Myanmar and Thailand
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Myanmar – ‘The Golden Land’

The Union of Myanmar (previously Burma) is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia with a population of 60 million and is bordered with India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. There is no other Asian country with such a vast and varied range of cultural sites, which include the 3000 standing monuments at Bagan. Myanmar is mostly tropical and has three seasons: the hot season, the cold season, and the monsoon season. Most Burmese live along the river, hemmed in by mountainous terrain, and it is still a main highway through the country. The fishing and agricultural environment compliments the pagodas and cultural sites in the river valleys.

The country covers an area of 677,000 square kilometres (261,228 square miles) ranging 936 kilometres (581 miles) from east to west and 2,051 kilometres (1,275 miles) from north to south, It is a land of hills and valleys and is rimmed in the north, east and west by mountain ranges forming a giant horseshoe. Enclosed within the mountain barriers are the flat lands of Ayeyarwaddy, Chindwin and Sittaung River valleys where most of the country's agricultural land and population are concentrated.

Capital of Myanmar
Naypyidaw is the capital of Myanmar. On 6 November 2005, the administrative capital of Burma was officially moved to a greenfield site 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Pyinmana, and approximately 200 miles (320 km) north of Yangon.


There are 135 national races, of which the main races are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. The population is estimated at 60 million with a populations growth rate of 1.84 percent. Most of the population lives in three great river valleys encircled by impenetrable horseshoes of mountains. River life dominates the country and still to this day forms the main system of transportation, irrigation and food source. 40% of the population of Mandalay and Yangon are from the Chan Chinese race.


What many remember most of Burma are the people and their evident spirituality. It has often been said that to be Burmese is to be Buddhist, but the warmth and kindness of the Burmese people is not solely a matter of religion; their happiness and serenity radiates from within.


Although still under the government of an unelected military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-Democracy leader, has recently given her blessing to the return of tourism to the country, a move endorsed by the Free Burma movement. As a result this little-visited country, offers an untouched treasure trove of pagodas and temples to explore with minimum tourists. Myanmar's culture is largely a result of heavy Indian and Chinese influences intertwined with local traditions which can be seen throughout the country, from the smallest village to the increasingly modern cities of Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay.




A distinctive feature of the Myanmar people is the thanaka applied to the face and sometimes the arms of women and girls and some boys. It has been used by the Burmesse women for over 2000 years. Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark of the Murraya (thanaka) and Limonia acidissima (wood apple). The tree must be at least 35 years old to be considered mature enough to yield good quality cuttings. In its natural state it is sold as small logs but can also be bought as a paste or powder. Thanaka gives protection from the sun and helps remove acne and promote smooth, wrinkle-free skin.



The main religions of the country are Buddhism (89.2%), Christianity (5.0%),Islam (3.8%), Hinduism (0.5%), Spiritualism (1.2%) and others (0.2%).

Flora and Fauna

Myanmar is home to nearly 300 known mammal species, 300 reptiles, about 100 bird species and 7000 plant species. The government recognises the rich pool of bio diversity and has strict regulations to protect it.


The name, Burma, comes from the Bamar people, the dominant group when the British colonialists arrived in the 19th century, although the original name, now used again, of Myanmar has the same linguistic provenance (Mranma in old Burmese). The country is composed of various peoples, several of whom were dominant at one time and who have links with Burma’s large neighbours.  The ethnic groups include the Mon people in the south and the Shan people in the east whose name derives from Siam having links to the Thai and Lao peoples, as well as smaller hill tribes.


Burma was colonized by Britain following three Anglo-Burmese Wars (1824-1885). With the fall of Mandalay, the last Burmese monarch, King Thibaw Min abdicated and Burma came under British rule, being annexed on 1st January, 1886.Tangoon (now Yangon) became the capital of British Burma and an important port between Calcutta and Singapore.


In April, 1937, Burma became a separately administered colony of Great Britain and Ba Maw, the first Prime Minister and Premier of Burma. Ba Maw was outspoken against Britain and Burma in WWII and later resigned and was arrested for sedition. In 1940 before Japan formally entered WWII and Aung San formed the Burma Independence Army in Japan.


A major battleground, Burma was devastated during WWII. By March 1942, within months of entering the war Japanese troops had taken over. A Burmese Executive Administration headed by Ba Maw was established by the Japanese in August 1942. Late 1944 allied troops launched a series of offensives that led to the end of Japanese rule in July 1945. Overall, the Japanese lost 150,000 men and, in Burma, only 1700 prisoners were taken.


Following WWII, Aung San negotiated the Panglong Agreement with ethnic leaders that guaranteed the independence of Burma as a unified state. In 1947, he became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, a transitional government, but in July 1947, he and several cabinet ministers were assassinated by political rivals.


Today, between Pyay and Yangon, there are many old colonial style buildings built after the departure of the British.