The Union of Myanmar
Myanmar covers an area of 676,578 square kilometers and is the westernmost country in South-East Asia. Myanmar shares borders with the People's Republic of China on the north and northeast; with Lao People's Democratic Republic and the Kingdom of Thailand on the east and southeast, the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Republic of India on the west. 1760 miles of the coast-line is bounded on the west by the Bay of Bengal and on the south by the Andaman Sea.
The country is divided administratively into Nay Pyi Taw Union Territory and (14) States and Regions. These are further organized into (70) districts, (330) townships, (84) sub-townships, (398) towns, (3063) wards, (13,618) village tracts and (64,134) villages.
According to the Population and Housing census conducted in 2014, the population is 55.5 million. About 70 percent of the population resides in the rural areas, whereas the remaining are urban dwellers.The population density for the whole country is 89 per square kilometers. Sixty-two percent of the population is between the age of 15-59 years, 0-14 year group comprise 29.2 percent and those 60 years and above form 8.8 percent of the population. In 2009, the Central Statistical Organization estimated that half of the population is between the ages of 15 to 49 years and women of reproductive age constitute approximately 30 percent.
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is made up of (135) national races speaking over 100 languages and dialects.The major ethnic groups are Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakkhine and Shan. The large majority of the population is Buddhists, while the rest are Christians, Hindus and Muslims.
There are many places of interest to visit in Myanmar: not only the major cities with touristic sites but also scenic sites.
Nay Pyi Taw
It is the capital city of Myanmar, also Myanmar’s third largest city, after Yangon and Mandalay. The city is one of the world's 10 fastest-growing cities, located between the Bago hills and the Shan plateau mountain ranges. It is more centrally and strategically located than the old capital, Yangon. The 25th ASEAN Summit as well as the 9th East Asia Summit were held in Nay Pyi Taw recently. It is also one of the host cities for 2013 Southeast Asian Games.
It is organized into a number of zones, namely; for ministries, hotels, residential areas and a military zone. Areas have been demarcated for foreign embassies and headquarters of United Nations missions. The notable areas to visit in Nay Pyi Taw are Uppatasanti Pagoda which has a terrace similar in size and shape to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the Zoological Garden, Safari Park and National Herbal Park.
Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar and the most important commercial center as well as the country's former capital. It is located in Lower Myanmar at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers. Furthermore, it is the country’s main center for trade, industry, real estate, media, entertainment and tourism. The city alone represents about one fifth of the national economy.
One of the most famous places in Myanmar is the Shwe Dagon pagoda which is the most sacred pagoda in the country and for many Buddhists all over the world. The pagoda houses relics of the four past Buddhas and many other religious relics. The Bogyoke Aung San market, the Gems Museum and the National Museum are worth a visit. Other interesting places include Kandawgyi (Royal) Lake and Inya Lake and the surrounding Yangon University campus.
The former British colonial capital has the highest number of colonial period buildings in Southeast Asia. Downtown Yangon is still mainly made up of colonial buildings. The former High Court, the former Secretariat building, the former St. Paul's English High School and the Strand Hotel are excellent examples of the bygone era. Many high-rise residential and commercial buildings have been constructed or renovated throughout downtown and Greater Yangon in the past two decades.
Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar, located in the central dry zone by the Ayeyawaddy River. It is the economic hub of Upper Myanmar and considered as the centre of Myanmar culture. Mandalay remains Upper Myanmar's main commercial, educational and health center. Being the cultural and religious center of Buddhism in Myanmar, there are numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. Maha Muni Pagoda, the holiest pagoda in Mandalay is also one of the most revered, next to the Shwedagon Pagoda, is an essential to be visited while in Mandalay.
The city is located at the foot of Mandalay Hill where the hill-top gives a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside. At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world's official "Buddhist Bible", also known as the world's largest book, in Kuthodaw Pagoda. Although the Mandalay Palace was unfortunately destroyed by a fire during World War II, the city gates with their crowning wooden pavilions and the surrounding moat still represent an impressive scene of the last royal capital of Myanmar. There are still many other famous cultural sites such as ancient pagodas and monasteries worth to be visited, including Buddha’s tooth relic pagoda. The Atu-ma-shi monastery has an inimitable architectural design, while the Shwe-nann-daw monastery is well-known for its' intricate wood-carvings.
Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Bagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. The Bagan Archaeological Zone, defined as the 13x8 km area centered around Old Bagan, consisting of Nyaung-U in the north and New Bagan in the south, lies in the vast expanse of plains in Upper Myanmar on the bend of the Ayeyarwaddy river. Bagan stands out for not only the sheer number of religious edifices but also the magnificent architecture of the buildings, and their contribution to Myanmar temple design. The Bagan temples falls into one of two broad categories: the stupa-style solid temple and the gu-style (cave) hollow temple.
The notable cultural sites are: Ananda Temple, Dhammayangyi Temple, Manuha Temple, Sulamani Temple and Thatbyinnyu Temple, among others. The Bagan Archaeological Museum in the Bagan Archaeological Zone (which is part of Nyaung-U District, Mandalay Region), itself is a field museum, a millennium old. The three-storey museum houses a number of rare Bagan period objects including the original Myazedi inscriptions, the Rosette stone of Myanmar.
Inle Lake (Inn Lay Lake)
Inle Lake is a second largest lake in Myanmar located in Nyaungshwe Township of Taunggyi District of Shan State, which is part of the Shan Hills in Myanmar. It is a major tourist attraction of Myanmar since it is well-known for the unique rowing style of local fishermen, standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar in order to see their crops grown on the floating islands. Inle region is also renowned for its floating market hosted every fifth day, high quality hand-woven silk fabrics called Inle longyi and the delicious local cuisine of fermented rice kneaded with fish.
Additionally, there are numerous pagodas on the lake, among which Hpaung Daw U Pagoda is the most revered. Among the annual pagoda festivals, the Hpaung Daw U festival attracts huge crowds from Myanmar and from all over the world, due to the traditional boat racing event with dozens of leg-rowers in Shan attire rowing as a team on each boat . Furthermore, you can visit clusters of hundreds of white-washed ancient stupas in Shwe Inn Tain pagoda situated at the end of Inn Tain creek by taking a 45 minute boat ride from the lake.