are available in the street stalls, market stalls and local restaurants. Myanmar food is a cross between Chinese and Indian – with traditional Myanmar curries and soups being the local favourites.

A typical meal is arranged around rice with accompanying curry as main dish with a side dish and soup. The main dish features pork, beef, mutton, chicken, duck, fish or prawn, eggs cooked in onions and a gravy that is based on garlic, ginger, saffron powder, shrimp sauce or soy sauce, salt and a little bit of chilli powder. The meat can be fried, stewed, steamed or roasted.

Side dishes are usually a salad or fried vegetables. A salad is normally made with vegetables combined with onion slices, pounded peanuts, pounded dried-shrimp, salt or shrimp sauce and oil. Pickled tealeaf or ginger salads are eaten often after meals or as afternoon snacks.

Soups may be clear, refreshingly tart or creamy. They are mostly with vegetables, sometimes with meat, fish or prawns create different tastes. Sour soup made with roselle-leaves, bamboo shoot and fish is a popular and common soup of the Myanmar cuisine. Fresh fruits are served after the meals. Myanmar is very rich on tasty tropical fruits in their many varieties, pineapple, papaya, mango, melons, banana, orange, etc.

In all city quarters where tourists gather, you will encounter eateries offering a good selection of Myanmar, Chinese, Indian, Thai and European cuisine.

Green tea and tea brewed with condensed milk and sugar as well are the most usual drinks, while coffee has more recently become popular in cities. Alcoholic drinks are generally not favoured in a Buddhist country, although there are local beers and strong liquors made from the juice of the toddy palm.

Rice is more than a staple diet in Myanmar. It is served with every single meal and will be on your plate with a side dish of fish, curry, chicken and fish/ noodle soup. Green tea also is an accompaniment of every Burmese meal.


Safety & security: There is high risk to your security along the borders with Laos, Thailand and China and we advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel in the vicinity of these borders, including official border crossings. Military activity, ethnic militias, armed drug smugglers and the presence of landmines pose a particularly high risk to your safety. There is high risk to your security in Kachin, Rakhine and northern Shan states due to ethnic tensions and the potential for armed conflict and violent civil unrest. We advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to these areas.  

Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or Reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page.

Betel is more popular than chewing gum and it is eaten from the morning till the time you sleep


Clothing: You can dress up in light causal wears all year round. A sweater or jacket is recommended for the cooler season especially when visiting Mandalay or Bagan. An umbrella will be useful during the rainy season. Sandals or slippers are convenient as all footwear’s must be taken off when entering the precincts of pagodas and monasteries. Visitors should not wear shorts or briefs when visiting pagodas and monasteries. Please take good walking shoes with non-slip sole as you will be required to walk frequently during your sightseeing programs and sometimes on uneven surface.

There is a widespread superstition around cutting hair in this country. No one cuts their hair on a Monday, Friday or their Birthday.


Language: 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.

Myanmar is home to one of three largest World War II cemeteries- the Taukkyan cemetery.


Gratuities: Tipping is not mandatory but it is highly appreciated by the people who serve you. Before you tip in restaurants, please check if the service charge has been added.

When a woman has pregnant, she is not allowed to eat Bananas, Chilli because bananas mean baby will be too big while chili means baby will have no hair.


Airport tax: Airport Tax of USD 10.00 per person is payable locally for all international flight departures.

Very small children wear holy thread around their neck or wrist for protection from bad spirits or spells!


Internet: Internet is common in hotel rooms and a lot of hotels also have internet facilities at their Reception or Business Centre for use by guests at a small fee. Cyber cafes are popular but you will find them crowded.

Telephone: Myanmar has a dialling code of +95 from New Zealand. Telephone numbers of Hotels arranged by us will be supplied to you in your itinerary. While calling New Zealand from Myanmar, you will need to dial +64…

Weddings are set on a day picked by an astrologer for good luck.


Time Difference: Myanmar is 6h30m hours behind New Zealand from April to September and 5h30m from October to March.

Photography: Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited. 

In traditional Burmese villages, the monastery is the center of cultural life.  All Buddhist boys must spend time as monks.


Electricity: Voltage supply in Myanmar is 220 volts and 2-pin or 3-pin (round pins) are used. Few Hotels have adapters available which you could borrow free of charge during your stay but it might be a good idea to carry one from home. Please visit this website for more information on plugs:http://kropla.com/electric2.htm

Dense forests cover over 49% of Myanmar.  These forests are home to tigers, leopards, rhinoceros, and elephants.

Boxing is a sport that is played right across Myanmar. However it is played via very different rules and is very violent. In this form of boxing, the one who draws blood first is the victor.

Cities of Interest

Yangon
Yangon, the cosmopolitan capital city of Myanmar, still maintains its colonial charm with wide tree lined avenues, tranquil lakes, and gracious turn of the century architecture. The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese, and Indian influences, and though its colonial architecture, which although decaying, remains an almost unique example of a 19th-century British colonial capital. New high-rise buildings were constructed from the 1990s as the government began to allow private investment. However, Yangon continues to be a city of the past, as seen by its longyi-wearing pedestrians, its street vendors, and its pungent smells.

The magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the city skyline, while at street level Yangon is a paradise for hunting out a variety of exotic arts and crafts. Of particular interest in the many shops of Scott Market, and of world renown, are Myanmar’s precious stones – rubies, sapphires and jade. At night time Chinatown comes alive with its pungent aromas and delicious street food.

