Lights

Myanmar (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 has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1997.


Kingdoms, dynasties and British rule

The large number of ethnic groups, or nationalities, that make up Myanmar’s population, together with the continual changing of capital cities, reflect a turbulent past. From the 11th through to the late 19th century, Myanmar was ruled by a succession of competing dynasties, the most successful and expansionist of which controlled not only Myanmar but much of what is now Thailand and Laos, as well as parts of India and China. The hills and mountains that surround the huge Irrawaddy valley form Myanmar’s natural borders and helped to protect it from foreign invasion for many centuries. However, they were not enough to halt the advance of the British Empire, which occupied Myanmar in two stages during the 19th century.

GEOGRAPHY

Myanmar (Burma) is bordered by India and Bangladesh to its west, Thailand and Laos to its east and China to its north and northeast. Myanmar is the largest of the mainland Southeast Asian states. Myanmar (Burma) is a country that covers 676,578 square Kilometers (about the similar size of France) and has a population of 51 million. These people are made up of a striking array of different ethnic groups, which include Bamar/Burmese (by some distance the largest in number), Shan, Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon, Han Chinese and Indian, to name but a few. This variety of ethnicities also means massive language diversity, although Burmese is the official language, and English is widely used – to varying degrees of proficiency. Since 2005, the capital has been located in Nay Pyi Taw, but the former capital, Yangon (Rangoon), remains the biggest city, commercial center, and arrival point for most visitors.

Independence

The Second World War saw Myanmar set as a battleground between Japanese and Allied forces, and large parts of the country were devastated. However, after a long struggle, Myanmar gained independence in 1948 – due in no small part to the determination of General (or Bogyoke, in Burmese) Aung San, who was murdered by political rivals only months before his dream was realised. Current democracy hero Aung San Suu Kyi is Aung San’s daughter, and was only two years old when he died.

Military dictatorship, and the ’88 uprising

After a series of democratic elections through the 1950s, the military seized power in 1962 and is only beginning to cede that power today. Part of the reason for the military justifying its iron grip for so long are the ethnic insurgencies that have continued to plague Myanmar since the end of the Second World War. Various nationalities in the border areas fought with the British during the war against the majority Bamar (who initially fought with the Japanese) and this, together with the nationalities’ marginalization from central power, has resulted in the longest-running civil war in the world. To this day, violence continues in some areas and access to border regions is restricted – to find out more about travel in these areas, go to getting around Myanmar and arriving and departing overland. In 1988, there was a mass uprising against military rule, led by students and monks, during which Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) rose to prominence. The protests were violently suppressed, but nevertheless led to elections in 1990, which the NLD won – however, the generals refused to recognize the result and held on to power.

Reform and democracy

Today, however, matters are improving. After flawed elections in 2010, the nominally civilian but military-backed government embarked on a series of dramatic reforms; these at first allowed democratic bi-elections that saw the NLD win many parliamentary seats and then, in November 2015, a general election that the NLD won with a landslide. Together with these changes have come the introduction of trade unions; the releasing of many political prisoners; greater media freedom; and the resumption of dialogue with ethnic groups. Although the country continues to suffer from poverty and conflict, the suspension of international sanctions imposed on Myanmar and the freedom with which the general election was allowed to pass augur well for a brighter future - which the population richly deserves.

Culture

"Mingalarbar” is a word of greeting in Myanmar that came into wide usage only after the country regained her independence. Myanmar has a deep culture of hospitality and openness – most people who visit are struck by the warm and welcoming nature of the locals, who are often keen to ask questions and make friends. And the people love to enjoy themselves – whether it is taking part in one of the hundreds of festivals that happen around the country throughout the year enjoying a game of football, everyone loves a boisterous public gathering to lift their spirits.

Religion & Beliefs

Theravada Buddhism is the most widespread religion in Myanmar and plays a big role in public and private life. Most young people spend time in monastic education and monks and nuns, of whom there are hundreds of thousands, hold a revered place in society. Pagodas (religious monuments) can also be found on many roads, river banks, towns and villages throughout the country; they are central to the life of towns, with shopping arcades and other businesses sometimes built in their entrance areas. Outside of the main ethnic Burmese population areas, particularly in parts of Kachin, Karen and temples can be found around the country – most notably in Yangon. Tensions between members of these religions and the Buddhist mainstream have sometimes surfaced, most notably with incidents of Buddhist-Muslim violence in recent years; most have occurred in remote areas and foreigners have not been affected.

Superstition is evident in Myanmar culture, although it is often played down. Some people consult astrologers about personal and business decisions, and it is said that the location of the new capital, Nay Pyi Taw, was decided on the advice of astrologers. In the 1980s, military dictator Ne Win introduced 35 and 75 kyat banknotes because of his belief in the special power of numbers.

Clothing

Myanmar clothing differed from time to time. Traditional clothing in Myanmar varies around the country, but a national staple is the Longyi, which is worn by both men and women. The longyi was in fact introduced relatively recently, in colonial times, but its popularity is rooted in its simplicity and suitability to such a hot climate.

Food (Burmese Cuisine)

As Myanmar has different ethics, there are also different kinds of foods. Basically, Myanmar cuisine is oily and a little salted for tourists. The basic ingredients of Myanmar Cuisines are salt, ngapi (fish paste), nganpyaryee (fish or prawn sauce), and tamarind sauce for sour taste, tomato, garlic, onion, ginger and other spices such as chili powder, turmeric. Mohinga is a popular for breakfast and can be available almost everywhere. But the taste and ingredients may be changed depend on region. Eg; Mohinga is the rice noodle and fish soup (soup of fish and roasted rice powder) in lower Myanmar, but it is the rice noodle and the soup (less fish or chicken and bean powder.) Such as fried rice with bean, steamed sticky rice with bean, Nan Gyi Thoke, Shan Noodle Salad and Tea with E-Kyar-Kway are typical breakfasts too. For lunch and dinner, Myanmar used to eat steamed rice and different curries including Crackers (Fried Shan Tofu, Fried Fish, Potato, etc.,), Salad (Payaya Salad, Ginger Salad, Tomato Salad, Tea Leaves Salad, Seaweed Salad, Lemon Salad, etc.,), meat or fish curry (mainly Pork, Chicken, Beef, Mutton, Fish), Soup (Mixed Vegetable Soup, Roselle leaves and bamboo shoot soup, Lentil Soup, Pumpkin Soup, Indian Bean Curry), Fried vegetables (water glory, sweet corn, mixed vegetable, broccoli, Kailan, etc.,). In regards of snacks for dessert or hi tea, the famous usual foods are green rice noodles in coconut syrup, seaweed jelly, Mont Pyar Tha Lat (kind of Burmese rice cake), Burmese pancakes, Mont Lin Mayar (Couple snack), Deep fried street food snacks, Semolina Cake (Shwe Kyi), etc.,…

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