As Myanmar or Burma, continues to open up to the outside world as this fascinating country is visited by more travelers.
Myanmar is one of Southeast Asia’s most overlooked nations. Speak of it 50 years ago as Thailand did. Large undeveloped areas, relatively easy to travel, very cheap and few tourists. Myanmar is a great destination for an untouched country traveler. Here are some of the interesting facts about Myanmar.
Myanmar and Burma are the same.
Myanmar or Burma? Why is the nation of Southeast Asia getting two names? The rich history has been an ups and downs rollercoaster, contributing to this very dual personality. Officially, the name of the country is Myanmar on paper. In 1989, after thousands were killed in an uprising, the ruling military government changed the name from Burma to Myanmar. Rangoon’s city also became Yangon. Many names have changed across the country. Maymyo has become Pyin Oo Lwin, Ayeyarwady has become Irrawaddy and Moulmein has become Mawlamyine.
Many citizens, however, continue to use both names without much hassle interchangeably. Burma is sometimes just a word that is easier to pronounce. All words have linguistically the same roots. Myanmar is the country’s fictional, written name, and Bama is more compassionate. There’s one more formal than the other. When the military seized power from the government of General Ne Win in 1989, there was a drive among the country’s variety of ethnic groups to create a national identity. Burma is considered to represent only ethnic Burmans, so Myanmar has become the politically correct term to include all those who live in the country. The name change was also a way to get rid of British colonial influences in the region.
Thingyan, the Myanmar water festival.
The Burmese people’s most anticipated celebration is the Myanmar Water Festival, also known as the Thingyan Water Festival. Taking place annually to celebrate the New Year party, this is a wonderful event not only for local people but also for tourists traveling to the country during the holiday to indulge in the pleasant moment and pray for a better year. Expect to get soaked among thousands of people in the heat of summer in Myanmar, scream loudly and leave all the tension behind.
The origins of Myanmar’s Thingyan water festival from a very long time ago derived from the Buddhist interpretation of a Hindu legend. Thingyan, in the Sanskrit language, means “transit of the Sun from Pisces to Aries. The legend said the Thingyan festival is an event to mean the changing hands of the head of the Brahma. This is a powerful deity who lost his head in a gamble with Devas. Today, Myanmar’s Thingyan Water Festival is known as the most beloved event for people to wish for good health and luck to all those attending.
Thanaka and the magic of it.
Thanaka is a traditional powder extracted from the bark of some trees growing in Myanmar’s central regions. People grind the tree bark against a flat, wet circular smooth stone and then put the paste on the face, mainly the cheeks for purposes of skin care. The Thanaka paste has the slightly yellowish color with the small, silky texture and tree bark’s pleasant smell. Thanaka’s history dates back more than 2000 years ago from the earliest stages of the country’s development. Thanaka’s use as cosmetics is believed to have been invented during this period by the legendary queen living in the ruined ancient city.
After a lot of historical events, Thanaka’s use is still remaining. Today, along with the rise of modern technology, Thanaka is a favorite cosmetics in the form of a thick cream or a powder that makes it easier to use. In addition, for many purposes, other sections of Thanaka trees are used. Wood is commonly used to make accessories for women wearing such as combs, boxes or small trinkets. Thanaka tree’s roots are used for indigenous medications. But it’s only the cosmetic reason that makes Thanaka famous for being a Burmese beauty secret.
The Mingun Pagoda is a huge unfinished pagoda built in the late 18th century, which was intended to be the country’s largest pagoda. The huge paya, also known as the Mantara Gyi Pagoda, the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, and the Great Royal Stupa make an amazing site on the banks of the river Irrawaddy. There is a large, richly decorated entrance in the center of the 50-meter-high pagoda facing the water.
There is a small shrine with a Buddha image inside the pagoda. Using a stairway to the right of the building you will climb to the top of the pagoda. From there you will have beautiful views of the city with the surrounding Hsinbyume Pagoda, several other pagodas, the Irrawaddy River and the mountains at the back of the pagoda.
The Pagan’s Kingdom
The Pagan Kingdom or Pagan Dynasty (849 – 1287) was the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later form modern Burma (Myanmar). The kingdom developed out of a small fortified Pagan settlement established in 849 by the Burmans. Next, it gradually grew over the next two hundred years to include its immediate surroundings. The kingdom declined as the steady growth of tax-free religious wealth in the 13th century. Two-thirds of the cultivable land of Upper Burma had been alienated from religion, affecting the ability of the crown to retain courtiers and military servants’ loyalty. This led with Mons, Mongols and Shans in a vicious circle of internal illnesses and external threats. The kingdom was ultimately divided into many regions, each claiming a king. This would take another 250 years before the re-unification of Burma.
If you’re a bit different from most after an adventure in Southeast Asia, Myanmar might be the idyll you’re looking for. It’s a hidden gem that you’d be crazy not to explore, as unique as it is mysterious!
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