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Interesting facts and curiosities about Myanmar

Myanmar for me was that kind of country you step in without having read too much about it, and you fall in love with each one of the thousand details and curiosities you find along the way.

This country captivates you because being west of Southeast Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent and China, and having had so much migration of these last two, represents a great and original mixture of all this. Unfortunately, the country spent many decades closed to the world because of the military government that took command in the 60s, and in recent years has finally begun to open. Because of this, is by far the country of the area less ‘spoiled’ by tourism and the one that retained the most its essence, and will easily enter your list of favorite countries.

 

    Society

  • Myanmar people do not have surnames, neither from the mother nor from the father.
  • The name consists of one, two or even three words and usually the way it starts depends on the day of the week in which they are born.
    1. If it is Monday it will start with ka, hka, ga or nga.
      If it is Tuesday it will start with sa, hsa, za or nya.
      If it is Wednesday morning it will start with la or wa.
      If it is Wednesday afternoon it will start with ya or ra.
      If it is Thursday it will start with pa, hpa, ba or ma.
      If it is Friday it will start with tha or ha.
      If it is Saturday it will start with ta, hta, da or na.
      If it is Sunday it will start with a.
  • Once adults, if they want to give a significant turn to their life is quite common to change their name to represent such decision.
  • woman-comb-hair-myanmar

    It is also very typical to see women on the street with their hair collected with this type of comb.

     

  • Generally, and in a honorific way, a word is placed before your name to make known “what” or “who” you are in life. So they can end up calling you like this, forgetting your three previous names. Some of the most common are these:
Ashin (Monks and nobles)
Saya (Male teacher)
Sayama (Female teacher)
Bogyoke (Important military rank)
Ko (Eldest brother)
Maung (Youngest brother)
Ma (Sister)
U / Daw (Uncle/Aunt)

 

  • It’s amazing to see so many people of different ages with their faces painted with Tanaka. This is a kind of natural cosmetic that is obtained from the tree with the same name and mixing with water they make a paste, which is then spread over the face.
  • Girl with Tanaka at Yangon

    Girl from a market with tanaka on her cheeks.

     

  • Forget about football and other sports, in Myanmar you will only see their national sport, the chinlone. It is played in teams of six people and is very curious as they do not play against each other. It is not about winning or losing, but about making the game more beautiful. You will see them playing it in all the corners of all the towns that you pass by.
  • As also happens in the south of India, every man who values himself will wear every single day longyi. This is a kind of long and very loose skirt that they roll around the waist.
  • myanmar-man-longyi-coco

    Man dressed in his longyi peeling a coconut.

     

  • You will also see that the vast majority of people spend their day chewing betel nut in its leaf. Because of this, there are stalls very often that sell it and red spits on the floor wherever you go.

 

    Religion

  • As also happens in other countries in the region, Buddha is the most sacred thing. So to have it tattooed, moreover if it is in the lower part of your body, can easily get you arrested and even deported. In fact, exactly when I was traveling around, a Spanish was arrested in Bagan for having a tattoo of Buddha on his calf.
  • monks-praying-buda-temple-myanmar

    Monks praying in one of the hundreds of temples in Bagan.

     

  • You will find peanuts and tea ready to be served for visitors in all the temples of the country.
  • You will see many children with a cord tied around their neck, or more commonly, at their waist. It is the ‘sacred cord’ and they use it to protect themselves from evil spirits and spells.

 

    Country

  • They became independent from the United Kingdom in 1948.
  • Not only it’s the largest country in all mainland Southeast Asia, but it is the world’s thirty-ninth largest.
  • Htin Kyaw has been the country’s president since March 2016, and is the first non-military elected president since the coup of 1962.
  • About 17% of the country’s land is arable soil.
  • Therefore, agriculture generates over 70% of employment and 40% of its GDP, being thus the big motor of the country.
  • tea-peanuts-temple-myanmar

    As in all temples, tea and peanuts for visitors.

     

  • Many of the cities and towns names were changed by the English during colonization, although the original nomenclature is currently used. So it depends on the map you get, you will not understand anything. These are the most known:
    1. Bago (Pegu in English)
      Mawlamyaing (Moulmein)
      Pyay (Prome)
      Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo)
      Yangon (Rangoon)
  • The capital Naypyidaw is only 14 years old and was built out of nothing precisely to change the capital.
  • Even so, the old capital Yangon is by far the most populated.

 

    Traveling around

  • It is strictly forbidden to wild camp or sleep in temples.
  • In the same way, no local can host any tourist in his own house.
  • Although in recent years it was recommended to travel to Myanmar with all the dollars in cash since there were practically no ATMs,nowadays, you can find them everywhere in any minimally big city.
  • And the last one, the one that surprised us the most. At Yangon, one thing you surely will not miss compared to other big cities in Southeast Asia is that you will not have to dodge motorbikes across the street, because they are banned since 2003!

 

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