• Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    Bahrain
    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Maldives!

    Maldives: Beach in the Maldives. Go Now!

    Maldives
    This low-lying archipelago is a tourist destination due to its many impressive beaches and crystal-clear waters (pictured). Explore the Maldives!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    Laos
    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

  • Tajikistan!

    Tajikistan: A yurt in the mountains. Go Now!

    Tajikistan
    The high mountains have mysteries around every turn, including yurts (pictured), a home for the nomadic people. Go Now!

MyanmarThe origins of the name Myanmar are questionable and controversial. It seems the name is derived from the Burmese words myan, meaning "swift" and ma, which means "strong." However, the word also refers to the ethnic Bamar people, which indirectly excludes the country's ethnic minorities. Having said this, the old name of Burma also is a reference to this same majority group, so was also an exclusive name. Although there is debate on what the name should be, the name in the local languages has never changed and has always been "Myăma," only the name in English has changed, although many countries and people don't yet recognize this new name.

Myăma

Introduction:

While most countries in Southeast Asia have truly adopted western culture, Myanmar has not; in fact Myanmar maintains one of the most historically authentic cultures and ways of life anywhere in the world. However, this authentic culture is primarily due to the almost complete isolation the country has experienced over the past 75 years. Today the culture has changed little from the way it was in the early 1900s, making this country unlike any other in the world.

Myanmar's geography is one of the greatest causes of its current culture and past isolation as the land is fairly inaccessible. Throughout history it seems the people of the region that today makes up Myanmar were divided between the sea farers and the land dwellers. These people changed over time, but their focus was typically the same: those on the sea sought trade as they had strong outside connections, while the people inland had fewer outside contacts and often times sought, or were essentially forced into, isolation. These early people relied on raising animals and finding food on a daily basis, but soon the outside world won over the people and both water and land trading routes opened up.

As trading routes were formed with both China and India, numerous influences arrived to the land that is today Myanmar. The greatest of these introductions was Buddhism from India, which is still the most commonly practiced religion today. The beliefs of Buddhism form the basis of Myanmarese culture and even now it is expected that every male become a monk for a brief time period as a young boy and again in young adulthood before marrying. It is not uncommon to see women also taking on the monastic life as they shave their heads as well, but wear pink robes instead of the red worn by men. Another great import during this time of trade came from China as numerous Chinese foods arrived and even today Chinese roots can easily be seen in many dishes.

Later in history the lands returned to a nearly isolated state and this transfer in contact moved back and forth over time. The constant was that the mountainous interior always slowed transportation and communication leaving these people more isolated. Because of this isolation, the local rulers controlled the people quite successfully as few outsiders could challenge internal rule and soon great local empires arose, including the Bagan Empire. It was under this empire that today's architecture and culture is rooted as these rulers had the money and resources to put money into all aspects of daily life, including arts, architecture, and more.

Despite the power of the Bagan Empire, it didn't last forever and the country was again fragmented as numerous foreign rulers took over the external parts of the country. However, the less accessible regions were again free from outside rulers as many of these areas saw the rise of minority leaders that represented the local people. This time sparked great division among the people, most particularly the ethnic minorities, who continue to rebel against the government and sought greater freedoms or complete independence.

After some time under the rule of British India, during which Myanmar (then known as Burma) maintained its distance from western culture, the country gained independence. Upon gaining freedom, the country experienced that which they have experienced multiple times in the past, a strong government. As a very peaceful, honest, and non-violent people whose culture is heavily based on Buddhism, there were, and still are, few to no protests against the government. Violence is simply not an option as the people refuse to fight their government, even if they disagree with that government. Despite the lack of protests internally, numerous foreign countries fought this government and isolated the nation as tourism and trade were fought and even banned in many cases, completely isolating the people.

Primarily due to this isolation from foreigners and foreign influences and products, today the people of Myanmar live much as they did 100 years ago. The people dress and act much as they did in the past, they eat the same foods, have the same simple lifestyle, and they follow the same religion, giving them the moral compass that is attached to that. Only minimal outside influences have broken into the country, such as cars and more recently the internet, which is still quite rare. International brands, especially those from Europe and North America, are only now getting into the country as economic blockades were lifted in 2012. This means items like Coca-Cola® are only entering the market now, but are yet to make any true impact on the culture.

Farming, buying foods at local markets, eating at home with family, fishing, and owning small shops are still the norm in Myanmar as chains, even domestic chains, restaurants, and the concept of travel are foreign ideas that make every person in Myanmar intrigued. In fact just being present in Myanmar will lead to numerous encounters as the locals can't help but let their curiosity win as they smile and ask the few passing tourist: "What country!?"

Myanmar's flag reflects the tribes of the people with the yellow, green, and red all reflecting these tribes.

Name: Union of Myanmar (Burma)
Independence: January 4, 1948
Capital: Naypyidaw
Currency: Kyat
Population: 55,167,330 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Burman, Shan, Karen, & others
Language: Burmese
Religion: Buddhism

Information for Myanmar was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks