Few Interesting Facts About Myanmar
Area: 676,577 sq.km
Capital City: Naypyitaw
Population: About 51 million
Language: Myanmar (official), English
Myanmar has three seasons
- The monsoon or rainy season from May to October;
- The cool season from November to February and
- The hot season from March to May.
The average temperature ranges from 32?C in central and lower areas to 21?C in the northern highlands.
Local Time: GMT + 6.30
Currency: Kyat (Kt). Kyat is pronounced like the English word ‘chat’. Kt.1000 ~ USD0.66
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MYANMAR
Is it Myanmar or Burma?
The first thing tourists notice is that some people call the country Myanmar whereas others refer to it as Burma. This is strange and somewhat unique.
Burma was what the British called the country during their reign that lasted from 1824 to 1948. The name Burma is derived from the dominant Bamar ethnic group that makes up 70% of the population.
After gaining independence, the nation was ruled by a harsh regime under the military junta. In 1989, Burma officially became the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Rangoon became Yangon. Many democratic governments didn’t recognise the junta’s rule and therefore didn’t recognised the name change. They referred to its previous name instead.
In a nutshell, Burma is the old name and Myanmar is the new name.
The Myanmar Water festival
The Water Festival, also known as Thingyan, is one of the biggest festivals in the country. Thousands take to the streets for a huge water fight to celebrate the Burmese New Year in April. Everyone has a great time and it’s one of the most important facts about Myanmar culture you should be aware of as a tourist. Taking part is probably the best travel experience you can have here.
The longyi in Myanmar
The longyi is a traditional piece of clothing that both men and women wear throughout Myanmar. A large 2-metre cloth is wrapped around the bottom half of the body in a similar way to a sarong. People wear this for pretty much any occasions. You’ll see men wearing a shirt with a longyi as they go to the office and women lounging around in their shops in one.
The difference between the longyi for males and females is the pattern and how the knot is tied. Men allow their knot to hang out the front whereas women tuck it inside.
Tourists find this traditional attire intriguing and will often try it on for themselves, much to the amusement of the locals. But, you may have to wear one, especially if you’re dressed inappropriately to enter a religious building.
Myanmar still uses the imperial system
Very few countries measure things using the Imperial System. This means that they measure weight in pounds and distances in inches rather than the more common kilograms and centimetres. Only the United States and Liberia retain this system. Just be careful when you’re looking at the Myanmar facts and figures to make sure you get the right measurement!
The preferred method of carrying things is on the head
This is one of the more unusual facts about Myanmar that you’ll notice quite often when you’re visiting and travelling in the country. People, especially women, tend to carry things on their heads rather than using their hands. Foreigners are shocked at first and automatically think back to the travel shows on Africa. But, carrying things on the head is quite popular and is a more convenient method of transport. You can expect to see vendors carrying food on a large metal plate or even a basket full of the weekly shopping on their heads.
The Kingdom of Bagan
In the 12th and 13th century, a large and powerful Kingdom flourished in the plains of central Myanmar. Kings built a succession of ancient temples and pagodas, which became a centre for Theravada Buddhism. This was also the birthplace of the dominance of Burmese culture and language in modern day Myanmar.
Visiting the temples in modern day Bagan is one of the top things people do when they visit the country. You can see more than 2000 religious monuments in a very tiny area and experience the best sunset of your life.
The new capital city that appeared overnight
In October 2005, Yangon was the bustling capital of Myanmar. A few weeks later, it was no longer the capital and the government staff suddenly found that they had to relocate almost 400 kilometres up the road to Naypyidaw. The government built the new city in secret and then announced that it was the new administrative centre.
Come to Myanmar for a cultural experience
The country is home to more than 135 different ethnicities. If you look into the geography facts on Myanmar, you can see that a number of groups live in the different regions. Each has their own culture and traditions. You can find some with a special one legged rowing technique at Inle Lake and others wear heavy rings to stretch their necks. The main ethnic group, the Bamar, make up about 70% of the population.
Myanmar is a cultural melting pot of ethnicities. This can make it perfect for a cultural travel experience and gives you the chance to meet and interact with lots of different people.
The Magic of thanaka
Anyone who visits Myanmar will notice people in the streets with what seems like mud smeared over their face. This is a little disconcerting at first but it’s nothing to worry about.
Actually, it’s a special mixture of powdered bark that comes from a particular tree. When it’s produced, locals wipe it on their face to act as protection against the sun. Some also say that it’s good for the skin and has anti-aging properties. When you’re in the country, try it for yourself and you can make up your own mind.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IN MYANMAR
- Respect the Myanmar people and their unique traditions: Visitors are not asked to abandon their ways, they are asked to adapt to the Myanmar environment.
- Respect the elders: Let the oldest be served first, and bend a bit when crossing close in front of the elders.
- Wear decent clothes when visiting religious sites: Please cover your shoulders and knees, and take off your shoes and socks when entering pagoda areas.
- Offer articles with both hands. Seek permission on retrieving an article above a person’s head.
- Keep the feet on the ground: Do tuck away your feet, when you sit, your legs should not be stretched out and your feet should never face the Buddha.
- To maintain Myanmar’s unique heritage, do not buy antiques. Buy arts and crafts instead: Myanmar loses its heritage every.
- Help protect Myanmar wildlife by refusing to purchase wildlife products: The illegal selling of wildlife endangers the species native to Myanmar. Tourists should not buy these products.
- Myanmar currency should be exchanged at the official exchange counters and banks, not on the black market.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO IN MYANMAR
- Don’t sit with back against Buddha Image. Don’t handle Buddha Images or sacred object with disrespect. Don’t keep Buddha Images or sacred objects in inappropriate places.
- Don’t offer to shake hands with a monk. Women should not touch a monk.
- Don’t step on others shadow or any part of their bodies. Don’t point a finger straight in others’ faces. Don’t point with your foot: In Myanmar the feet convey messages. Pointing with your feet means disrespect.
- Don’t touch anybody on the head: The head is the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered aggressive.
- Don’t touch a woman on any part of her body.
- Don’t gamble. Don’t use drugs. Using drugs is illegal in Myanmar.
- Don’t go where you are advised not to go: Myanmar is slowly opening up and more destinations will be accessible to foreigners in the future.
- Don’t kiss in public: Displaying physical closeness in public places is frowned upon in Myanmar.
- Don’t disturb people praying or meditating: Visitors should avoid loud talk and should take care not to touch people meditating.
- Calling with your finger up means calling for a challenge: Calling someone with your fingers down is considered polite.
- Don’t touch the robe of a monk: Monks are very revered; they observe many rules, study the Dhamma, practice meditation and are highly respected in Myanmar society. Visitors should never touch the robe of a monk, not even if they see a worm crawling up his robe.
- Giving money or sweets to children is not advisable: Instead of creating children’s dependency on tourism, visitors should consider the saying: “Don’t give a helpless person a fish, teach them how to catch a fish and they will learn for a lifetime”.