Myanmar is a country with a long and complicated history, a deep well of culture and tradition that dates back thousands of years, and a population that exhibits constant optimism. Burmese people are known for their generosity and hospitality, even in the face of poverty, conflict, and political instability. Today, despite over a century of turmoil, Myanmar is steadily getting back on its feet.
Myanmar, officially known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, sometimes informally referred to as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of 54 million people. Myanmar shares borders with India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, and China. Myanmar’s culture is something of a melting pot of Southeast Asia, as its development has been influenced and shaped over time by the traditions, beliefs, and cultural ideals of its neighboring countries.
The largest ethnic group in Myanmar is the Bamar, which makes up roughly 68% of the population. This group is what inspired the name Burma, which was a name first used by English colonists in the 1800s. The people of Myanmar are generally still called Burmese.
Other ethnic groups—of a total of 135 recognized groups—include the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Mon, Kachin, Chin, Kayah, and Rohingya people. While there are areas of Myanmar that are safe enough for tourists to travel in—primarily popular tourism sites and much of central Myanmar—There are many parts of the country that are travel-restricted or simply too dangerous to consider traveling though. Many of these areas have high levels of insurgent militant activity, and sites of previous or ongoing conflict are often littered with unmarked landmines. It is widely recommended that tourists avoid most of Rakhine State, the north and east borders and Kokang region of Shan State, and Kachin State.
The Yangon, Bago, Ayeyarwady, Mandalay, and Magwe districts are generally unrestricted to travel in and free of military conflicts, although it is generally advisable to exercise a great deal of caution whenever traveling anywhere outside of the cities of Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay, and Bagan.
Myanmar’s government has come under fire from the UN in recent years, due to the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Rohingya Muslims of western Myanmar. Since the crisis began in 2017, at least 700,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee the country, and between 10,000 and 43,000 Rohingya have been killed.