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Myanmar (Burma) Planning Tips and Fast Facts

Take a Breath. Mysterious, Magical and Untouched – Perfectly Pristine Reefs and Beaches

Our Expert Opinion

The Mergui Archipelago is untouched and shimmers with astonishing beauty on land and in the water. It only opened to tourism 20 years ago, and access is highly regulated. Although there are a few local villages and one resort, the only beach bar is the one you’ll make yourself. The diving is phenomenal; nature walks, hiking, kayaking and paddle boarding are sublime.

What is Destination Known For?

Friendly local people, diving adventures, thriving marine life, scenic coastline, breath-taking scenery & idyllic beaches.

Location and Size

Having a total area of 261,228 sq. miles (676,578 sq km.), Myanmar, also known as Burma, is located in southeast Asia. It is the 40th largest nation in the world, sharing land borders with Bangladesh, Lao People's Democratic Republic, India, Thailand & China.

History

The first unified state of Burma (as Myanmar was earlier called) was found in 1057 at Pagan by King Anawrahta, who introduced Theravada Buddhism to the region. His successors mismanaged the wealth of the kingdom, and Burma failed to prosper. After Kublai Khan's invasion in 1287, it headed into the dark ages.

Stability in the region returned only in 1531, when the Toungoo dynasty reunited the country with Portuguese help – which later proved costly, as it paved the way for European entry into the country. In three moves – 1824, 1852 and 1885, all of Burma, which was then a part of India, was in British control. In 1937, Britain made Burma a crown colony by separating it from India.

Although British occupancy helped in developing Burma, the locals were unhappy with the colonial rule. Nationalist movements began in the country, headed by Buddhist monks, which included the likes of U Ottama and U Wizaya. Around that time, the Burmese Independence Army (BIA) was also formed, with the intention to remove the British from the country.

After the Second World War started, the BIA partnered with Japan for its cause. Japanese troops entered Burma and subdued the British, but Japanese presence in the country gradually took the shape of an invasion. Consequently, Burma became a bloody battleground, resisting both the Japanese and the British. After the World War II ended, with heavy casualties on all sides, Burma limped back to normalcy, finally gaining independence in 1948.

Civil war and unrest ensued for decades under various military rulers and resulted in it becoming one of the least developed nations in the world. 2016 saw the election of the first non-military President since 1962. Over the past five years, tourism has grown immensely yet Myanmar has retained its “off the beaten track” ambiance.

Getting There

Several one-stop flights are available from the US, UK, Australia & New Zealand to the Nay Pyi Taw International Airport (NYT), which is the link between Myanmar and the world. Most yacht charters embark from Kawthaung (Victoria Point) in the southern part of Myanmar; the easiest way to get there is through Ranong Airport, Thailand.

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Myanmar (peak season) lies between November and April, when temperatures ranging from 70-80°F (21-27°C) set up perfect sunny days along the coast. Because of the monsoon season from May until the beginning of October, charter yachts typically leave this area and locate elsewhere during those months.

Local Customs to Observe

Burmese are warm and friendly people. Mengalaba and Chesube are used to say 'Hello' and 'Thank You' respectively. Always ask for permission before taking a photo of the local people. Wearing appropriate clothing while visiting religious places is a must. Normally, Myanmar people eat with their fingers – using the left hand which is considered to be the clean hand.

Helpful Fast Facts

Currency: Burmese kyat (MMK).

Time Zone: Myanmar Standard Time (UTC+06:30).

Local language: The official language of the region is Burmese, but English is also widely spoken along the coasts.

Population: 54,266,028 as of April 16, 2016.

Airport: Nay Pyi Taw International Airport (NYT).

Entry Requirements: All visitors are required to produce a pre-arrival visa and a passport - with 6 months validity beyond the duration of intended stay.

Departure tax: US $10. Legal Drinking Age: 18 years.

Smoking Regulations: Smoking is banned in most indoor public places & indoor workplaces with limited exceptions in restaurants & places of lodging. It is also not allowed on public transportation. Staying in touch: Mobile and internet coverage is good in mainland Myanmar. Satellite service is required if you want to stay constantly in touch when cruising the Mergui Archipelago.

Medical Information: Numerous private and public hospitals exist across the country. Yangon General Hospital in Yangon is among the nation's premier medical facilities.

Public Holidays: Independence Day (Jan – 4); Union Day (Feb - 12); Peasants' Day (March – 2); Full Moon of Tabaung (March – 23); Armed Forces Day (March – 27); Maha Thingyan (April - 13); Myanmar New Year (April – 17); May Day (May – 1); Full Moon of Kason (May); Full Moon of Waso (July); Martyrs' Day (July – 19); Full Moon of Thadingyut (July); Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone (November); National Day (December – 8); & Christmas Day (December - 25)

Tourist Office: Check http://www.myanmartourism.org/ for details related to Myanmar tourist places and more.

Shopping Information: Souvenirs, jewelry made from petrified wood or from jade, handicrafts like marionettes, laquerware, Buddha figurines & tapestries are among the popular buys in Myanmar. Duty-free shopping can be enjoyed at the outlets located at most international airports.

Top Ten "Must Do's"

  • Dive with seahorses in High Rock
  • Cruise to Turtle Egg Island – watch the local fishermen haul and dry their catch
  • Hike the 5-5-5 Mountain for a dazzling sunset over the archipelago
  • Stop at Nyaung Wee Island and get to know the locals at a sea gypsy Moken village
  • Take a thrilling deep water dive on the Burma Banks
  • Take a jungle trek on South Lampi Island – deer, leatherback turtles and birds
  • Catch dinner wherever you throw a line overboard
  • Paddle Crocodile River, keeping company with monkeys, wild pigs and an array of birds
  • Ask your divemaster to take you to his most secret site for spotting manta rays and whale sharks
  • Join your chef for a local cuisine cooking class – maybe Mohinga – a rice noodle fish soup

Major Local and Regional Events

  • Fire Balloon Festival (October) – the festival is marked with fireworks & hot air balloons.
  • Ananda Pahto Festival (January) – a religious festival, celebrated at Ananda Pahto for around a fortnight.

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