Yangon is hot and humid, especially at midday when most of the population takes refuge indoors or by the shade of a temple or banyan tree. It is a noisy and chaotic place too, with innumerable scooters, orange robed monks, neon signs and golden temple spires clashing in a visual landscape of uniquely Asian contradictions. Yangon is also Asia's safest city, the only positive consequence of the dictatorship that rules this country.
 

Mandalay
The principal cultural and economic city of upper Myanmar, and former royal capital, Mandalay still evokes images of a romantic bygone era. The royal palace and its impressive surrounding moat sit at the foot of the imposing Mandalay Hill. Positioned on the banks of the mighty Ayeryarwaddy River, Mandalay lies within easy striking distance of former colonial hill stations, ancient cities and other cultural attractions.

 

Known as the 'City of Gems,’ due to its proximity to gem-mining areas and its prominence in gem trading, the city is strategically situated on important river routes from India and China, and land routes from Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. This is a city of monasteries as well as markets, and Mandalay boasts a number of significant historic sites that well merit seeing.


Within an hour’s drive of the city are several destinations worthy of including on your itinerary. There’s the lovely hill station town of Pyin U Lwin (Maymyo), where you’ll find good examples of colonial architecture, and the unfinished pagoda at Mingun, where you’ll see the world’s largest working bell.

 

The former capitals of Ava and Amarapura are a short drive to the south, where the tranquillity of rural Myanmar can best be appreciated. Although the royal palaces are no longer standing, you’ll find a wealth of monasteries, pagodas and temples. Of particular interest is the long teak footbridge at Amarapura,This is an important destination for visitors to Myanmar, offering enough attractions for at least a few days of sightseeing, and some interesting shopping as well

 

Bagan

One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Asia, if not the world, the magic of Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly 1000 years. Once the centre of a glorious kingdom, ancient temples dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. Today, apart from spectacular sunset views and serene river cruises, Bagan is also the centre of the expanding Myanmar lacquer ware industry.

 

Bagan lies along the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy River. While some might think it lacks the splendour of Angkor Wat or Borobudur, it is an impressive sight nonetheless, making up for what it lacks in majesty by weight of numbers; there are temples here as far as the eye can see. The temples date back to the 11th century when Pagan was the Burmese capital and wielded great power.

 

The sheer number of temples here makes it possible only to visit a tiny fraction, but Ananda Temple should be high on any agenda. Ananda is a stunning white temple that sits next to the Ananda Ok Kyaung monastery, a rare survivor from the early Bagan ear.

 

Bagan has a long tradition of producing beautiful lacquer-ware, and Bagan is a perfect place to pick up handicrafts to take back home. While the shopping is not as good here as it is in larger cities in Myanmar, the main market provides most basics.

 

Nightlife is limited, but all hotels and many restaurants provide the perfect setting in which to enjoy a cool beer while taking in the view of the temples. Old Bagan is the most popular are in which to dine, with everything from local to Chinese dishes on the menu as well as some excellent value all-you-can-eat buffets

 

Inle Lake

Just a short plane flight away from Yangon in the cool green highlands of Shan State, and yet seemingly worlds apart from the rest of Myanmar, lies Inle Lake in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The lake itself sits at a pleasant 2900 feet above sea level and is famous for its leg rowers, floating markets and prolific birdlife. In this unique wetland environment, whole villages sit on floating islands on the lake. Colourful hill tribes inhabit the surrounding fertile valleys and forested mountaintops, and their hand-woven silks are a specialty of the region.

 

The lake is nearly 100 km North to South but only 5 km wide and there are more than 200 villages on or around it, supporting a population of about 1 50,000. Inle’s central portion is devoted to floating gardens and newly reclaimed land. Traveling in a boat, parts of Inle seem more like a network of canals than an open lake. All the waterways are marked with whitewashed wooden railings and the round mileposts give it the appearance of a giant, flooded racecourse. With the mountains as a backdrop, lnle bears comparison with Kashmir's Dal Lake in India.

 

Inle’s most unusual feature is its extraordinary 'one-legged fishermen', who have developed an original, eccentric method of rowing with one leg. With the other, they balance precariously on the back of their sampans, leaving their hands free to drop their tall conical nets over passing fish, which they can spot in the shallow lake. Another of Inle’s unusual claims to fame is its floating gardens, which are built-up from strips of water hyacinth and mud, dredged from the lake bed, which breaks down into rich humus.

 

Heho is the gateway to idyllic Lake Inle in the Shan mountains. On and along the shores of this lake you will see the villages of Intha people, the unique legrowers. In floating gardens they grow tomatoes, beans, cauliflowers and egg plants. The floating market in the Inle region is held every five days. The tranquil water of the Inle Lake is the setting of Phaung-Daw-Oo-Pagoda Festival, a colorful water-born procession of royal barges bearing 5 holy figurines of Lord Buddha. This most spectacular festival is held in October and offers pageantry and music.

 

Taunggyi and Kalaw, former British Hill Stations, are noted for natural beauty and cool and pleasant climate. One of the attractions is to stroll over the morning markets and the visit to a local cigar factory is also worth to be done. Most fascinating is a visit to Pindaya caves. It takes two hours’ drive from Heho to reach Pindaya where thousands of old Buddha images have been brought to holy caves. Soft trekking tours can be made from Pindaya.

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