Burma became the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in
1989, but there is significant protest over the legality of the name
change and it is still common to refer to the country as Burma. The name Burma has been in use since the 1800s when the British
exercised control. Burma / Myanmar is bordered by India,
Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. Its coastline covers the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. This area is greatly influenced by the
establishment of the Pagan Kingdom in 1057AD and Buddhism became the predominant religion at that time.
The influence is most evident in the
numerous payas and pahtos, which are Burmese words meaning pagoda and
temple. Pagodas are not just symbols of the past, as many new ones continue to be contructed in present times.
After Mongol domination in the 1200s, Burma came under
British influence in the 1800s. It became independent in 1948 and has seen military rule and civil unrest up until 2010 when a civilian government
was formed and tourism began. The official language is Burmese.
The capital is Naypyidaw and the largest city is Yangon (also known as Rangoon).
/ Myanmar has a
population in excess of 60 million.
Spelling of names is a challenge in Myanmar, because it
is hard to distinguish pronounciation and many words are often strung
together to form a single word. The Burmese word for pagoda is
paya and these are used interchangeably too. For example, the
Irrawaddy River is also called the Ayeyarwady River. Swedagon Paya
is the same as Shwe Dagon Paya. Mahamuni Paya is the same as Maha
Myat Muni Pagoda.
A tourist visa is required to enter Myanmar and it must
be obtained before arrival in the country. Application procedures
include a photo, a letter of reference and supporting documentation.
information and forms are available from the Embassy
of Myanmar. Check your specific country at VisaHQ.
For a list of exempt countries, visit Project
It is best to travel with US dollars in cash when
visiting Myanmar. There are no ATMs. Credit cards and travellers
checks are rarely accepted. Change a small amount of US$ to kyats
for local spending money.