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Myanmar Travel Information

Until 1989, Myanmar was still called Burma. The old name derives from the country’s largest ethnic group since the 11th century – the Bamar (or Burmese) people.

However, the name Myanma also originates in the written language of the 11th century under the reign of King Kyanzittha. In 1989, the government officially changed the country’s name from Burma, the name given to the country by the English, to Myanmar, in order to unify the many ethnic groups under one name (Republic of the Union of Myanmar). This was also to demonstrate clearly the end of the colonial era.

Above all, Myanmar is an agricultural country (Southeast Asia’s rice paddy) and is also rich in natural resources (including crude oil, copper, gold and gems). Several years ago, the country opened its doors to tourists, but it is still far from being a destination for mass tourism. Due to the political developments of the last 60 years, since the departure of the British, the country did not take part in the changes the Western world underwent and has thus retained its traditional character. Its people live according to traditional values and with a close connection to nature. At the same time, they welcome outsiders with exceptional warmth and genuine hospitality.

The country is safe for tourists these days and can be comfortably travelled, with hotels of a high standard even in many remote areas.   Myanmar has several international airports, the busiest being Yangon, Mandalay, Heho and Sittwe. Private airlines, complying with international standards, ensure quick domestic travel.

Myanmar is a multi-ethnic state with a population of around 50 million, divided into 135 ethnic groups.  The Bamar (or Burmese) majority (around 75%) is followed by the Shan, who inhabit the Shan Mountains in Shan State. The population groups of the Karen (Christian) and Rohingya (Muslim) are approximately the same size, and are followed by the Padaung (Mon Khmer), Chin and Kachin.

The British withdrew from their colony in 1948, granting the country independence.  Since 1948, there have repeatedly been armed conflicts in some parts of the country, where ethnic minorities have fought for autonomy. At present, two remote regions are still plagued by conflict, and are thus not accessible for tourism.

According to official statistics, with 87%, Buddhism is Myanmar’s predominant religion, specifically the Theravada School, a branch of Buddhism which also has many followers in the West. The countless temples, pagodas and monasteries indicate the significance of Buddhism in the everyday life of the people. Other religions are Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Animism (13%).

Since mid-2011, Myanmar has made important steps towards democracy and human rights. The majority of political prisoners have been released, freedom of press has been increased and a parliament with 75% democratically elected seats has been put in place.

Economic sanctions have been largely lifted by the West, meaning that Myanmar may well be on the threshold to opening up significantly in terms of economic growth and tourism

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