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MYANMAR (BURMA)

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Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar, Burma
Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon

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).  Burma / 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.

 

Visas:

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.  Visa application information and forms are available from the Embassy of Myanmar.  Check your specific country at VisaHQ.   For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.

Currency:

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.

Best Time to Visit Myanmar: Dec. / Jan.

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

 Bagan

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 Inle Lake

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 Mandalay

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 Pindaya

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 Yangon

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