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Location

Myanmar (or Burma) is located in south-east Asia. To the west are Bangladesh and India. To the north is China. To the east are Laos and Thailand. In the south and west are Bay of Bengal and Andaman sea.

myanmar map

States and divisions
1 = Thaninthayi
2 = Mon
3 = Yangon
4 = Ayeyarwaddy
5 = Kayin
6 = Bago
7 = Rakhine
8 = Magwe
9 = Mandalay
10 = Kayah
11 = Shan
12 = Sagaing
13 = Chin
14 = Kachin
Rivers
A = Ayeyarwaddy
C = Chindwin
M = Mekong
S = Sit Taung
T = Thanlwin
These rivers genarally flow north to south

 

 

Geography

South to north the length is approximately 1920 km and the width (east to west) is about 905 km. Total land area, not including sea, is about 657,740 square kilometers. The highest point is Khakaborazi (in the northern Kachin state, near Tibet (China) at 5881 meters above sea level.

The largest rivers are Ayeyarwaddy with its tributaries Chindwin, Sit Taung; and Thanlwin.

Topographically the country could be divided into the followings:
The high mountain range bordering Himalayas in the north (Chin state, northern Sagaing division, Kachin state)
The Shan plateau in the east
The central plain of Ayeyarwaddy river
The delta region of Ayeyarwaddy river
The south

Getting in and out

The capital Yangon has direct air links with Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brunei, Bhutan and Kumming. There are flights to Mandalay from Chiang Mai of Thailand.

Overland border crossing with China and Thailand are possible for the people of third countries. However between Myanmar and India, Laos, Bangladesh the border check points are currently (2004) for local people only.

Travel and transport

There are improvements in the roads and bridges, as well as the domestic flights over the past 10 years. However they are still far from perfect. Water transport plays important role in the transport of goods, raw materials as well as people. Main rivers: The Ayeyarwaddy, Chindwin, Sittaung and Thanlyin all flow from north to south into the sea. These rivers and their tributaries serve for floating down various forest products.

There are three domestic carriers: Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways and Myanmar Airways.

Railway lines have been extended. Yangon is connected to the north to Mandalay and Myitkyina as well as to Pyay, Magwe and Nyaung U. To the south the capital is linked to Mawlamyaing, Ye, and Dawe in upper Thaninthayi division. There are several branch lines. For example, places in southern Shan state such as Kalaw and Taunggyi are connected to Yangon – Mandalay line. Lashio, Hsipaw, Kyauk Me, etc. in northern Shan state are connected to Mandalay.

Train travel is a kind of slow motion and not very comfortable. The 690- km Yangon – Mandalay journey could take 14 to 16 hours by train. Cargo and postal trains are slower than passenger ones.

Sea ports used for domestic and international transport include Sittwe and Kyauk Pyu in Rakhine state; Pathein in Ayeyarwaddy division; Yangon ports; Mawlamyaing in Mon state; Dawei, Myeik and Kaw Thaung in Thaninthayi division. Most of the export and import activities take place in Yangon ports.

Communications

Road side phones are rare even in the capital Yangon. Domestic calls costs are more or less similar to Thailand (2003), while overseas calls are one of the most expensives in the world. Number of available telephone lines are very limited and it is very expensive to own a phone line.

Some small towns and most of the villages still do not have telephones (2004). Cell phones are used in Yangon and Mandalay areas. GSM phones do not work in Myanmar (2004). As well international phone cards and internet calls will not be accepted anywhere inside Myanmar (2004).

There are several internet cafes in Yangon and Mandalay, where people can connect to world wide web for hourly fee. However web based emails such as hotmail, yahoo mail are not accessible (2004).

Visa

All visitors (above 7 years age) require visa to enter Myanmar at Yangon or Mandalay airport. Visa can be obtained at a Myanmar embassy.

For the travellers who enter and exist at a land border check point the entry visa (border pass) is issued at the checkpoint for a fee.

Entry at an airport and exist at a land border checkpoint (or vice visa) need special permit (2004). Entry at a land border checkpoint and exist at another land border checkpoint also need such permit (2004). Many areas in the country are still restricted to foreigners.

Local time

Local standard time is GMT + 6.5 hours.

Climate

May to early November is the rainy season with mixture of hot and/or wet periods. Cool season comes during November to February. February to June is the hot season. The actual condition change from place to place. Normally the hilly regions with trees get longer period of pleasant cool weather. The central lowland plain region gets longer period of dry and hot weather.

People, religions and languages

Population is about 48 million (2001) and it is composed of a great diversity of ethnic groups. There are about 135 ethnic groups. Main ethnic groups are Bamar, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and there are also smaller ethnic groups such as Palaung, Padaung, Lisu, Wa, Lahu, Lashi, Yaw. This diversity makes the country culturally very rich with many different languages, customs, traditions and dresses. But all these ethnic groups share a wide variety of social customs: the Longi (traditional dress for men and women), Thanaka (cosmetics), Lepet (pickled tea) and Ngapi (the fish paste).

Roughly 85 per cent of the population follow the Buddhist philosophy. The population of some 200,000 monks and pagoda-dotted landscapes are confessing about it. There are also Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Animistic minorities around the country.

The official language is Myanmar. There are many different local languages. Total number of languages and dialects could be around 110. English is fairly understood in the big cities and tourist places.

Food and drink

Neighboring China, Thailand and India influences Myanmar cuisine. Most hotels offer both Asian and Western meals. In the tourist places there are several restaurants serving international foods. Tap water can not be consumed. Bottled drinking water is available in all tourist places.

Money

Myanmar currency is called Kyat. FEC money (foreign exchange currency which can be used inside Myanmar only) are rated 1 to 1 with US$ money. FEC money can be changed to local Kyat at licensed moneychangers.

International credit cards and traveler checks are accepted only in large hotels. But then there will be some percentage cut on the service charges and long waiting time for the verification. There are no ATM machine that accept foreign ATM cards or Credit cards (2004). So foreign visitors need to carry cash in US$. Other foreign currencies will have troubles.

Electricity

The standard voltage is 220-230V, 50Hz.

Economy

Economically Myanmar is a poor country, and agriculture remains the main sector. Since late 1988, Myanmar has replaced the centrally planned economy with a more liberalized economic policy based on market-oriented system.