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Myanmar has three seasons, rainy (June-October), cold (November-February), and hot (March-May). During the hot season, temperatures can reach up to 44°C (112°F), with temperatures averaging around 42°C (107°F). The cold season in Myanmar is temperate, with temperatures averaging about 22C (71°F). The hillside regions and spots along the coast are known for its rainfall, while central Myanmar remains pretty dry. Because the weather in the cold season is arguably the most desirable, you’ll find more travelers throughout the country as well as prices for accommodation and transportation higher.
• Morning alms
• Cooking at local houses
Because Myanmar only opened its doors to international tourism in 2010, most of the country is still untouched, authentic and raw. But, comparatively to other countries in Southeast Asia, it is regarded as an expensive country to visit. Here’s some tips on how to save some extra kyat on the road:
• Eat locally
• Buy locally
• Utilize ground transportation
• Seek out local accommodation
• Bring a reusable water bottle
Need to know before you travel to Myanmar
Myanmar’s unit of currency is the kyat, pronounced as ch-yat. Although US dollars are mostly accepted in Myanmar, you should always keep some kyat with you in case of smaller expenses such as taxi fares, admission costs, tickets for pagodas, tips for restaurants and street stalls. Please be aware that if you bring US dollars from your country, it must be in perfect condition. There cannot be any wrinkles, folded creases, markings or tears, otherwise, they won’t accept your money. The best advice is to go to your bank and ask for new bills before you travel. Also, please bear in mind that the kyat cannot be converted outside Myanmar. If you are traveling to Myanmar from other countries than the US, convert your currency into dollars before you come to Myanmar to get the best exchange rate. Our banks will convert twice and you will lose money. 1000 kyat is equal to 1 USD.
Myanmar is a predominately cash based economy. Though ATM machines are accessible in major cities, once you travel into rural areas, having cash is a necessity.
Though Myanmar has changed and grown exponentially in recent years, it is still a very traditional country. We believe being a responsible traveler means respecting the culture you’re in, which is why we recommend that women keep their shoulders and knees covered and men keep their shoulders covered as well.
Myanmar became a democratic state after gaining independence from England in 1948. Unfortunately between 1962 and 1988, the military seized power and controlled all opportunity for enterprise. In 2010, the country opened its borders to foreign investment and tourism. In 2015, general elections were held and the National League for Democracy (NLD) won and got super majority seats in the combined national parliament. However, based on the 2008 Constitution Law, the military still controls 25% of the parliament.
Festival & Tradition in Myanmar
Festivals are a big part of the culture of Myanmar. People from Myanmar are notoriously hospitable, extremely kind and generous. Superstition is an active ingredient in local traditions, culture and religion as well as many festivals that happen throughout the year.
• Tagu (April) – Myanmar New Year (Thingyan Water Festival)
• Kason (May) – Banyan Tree watering ceremony
• Nayon (June) – Festival of religious examination
• Waso (July) – Festival of the ordination of monks
• Wagaung (August) – Festival of giving religious charity
• Taw Tha Lin (September) – Regatta Festival
• Thadingyut (October) – Festival of Light
• Ta zaung mon (November) – Ceremony of offering robes to Buddhist monks
• Nat Taw (December) – Celebration in honor of the literati
• Pya Tho (January) – Equestrian festival
• Ta Bo Dwe (February) – Festival of making Htamanei
• Ta Baung (March) – Festival of sand Pagodas
Thingyan Festival, which occurs over the Buddhist New Year, is the most famous festival in Myanmar. From April 13-16, you’ll find local people performing meritorious activities such as visiting monasteries, giving alms, practicing meditation and spending time with family. It is also customary to pour water on oneself to represent cleansing the body and mind of evils from the past year.
Thadingyut Festival, also known as the light festival, marks the end of the Buddhist lent (from July to October). This two day festival starts in the evening of the full moon where not only all temples and pagodas but homes as well are lit by candles to welcome the Buddha from Tusita (heaven). Throughout this festival, young people pay respect to their elders and ask for forgiveness.
Buddhism started developing between 11 and 13 centuries when King Anawratha brought three buckets of Buddha teaching from the Thaton Kingdom in Mon state. One goes to the pagoda and temples not only to take refuge in Buddha and his teaching but also to spread good-will and loving-kindness to fellow beings who are on different planes of existence. There are 5 precepts for normal people, 10 for novices, 9 for nuns and 227(brief precepts) for abbots and monks. Along with this Buddhist way of life and thought there exist many traditional beliefs, tribal customs, and ancient rites. In Buddhism, understanding is the most important thing and understanding takes time; it is the end product of the process. So, do not impulsively rush into Buddhism. Take your time, ask questions, consider carefully and then make your decision.
At all temples, pagodas and religious sites you will be asked to remove your shoes and socks before entering in order to pay respect and do meditation properly.
Chin Lone, also known as cane ball, is the national sport of Myanmar. The game is named after the ball woven from rattan. Described as both a sport and a dance, Chin Lon has played a prominent role in Myanmar for the past 1500 years. This noncompetitive game is played with six people in a circle playing on one team, passing the ball between one another using their feet.
Mote Hin Gar, a traditional Burmese rice noodle dish, is Myanmar’s most popular breakfast. Traditionally cooked with or without fish, this dish also includes banana bulb, yellow beans, onion, red chili powder, sugar and salt.
Mote Lin Mayar, translated to husband and wife snack, is made of flour and quail eggs. It is popular during festivals and ceremonies.
Htan Yay is the nectar of palm fruit, whose trees are common in rural areas. Palm tree climbers beginning early each morning and can climb up to 50 trees a day collecting nectar. In the morning, the nectar is soft and sweet, similar to sugarcane juice. Throughout the day, the consistency changes, until evening when it tastes like liquor.
Yok Thei, a form of puppetry, was created in the 18th century and used to entertain the royal and wealthy. Today, puppets have become one of the largest tourist attractions. Made mainly of wood and clay, eleven strings are attached from the head, shoulders and behind to a wooden crosspiece.
Thanakhar is a fragrant paste made by grinding the bark of the Thanakhar tree on a circular, flat sandstone mix with a bit of water. You will see women (and men) apply it to their faces as makeup as well as for improving skin complexion and for sun protection.
Some say that the habit of chewing betel-nut (kwin yar) and Buddhism arrived in Myanmar during the same century. Betel-nut is a made up of limestone paste, cumin, tobacco and cardamom seeds and is a natural stimulant. You will see many people with red teeth as chewing betel-nut is very popular in Myanmar.