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NAME:
Union of Myanmar (formerly Union of Burma); Independence Day: January 4, 1948

THE COUNTRY:
Myanmar shares borders with India and Bangla Desh in the west, China in the north, and Laos and Thailand in the east. To the south of the country there is the Gulf of Bengal. 

Myanmar is separated from her neighbors by high, inacces-sible mountains: The Rakhine Yoma, the Chin Hills, and other continuous ranges separate the country from Bangla Desh and India; only Rakhine State lies west of this moun-tain range. To the north the Himalayas and the Kachin Hills are a formidable barrier against China as well as the Shan Hills and their southern continuation are one against Thailand.


These mountain ranges encompass what was known as Burma Proper to the British. The Burmese people’s settlements were concentrated in this area. It is divided by the Bago Yoma from north to south thus forming three basins:

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the wide Ayeyarwaddy River Basin with its center around Mandalay in the north, steadily narrowing as the river continues southwards before reaching its delta

- the Sittang Basin east of the Bago Yoma
- the Ayeyarwaddy Delta

In the extreme south, Myanmar shares the northern part of the Kra peninsula with Thailand, giving the country a maximal north-south extension of about 2,000 km, while it extends about 900 km from east to west.

With an area of nearly 700,000 sq.km Myanmar is the biggest country in mainland South East Asia.
The country’s highest mountain is Mount Hkakaborazi (5,881 m) in the extreme north. The most important river is the Ayeyarwaddy (formerly Irrawaddy) with a length of 2,200 km, others being the Chindwin, Sittang and Thanlyin (Salween) rivers.

Myanmar offers a wide natural variety: From snowcapped mountains to long stretches of virgin beaches, from desert-like savannahs to steaming jungles - everything is there in Myanmar!

 



POPULATION:
Myanmar has about 60 million people, belonging to nearly 140 different ethnic groups. The most important of those are: Burman (70 %), Shan (9 %), Karen (7 %), Kachin, Rakhine, Chin and Mon (all below 5 %). There are minorities of Chinese, Indians and others.

Most of the country’s inhabitants live in the plains of Upper Myanmar and in the delta regions of the south.


LANGUAGE:
Burmese (Myanmar), which belongs to the group of Tibeto-Burman languages, is spoken all over the country.

The Burmese script has been adapted from Indian alphabets - at first glance it looks like a collection of interlocked circles, which have earned it the nickname of “pretzel script”. Many ethnic groups have their own languages, belonging to a big variety of different families.

Outside the big cities English is not widely spoken but usually it is not difficult to find someone who understands it. German, French and other European languages as well as Japanese and Chinese are not spoken by many people in Myanmar.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few tourist guides who are able to speak those languages sufficiently enough. Thus it is no problem to travel in the country even without any knowledge of English.



RELIGION:
Nearly 90 % of the population of Myanmar practice Theravada Buddhism. There are Christian and Muslim minorities as well as Hindus and Animists. The cult of the spirits (nats) is an important element of religion in the country - its manifestations can be seen all over the country. Religion still plays a rather important role in this traditional country.

CLIMATE:
The country’s climate is ruled by the monsoons. There are three distinct seasons that can differ considerably in various parts of the country: For example, in Yangon precipitation is four times that of Bagan. This is a blessing for the country’s tourism as the major attractions are located in the dry zone of Upper Myanmar and can be visited during the rainy season as well, while the delta and both the Rakhine as well as the Tanintharyi coasts are blessed with plenty of rain. Some attractions like the Golden Rock are nearly inaccessible in the rainy season. Mandalay on the other hand can be rather cool in winter and extremely hot in summer, while climatic conditions in Yangon are not that extreme.

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Hot season:
Starts in February and lasts until May. During this season temperatures easily exceed 40 centigrade, even in Yangon. The dust can be a problem as well during this season.

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Rainy season:
Starts in May and lasts until November. However, as mentioned above, the amount of rainfall differs according to the area.

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Winter: From November to February; the most pleasant season for travelers. During this season the climate resembles a fair European summer. However, in some mountainous areas the temperatures can drop to 0 centigrade.  


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2008 Axel Bruns