Truly, Myanmar is one of the most magical and beautiful places in the world. It has more historic religious temples than anywhere on earth, and the oldest archaeological site in southeast asia. Myanmar is a land that has aroused the curiosity and the imagination of explorers and travelers throughout the centuries. It is an ancient land of legends, golden pagodas and golden temples. Marco Polo was here in 1277 and described the amazing golden pagodas of Myanmar in his writings and dubbed this place “The Golden Land.”
An Ancient Civilization
Early civilization dates back to the 1st Century. In the 11th Century, King Anawrahta unified the country and created the first Myanmar Empire with its capital at Bagan. This empire lasted until the 13th Century and produced a glorious civilization whose monuments endure today. The second Myanmar Empire (with its Capital at Bago) was created in the middle of the 16th Century by King Bayintnaung; and the last Myanmar Empire was founded by King Alaungpaya in 1752 with its last capital at Mandalay.
The British in Burma
In the 19th Century, Myanmar became a colony of Britain and the name changed by the British to Burma. Through the British the magic of Myanmar became known to the western world… teak, pigeon blood rubies, jade, temples of pure gold dotting the landscape, but mainly the charming welcoming people. During World War II the Japanese occupied Myanmar and a bloody fight between the Japanese and the British & Americans ensued. Post World War II brought an independence movement, and Myanmar attained independence on January 4, 1948.
Myanmar has returned to the international spotlight since March 2011 with a series of stunning political and economic changes. Under President Thein Sein’s government, hundreds of political prisoners have been released. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is in parliament. U.S. President Barack Obama visited Myanmar in November 2012. Journalists work free of censorship, while the government has set ambitious growth targets and lauched a poverty alleviation campaign, of which tourism development is a central pillar. Government investment in health and education has increased sharply. The country has opened its arms to foreign visitors, from international financial insituitions and government delegations to tourists and businesspeople. Buoyed by the changes in their homeland, some of the millions of Myanmar people living abroad are also returning home to contribute to the reform process.
The land itself is 676,577 square km and is the largest country in South East Asia, it is larger than Spain & Portugal combined. It is nestled between Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh. It has a coastline of more than 2500 km fronting on the Bay of Bengal on the west and the Andaman Sea on the Southeast. The mighty Ayarwaddy River is the heart and lifeblood of the country travelling from the Himalayas in the North, it flows Sough some 1100 miles to the sea. It is one of the world’s great highways and appropriately coined as “The Road to Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling. It also boasts Mt. Hkakabo Razi, right on the border between Tibet and Myanmar, the highest peak in Southeast Asia at over 19,000 feet. The country consists of islands, plains, river valets and forested mountains. It hols three-quarters of the world’s teak forests.
Myanmar is a Union of many different ethnic groups, 135 of them, with their own language and dialects. Among the population of more than 50 million, about 80% are Bamar, Chin, Kachins, Shans, Kayins, Kayahs and Rakhines.
Tropical in general, it’s very hot and humid in Myanmar. It’s much cooler in mountain areas. The coolest months are from November – February with an average temperate of 15 – 24 C. The hottest months reach from March until May with an average temperature of 25 – 33 C. Monsoon months are from June – September.
Culture & Religion
Myanmar lies between two of the world’s great civilizations…China and India, yet Myanmar culture is neither, but a blend of both. 89% of the population embrace Theravada Buddhism as their religion, which greatly influences their daily and social lives. You will find a people with a tradition of strong family ties, respect for their elders, kindness and hospitality. It is also a country with freedom of religion, so there are also Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others.
An Unspoiled Destination
Due to the previous socialist regime, Myanmar has remained basically isolated for the last 50 years. You will discover a country that is totally unspoiled by the modern world. It is like stepping back in time to another era. As one recent visitor remarked, “It’s the way southeast asia should be !” The clip-clop of horse carriages, traditional marketplaces with a sensory overload of spices and exotic vegetables, long lines of monks with their alms bowls early in the morning, more golden temples than you ever dreamed possible, jungles and forests that have been protected, and the largest number of wild elephants in the world ! Myanmar is truly a gem waiting to be discovered. Herbert Hoover once said, “The Burmese are the only genuinely happy people in all of Asia.” Come visit and you will say the same thing today.