"BURMA: A Very Special Journey" Rangoon by Krystynn
Rangoon Travel Guide: 553 reviews and 1,446 photos
Yes, <i>Mingalaba</i>! And welcome to beautiful <b><u>Yangon</b></u> (formerly known as "<i>Rangoon</i>"), the capital of Myanmar.
Two figures come to my mind whenever Burma is mentioned: the Nobel Peace Prize winner <i>Aung San Su Kyi</i> for her non-violent fight for Democracy and <i>Rudyard Kipling</i> for his enthralling poem - "The Road to Mandalay". Burma, now known as Myanmar, was closed to the outsiders for a very long period of time after it gained independence from the British Crown in 1947.
Now, it's slightly easier to visit this amazing country. Like its neighbor Thailand, Theraveda Buddhism is practiced by a majority of the Burmese. Throughout the centuries, countless payas (very loosely translated as pagodas) and monasteries have been built on this land. One place you shouldn't miss when you're in this country is surreal pagoda ruins of Bagan.
After the 1841 fire that almost destroyed the city, Dagon (as it was known back then) was rebuilt by the British. The long "isolation" period after the independence in 1948 seemed to keep the city in some sort of a time capsule. Streets are still wide and lined with trees (you should see their "street lamps"... They looked more like street bulbs to me); the traffic is still relatively light when compared to other Southeast Asian cities... and their Downtown still retains a strong colonial air. If you're coming here as a tourist, you should do some serious pre-trip planning... and get your visas done!
Then, buy a good guidebook to Myanmar... and surf through the respective pages here on VT where travelers describe their personal experience(s). Have fun!
My trip to Myanmar wasn't as a tourist..... So, whatever you'll be reading from this page is purely taken from my own personal experience. This is <b>Yangon</b> as seen through my eyes...
<b>Full Country Name:</b> Union of Myanmar (Burma became Myanmar in 1989 after the State Law and Order Restoration Council decided that the old name implied the dominance of Burmese culture; the Burmese are just one of the many ethnic groups in the country)
<b>Area: </b> 671,000 sq km (416,020 sq mi)
<b>Population:</b> 46.8 million (growth rate 2.1%)
<b>Capital: </b> Yangon (Rangoon) (pop 4 million)
<b>Government:</b> Military council
<b>Internet Domain:</b> .mm
<b>Major Products/Industries:</b> Teak, Rice, Jute and illegal opium poppies
<b>Major Trading Partners:</b> Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan, India
<b>Visas:</b> 28-day visas are issued and cost US$18
<b>Health Risks:</b> Cholera, Cysentery, Hepatitis, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid
<b>Electricity:</b> 230V, 50 Hz (when it's working)
<b>Weights & Measures:</b> Imperial with local variations
<b>Tourism:</b> 65,000 visitors in 1994
<b>Local Time:</b> GMT +7 hours or +12 hours for EST (subtract 1 hour for daylight savings).
<b>International Telephone Code:</b> +95
<b>Airport Tax:</b> Airport departure tax is USD6.
<b>TRAVEL DOCUMENTS:</b> A passport valid up to 6 months beyond your travel date and a tourist visa are required for entry into Laos. A tourist visa is valid for one month starting from your entry date.
<b>CURRENCY:</b> The local currency is - Kyat (pronounced as "chart"). The official exchange rate is approximately 6.25 kyats to USD1 while the free market exchange can be as high as125 kyats.
<b>MONEY MATTERS (IMPORTANT):</b> Tourists (like us) not on an <u>organized tour</u> are required to exchange USD300 into FEC 300 (Foreign Exchange Certificates) upon arrival at the airport. It's pretty cumbersome... but <i>what to do?</i> The FEC have about the same value (approximately 5-10% less) via-a-vis the US dollar. It can be used to pay officially approved hotel rooms, shops and restaurants.
Credit cards are not widely accepted. Travelers checks and currencies other than the US dollar are only accepted by major banks. <i>My personal recommendation?</i> Carry US dollar bills in small denominations and you should be fine.
<b>CLIMATE:</b> Myanmar has three seasons. Their winter is cool and dry and lasts from November to February.
February to May is their hot summer season and following that is the monsoon season, which lasts right up till October.
The BEST time to visit is during their winter season from October to February.... when their weather is just - perfect.
<b>FOOD:</b> Basic diet is rice and curry. There are numerous forms of fish paste with salad. Soup is taken together with rice and other dishes. Almost every town boast Chinese restaurants (mainly Cantonese and Fujianese). Indian food is also popular. Western food is only available in major hotels.
<b>HYGIENE:</b> When eating fruits and vegetables, remember to cook it and if eating raw, peel the skin. Drinking tap wateror ice is strongly not recommended. Opt for bottled drinks instead. Better to be safe than sorry.
<b>LANGUAGES:</b> Most of the linguistic groups are monosyllabic and polytonal, like those of Tibet and China. The great majority of the population, including many of the non-Burman ethnic minorities speaks the official Myanmar language. English is spoken among the educated, and a sizable number of people speak Chinese.
<b>RELIGION:</b> A majority of the population practice Theravada Buddhism while a minority is Muslim or Christian.
<b>THE PEOPLE:</b> More than two-thirds of the people are Burmese, ethnically akin to the Tibetans and the Mongols. The most important of the native minority groups, who havetheir own languages and cultures, are the Karen and the Shan, each of which comprises less than one-tenth of the population. There is also a Chinese and Indian minority population.
<b>MAJOR HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS:</b> Festivals are a central part of Buddhists in Burma and most coincide with full moons of the lunar calendar. The majority of festivals take place in central Burma during March, July-September, December and during Buddhist lent.
