Burma

SUMMARY:
Spanning from the rousing Himalayas to the scenic South Pacific, Myanmar holds secluded jungles, deep rainforests, remote river villages decorated with wood mansions, and untapped beaches in its caverns. The land seems to echo freedom, yet the country is one of the most closed and tightly regulated in the world. Recurrent government crackdowns on democracy and the outlawing of the Internet suggest that travelers must be prepared to tackle the much-involved government of Myanmar before arriving.

PROFILE:

Full country name: Union of Myanmar (changed from Burma in 1989)
Area: 671,000 sq km (416,020 sq mi)
Population: 45 million
Capital city: Rangoon
People: 65% Burmese, 10% Shan, 7% Karen, 4% Rakhine and Chin, Kachin, Mon, Chinese, Indian and Assamese minorities
Language: Burmese with Karen, Chin, Shan, and Kachin dialects
Religion: 87% Theravada Buddhist, 5% Christian, 4% Muslim, 3% animist
Government: Military council

MONEY & COSTS:
Currency: Kyat
Exchange Rate: US$1 = 6.2
Relative cost:
Budget Meal: US$ 1-2
Budget Room: US$ 3-8

You can live in Myanmar for US$8-12 a day; one can feasibly go cheaper but this is about the average. Cards and Checks: Major credit cards such as Visa, American Express, and Mastercard as well as traveller’s checks are accepted by airlines, major hotels, and supermarkets.

TRANSPORTATION:

There are several modes of transportation that are available in Myanmar, most being quite different than minivans and motorcycles. Buses and trains are widespread, as well as riverboats for crossing seas and rivers, like the famous Irrawaddy River that runs through the center of the country. If your destination is the jungle, you may find yourself riding on an elephant for two days to reach it. Note however, that all transportation is government regulated, thus officials charge foreigners double for any transportation. This obviously can get a bit pricey if you don’t plan your trips well.

RELIGION:
As already mentioned, Buddhists inhabit about 90% of Myanmar territory. One is constantly reminded of this by the recurrent pagodas that dot the countryside. In fact, you can expect to see a Buddhist temple site about every 3 miles. Yet Buddha does not reign the entire country, for the remainder of the population is made up of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and animists.

CALL TO MISSIONARIES:
If you plan to spread the Gospel in Myanmar, take heed for the country is closed to evangelism according to the government. However, there is a huge push for missions, especially in the Kachin state where much mission work has already been done. Many civilians are indeed Christians, yet any foreign activity is closely scrutinized. Government officials are infamously known to follow foreigners around, while frequently checking passports and asking questions. Also, don’t necessarily plan on making Myanmar your home. Laws forbidding permanent residence for foreigners obviously make it quite difficult to stay in Myanmar for a long period of time.