Myanmar, the golden land of stupas (Pagodas), lakes, mountains, Buddhist monks and white-sand beaches on the Bay of Bengal. This undiscovered paradise is rich not only with natural, untouched geographical beauty but also with people as lovely as the surroundings. This untapped land of mystery and mystique is a true world wonder and a treasure to all appreciators of history, culture and the arts. Join us on this journey of appreciation…
Officially Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a vast Asian country neighbouring Bangladesh and India in the west, China, Laos and Thailand in the east and a long coastline of Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in the south. Myanmar has a long history and strong national culture: from powerful early kingdoms, life under British colonial times, achieving independence in 1948, falling under military dictatorship for decades and now shifting towards civilian governance following elections since 2010.
Democratic and Economic Liberalization
Myanmar has initiated democratic and economic opening since 2011. This has brought an influx of business, tourism and lifting of economic sanctions, providing new opportunities and positive future for the people. The population of about 51 million is young, 45% are below the age of 25, 67% living in rural areas with limited access to modern infrastructure like roads, electricity, hospitals, educations etc.
Only a few years back mobile network and internet communications were available only for the few select, but 2014 saw two international operators opening mobile networks, reaching even the far corners of rural areas, while Yangon Stock Exchange opened early 2015. End of Nov 2015 saw the first openly congested general elections and take over of the military controlled government by opposition, lead by Nobel Peace Price winner Aung San Suu Kyi
This all has further encouraged the local and international businesses to develop beyond traditional trade (e.g. opening of datacenters) and the larger cities are changing rapidly. Myanmar is leapfrogging to catch up rest of the world.
Myanmar is rich in natural resources, but one of the poorest countries in South East Asia. Myanmar’s main economic activities include agriculture, extraction of natural resources (jade, gems, metals, oil, natural gas, timber) and tourism.
Myanmar has many challenges ahead: limited infrastructure, educational reform, health care, ethnic and religious conflicts, illegal trade on drugs, wildlife etc., child and forced labor, environmental, cultural heritage protection, intolerance to diversity, and so on.
Culture and People
Buddhism is the dominant religion and culture in Myanmar, Christians, Hindus and Muslims in minority. This and the 135 ethnic groups give unique flavour to the culture of Myanmar.
As a visitor, you’ll observe the golden pagodas, monasteries, monks, nuns, traditional outfits, flowers, color, Thanaka, teashops, old British era buildings, right side traffic, right side steering wheels, little bit slower pace of life and smile on the faces. In Yangon you’ll find impressive colonial buildings, most in desperate need of love and care. In Bagan you’ll be at a loss of words overlooking the field of thousands of pagodas. Or you’ll be out of breath climbing the stairs to sacred pagodas on mountain tops. Then there are the arts and crafts.
Buddhism is an important and visible part of Myanmar culture and many of the annual celebrations are linked to this. Families have home altars to pray on daily basis, make regular visits to local pagoda and many private celebrations are accompanied with donations to monasteries. Both men and women join monasteries and nunneries for a short period of time. For some the retirement plan is to become a monk or nun. You’ll also see many little boys and girls as monks and nuns – this is a route for education for some families.
You still find majority of people even in Yangon to wear traditional clothing. Both men and women wear Longie but colors and patterns are different as well as the way to tie it. Women have elaborate outfits in beautiful, bright colors, while men can still be seen to wear traditional longie, shirt and jacket in government or business events.