They usually either start or finish on the full moon day.
Some major festivals include Full Moon Day of Tabaung (March), Water Festival and Myanmar New Year (April), Buddhist Lent (July-August) and Light Festival (November).
<b>MAIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:</b> Mingaldon (RGN) airport is 19km north of Yangon. Cabs (remember to drive a hard bargain with them) and buses are widely available to city center.
<b><u>TIMELINE BURMA: Here's a brief chronology of key events:</b></u>
<b>1057</b> - King Anawrahta founds the first unified Burmese state at Pagan and adopts Theravada Buddhism.
<b>1287</b> - Mongols under Kublai Khan conquer Pagan.
<b>1531</b> - Toungoo dynasty, with Portuguese help, reunites Burma.
<b>1755</b> - Alaungpaya founds the Konbaung dynasty with Rangoon as its capital.
<b>1824-26</b> - First Anglo-Burmese war ends with the Treaty of Yandabo, according to which Burma ceded the Arakan coastal strip, between Chittagong and Cape Negrais, to British India.
<b>1852</b> - Britain annexes lower Burma, including Rangoon, following the second Anglo-Burmese war.
<b>1885-86</b> - Britain captures Mandalay after a brief battle; Burma becomes a province of British India.
<b>1937</b> - Britain separates Burma from India and makes it a crown colony.
<b>1942</b> - Japan invades and occupies Burma with some help from the Japanese-trained Burma Independence Army, which later transforms itself into the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) and resists Japanese rule.
<b>1945</b> - Britain liberates Burma from Japanese occupation with help from the AFPFL, led by Aung San.
<b>1947</b> - Aung San and six members of his interim government assassinated by political opponents led by U Saw, a nationalist rival of Aung San's. U Nu, foreign minister in Ba Maw's government, which ruled Burma during the Japanese occupation, asked to head the AFPFL and the government.
<b>1948</b> - Burma becomes independent with U Nu as prime minister.
<b>Mid-1950s</b> - U Nu, together with Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Indonesian President Sukarno, Yugoslav President Tito and Egyptian President Nasser co-found the Movement of Non-Aligned States.
<b>1958-60</b> - Caretaker government, led by army Chief of Staff General Ne Win, formed following a split in the ruling AFPFL party.
<b>1960</b> - U Nu's party faction wins decisive victory in elections, but his promotion of Buddhism as the state religion and his tolerance of separatism angers the military.
<b>One-Party, Military-led State:</b>
<b>1962</b> - U Nu's faction ousted in military coup led by Gen Ne Win, who abolishes the federal system and inaugurates "the Burmese Way to Socialism"- nationalising the economy, forming a single-party state with the Socialist Programme Party as the sole political party, and banning independent newspapers.
<b>1974</b> - New constitution comes into effect, transferring power from the armed forces to a People's Assembly headed by Ne Win and other former military leaders; former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant returned to Burma for burial.
<b>1975</b> - Opposition National Democratic Front formed by regionally-based minority groups, who mounted guerrilla insurgencies.
<b>1981</b> - Ne Win relinquishes the presidency to San Yu, a retired general, but continues as chairman of the ruling Socialist Program Party.
<b>1982</b> - Law designating people of non-indigenous background as "associate citizens" in effect bars such people from public office.
<b>Riots and Repression:</b>
<b>1987</b> - Currency devaluation wipes out many people's savings and triggers anti-government riots.
<b>1988</b> - Thousands of people are killed in anti-government riots. The State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) is formed.
<b>1989</b> - Slorc declares martial law, arrests thousands of people, including advocates of democracy and human rights, renames Burma - Myanmar, with the capital, Rangoon, becoming Yangon.
<b>1990</b> - Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) wins landslide victory in general election, but the result is ignored by the military; NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, is put under house arrest.
<b>1991</b> - Aung San Suu Kyi awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to peaceful change.
<b>1992</b> - Than Shwe replaces Saw Maung as SLORC chairman, prime minister and defence minister. Several political prisoners freed in bid to improve Burma's international image.
<b>1996</b> - Aung San Suu Kyi attends first NLD congress since her release; Slorc arrests more than 200 delegates on their way to party congress.
<b>1997</b> - Burma admitted to Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean); Slorc renamed State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
<b>1998</b> - Three hundred NLD members released from prison, but SPDC refuses to comply with NLD deadline for convening of parliament, ignores pro-democracy roadside protests by Aung San Suu Kyi and breaks up student demonstrations.
<b>1999</b> - Aung San Suu Kyi rejects SPDC conditions to visit her British husband, Michael Aris, who dies of cancer in UK.
<b>2000 September</b> - SPDC lifts restrictions limiting the movements of Aung San Suu Kyi and senior members of the NLD.
<b>2000 December</b> - Amnesty International reports that torture is increasing in Burma despite official military statements that it is illegal.
<b>2001 January</b> - SPDC releases 84 NLD activists.
<b>2001 February</b> - Burmese army and Shan rebels clash on Thai border; Burmese authorities agree to abandon the construction of a controversial dam on the Naf river between the two countries.
<b>2001 June</b> - Government frees several pro-democracy activists, saying the releases reflect progress in landmark talks with opposition NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Several opposition party offices are allowed to reopen.
<b>2001 June</b> - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra makes a two-day visit to Burma and hails it as a success, saying relations between the two countries are now back on track. His aim is to patch up disagreements over drugs and smouldering border tensions.
<I>Above info courtesy of: <u>http://news.bbc.co.uk</u> website.</i>
<b><u>Copyright: © Krystynn 2002.</u>
Please do not take my personal pics without prior permission. Thanks.</b>
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