Myanmar (Burma) is a country of striking beauty about the size of France with a population of 52 million. Its people are made up of a wide array of different ethnic groups which include Burmese, Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon, Han Chinese and Indian, to name but a few. This variety of ethnicities also means massive language diversity, although Burmese is the official language. The economic capital Yangon is a bustling Asian city with friendly and distinct atmosphere. Since 2006 the capital city of Myanmar is in Naypidaw, a city entirely planned from the scratch which still seems completely deserted at times and is a unique place to visit.
Myanmar has a twisted history and was closed of to the world for many years, after a military coup in 1962. Only in the early 2000s the country started gradually to reopen to the outside world. The military regime gradually introduced political and military reforms in the early 2000s. In 2015, democratic elections took place and the now contested but then widely recognized Aung San Suu Kyii won the elections with a landslide.
The once prosperous nation is now one of the poorest in the region. About ¼ or the population lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, the country is riddled by internal conflicts since the 1050s up to today, which led to a large number if internally displaced people and large party of the country which remain barely developed. It still remains one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries to visit. You will find pristine beaches, stunning temple sites, fascinating cities and very welcoming and warm hearted people.
Myanmar has a deeply rooted culture of hospitality and openness – most people who visit Myanmar are impressed by the warm, hospitable and helpful nature of the locals. In hardly any other country in Southeast Asia Buddhism is as deeply rooted as in Myanmar and religion plays an important and fundamental role. Monks and nuns, of whom there are hundreds of thousands, take a revered place in society and there are countless pagodas and monasteries throughout the country. For many visitors the most impressive is certainly the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. It is considered the landmark of the country and its gilded stupa towers majestically over the capital.
Theravada Buddhism is the most widespread religion in Myanmar. Outside of the main ethnic Burmese population areas, particularly in parts of Kachin, Karen and Chin states, Christianity is devoutly observed. American missionaries played a large part in converting previously animist locals during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and elements of animism remain part of these cultures.
Islam and Hinduism are also practiced in Myanmar, and temples can be found around the country – most notably in Yangon.