Myanmar has been nicknamed ‘’Golden Land’’ because of the huge number of temples. Formerly Burma, and under British rule for a long time, it has been fairly isolated from the international community for many years due to its repressive military regime but it is now beginning to be an increasingly popular tourist destination as the slow process of liberalisation continues.
It is a tropical country with three climates; summer is hot and run from March until the middle of May when the rains start. They stay until October before temperatures drop until summer arrives again.
Myanmar in the west of South East Asia has an ex an extensive coastline on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, around 2,000 kilometres and borders with Bangladesh and India in the East, Thailand, Laos and China to the east and north. Around half the country is forested and although Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is no longer capital more than 10% of the country’s people live there.
A new centrally located city, Nay Pyi Taw is now the capital but it has little to justify itself in Myanmar private tours because it lacks any of the attractions found elsewhere in the country.
The north of the country is largely mountainous and a region that Myanmar travel packages will always include. The highest peak, Hkakabo Razi close to the China border in the Hengduan Mountains is almost 6,000 metres. Other mountain ranges run north-south from the Himalayas.They divide the river systems, the most important being the Irrawaddy which is over 2,100 kilometres long and flows into the Gulf of Martaban. It is in this river valley where many of the population live. There are regions of plateau while lowland areas in the south provide further contrast.
It got its original name from its majority ethnic group, the Burmese yet there are over 130 ethnic groups in all and hence huge diversity. The Bamar comprise almost 70% of the population with a further10% Shan and 7% Kayin. There is in fact 3% who are ethnic Chinese, 2% Indian and a further 2%, Mon, who are ethnically Khmer.
There are refugees living outside the borders of Myanmar who have fled over different decades of the 20th Century. Many live in Thailand but others in India and Bangladesh while a number have gone further afield, UK, USA and Australia.
There have been some tensions which is perhaps natural with such a strong majority population and so many small groups. Myanmar tour packages are likely to include visiting remote regions to enjoy the natural environment and hence to meet many of the smaller groups that make up the population.
Fish is a very popular part of Myanmar cooking. Fish sauce and ngapi, fermented seafood, and dried prawns are regulars in the cuisine. Mohinga is the traditional breakfast dish, rice noodle and fish soup. It is sold everywhere by street vendors; it will always be fresh because so much of it is sold. It is increasingly sold later in the day as well.
Inevitably inland there is less fish with meat and poultry more regularly found in such places as Mandalay, a city that is always on Myanmar travel itineraries. Freshwater fish and shrimps are readily available inland and provide much-needed protein to local diets.
Rice, also in noodle form, wheat and vermicelli, potatoes and tomatoes, all are regulars while ginger and lime are prominent flavours that are used.
In common with every country in South East Asia, the people enjoy celebrations and travellers on Indochina travel packages are likely to get the chance to see at least one such event because they take place throughout the year. Many of the important dates for the diary in Myanmar are based on the lunar calendar so the actual date changes in year in many cases. New Year is April and every few years a 13th month is added within the lunar calendar:
• April - Thingyan (Water Festival)
• May - Kason (Banyan Tree Watering Ceremony)
• June - Nadaw (Festival of Religious Examination)
• July - Waso (Festival of Ordination of Monks)
• August – (Festival of Giving)
• September - Regatta
• October - Thadingyut (Festival of Lights)
• November - Tazaungdine Festival (Offering Robes to Monks)
• December - Mahapeine Nat
• January - Equestrian Tournament
• February - Festival of Bonfire
• March - Festival of Sand Pagodas