Myanmar, known as Suvanna Bhumi (the Golden Earth) in the olden days for its fertile land and rich natural resources is the largest country in the South-east Asia Peninsula sharing borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. With a total land area of 676, 577 sq.km, it is about the size of Texas and the size of United Kingdom and France combined. The country stretches over 2090 km from north to south and over 925 km east to west. It has a 2832 km long coastline on the Indian Ocean. Over 50 percent of the total land area is covered with forests.
Generally, Myanmar has three seasons. The monsoon or rainy season is from May to October, the cool dry season from November to February, and the hot season from March to May. As the country is large and diverse with many mountainous regions and forests, temperatures vary from region to region. Weather is generally temperate and cool in the north and northeastern parts.
Myanmar is a union of over 100 nationalities with their own dialects and traditions. The major races are the Bamar, the Chin, the Kachin, the Shan, the Kayah, the Kayin, the Mon and the Rakhine. The name Myanmar embraces all the nationalities. The population of Myanmar is over 57 million with the Bamar, the majority race, making up about 70 percent.
Early civilization In Myanmar dates back to the 1st century with archaeological evidences of the Pyu Kingdoms of Thayekhittaya
(Sri Ksetra), Beithano (Vishnu) and Hanlin.
The first Myanmar Empire was founded in early 11th century by King Anawrahta who unified the country through his strong leadership and intellect. The Empire with its capital at Bagan lasted until the end of 13th century with the invasion of the Mongols. This was more than 20 years before the Norman Conquest of England In 1066. The Second Myanmar Empire with its capital in Bago (Pegu) was founded in mid - 16th century by King Bayinnaung. The Third and the last Myanmar Empire was founded by King Alaungpaya In 1752. In the 19lh century, during the peak period of colonialism, Myanmar was annexed in three stages by the British after three Anglo - Myanmar Wars in 1825, 1852 and 1885. During the Second World War, Myanmar was occupied by the Japanese for nearly three years until the Allied Forces' reoccupation in 1945. Myanmar became a sovereign independent state on January 4, 1948.
Predominantly a Buddhist country with more than 80 percent of the people embracing Theravada Buddhism. There are also Christians, Muslims, Hindus and some animists.
Myanmar lies between two great civilizations, India and China, but it has developed its own distinctive culture. Buddhism has a great influence on the daily lives of the Myanmar people. The people have preserved the traditions of close family ties, respect for elders and simple native dress. While tolerance and contentment are the characteristics of the people, Myanmar hospitality is legendary.
The official language is Myanmar. English is widely spoken and understood.