Mayanmar, 11. – 31.Januar 2015
Myanmar, a republic in South-East Asia, bounded on the north by Tibet Autonomous Region of China; on the east by China, Laos, and Thailand; on the south by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal; and on the west by the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, and India. It is officially known as the Union of Myanmar. The total area of the country is 676,552 square km (261,218 square miles).
A horseshoe-shaped mountain complex and the valley of the Ayarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River system are the dominant topographical features of Myanmar. The mountains of the northern border are an extension of the Himalaya and rise to 5881 meters (19,296 ft) Hkakabo Razi, the highest peak in Southeast Asia. The two other mountain systems run north-south. The Arakan Yoma range, with peaks reaching more than 2740 meters (about 9000 ft), forms a barrier between Myanmar and the subcontinent of India. The Bilauktaung range, the southern extension of the Shan Plateau, lies along the boundary between southwestern Thailand and southeastern Myanmar. The Shan Plateau, originating in China, has an average elevation of about 910 meters (about 3000 ft).
Generally narrow and elongated in the interior, the central lowlands attain a width of about 320km (about 200 miles) across the Ayarwaddy-Sittaung delta. The delta plains, extremely fertile and economically the most important section of the country, cover an area of about 46,620 sq. km (18,000 sq. ml.). Both the Arakan (in the northwest) and the Tenasserim (in the southwest) coasts of Mayanmar are rocky and fringed with islands. The country has a number of excellent natural harbours.
The climate is tropical with a monsoon season, but the rainfall is very low in the central regions even in the rainy season.
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar has a population of over 60 million. The major racial groups are Bamar, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. Over 80 percent of Myanmar embraces Theravada Buddhism. There are also Christians, Muslims, Hindus and some animists. The language is predominantly Myanmar (Bamar) with ethnic minorities speaking Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Shan and other 135 hill-tribe dialects. Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindustani, Urdu are spoken by Chinese and Indian Immigrants. Being once a British colony English is also widely spoken.
Myanmar lies on the crossroad of two of the world’s great civilizations – China and India – but its culture is neither that of India or China exclusively, but a blend of both interspersed with Myanmar native traits and characteristics. Buddhism has great influence on daily life of the Myanmar. The people have preserved the traditions of close family ties, respect for the elders, reverence for Buddhism and simple native dress. They are known for their simple hospitality and friendliness.
Myanmar has a long history and its greatness dates back to the early 11th Century when King Anawrahta unified the country and founded the First Myanmar Empire in Bagan more than 20 years before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The Bagan Empire encompassed the areas of the present day Myanmar and the entire Menam Valley in Thailand and lasted two centuries. The Second Myanmar Empire was founded in 16th Century by King Bayinnaung styled Branginoco by the Portuguese. King Alaungpaya founded the last Myanmar Dynasty in 1752 and it was during the zenith of this Empire that the British moved into Myanmar in 1825. During The Second World War, Myanmar was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 till the return of the Allied Forces in 1945. Myanmar became a sovereign independent state in January 1948 after more than 100 years of colonial administration.
I joined a group on a sightseeing tour of Mayanmar which lasted a total of three weeks. The guide was a professional photographer from Germany and the program was planned specifically to allow plenty of opportunities to take photographs. During the first two weeks we were located in the main tourist centres of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake travelling between these by plane. In the third week the much reduced group travelled by minibus to the Golden Rock and the interesting landscape round Hpa-an. There was to be no hiking on this holiday which was unusual for me, but this is not really possible except in some northern areas where there is still some unrest near the borders.
It was hot and sunny all the time except for 2 days. Considering there was no real physical activity involved it was quite strenuous, since we were often out at dawn and dusk to take photos in the best light and frequently did not return to the hotel in between. This made for very long days and the transport used was sometimes not so comfortable – tuc-tuc, lorries, horse and cart and canoe. Two of the hotels could be described as very luxury but the others did not really rise above the category very clean. The group of 8 Germans including the guide harmonized well together and I think with me. In the third week we were only 4 people. The sights were amazing as it is in Asia. I hope the pictures show this.