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7 Cool things about Myanmar you didn’t know

Myanmar, pronounced MEE’un-mar, is a large country tucked in between India, Bangladesh, Laos, Thailand and China. It is renown as the country of a 1000 pagodas but there is so much more to this amazing country. 

It has beautiful scenery, the most stunning sunsets and food to suit every palate. But you can find all these pretty much anywhere. 

So, we wanted to share with you seven really cool things that you will only find in Myanmar. 

1. Largest book in the world

The Myanmar people are passionate scholars and it shows as it is home to the largest book in the world. At the foot of Mandalay Hill, in the largest city in Myanmar (Mandalay), lies the Kuthodaw Pagoda home to a single text that includes 730 tablets and 1460 pages. Each page is 1.07 meters (3 1/2 ft) wide, 1.53 meters (5 ft) and 13 cm (5 1/8 in) thick. Completed in 1868 the text contains the Buddhist cannon in Myanmar script. 

2. Driving Chaos that works

Myanmar is the only country in the world that drives right handed cars on right side of the road. Originally, people in Myanmar drove on the left, a system of travel that dates back to the time of British rule in Myanmar as it was British custom to drive on the left hand side of the road. However, in 1970, General Ne Win decided that it would help Myanmar change direction as a nation if it switched to driving on the right hand side of the road – a position which gives the driver better view of the curb than the traffic. It also means that passengers have to look both ways before they emerge from their cars onto the busy roads.

Kayan Long Neck Woman

3. Long Neck Women

In the small tribe of the Kayan people you will find the Long Neck women. These women wear brass rings around their neck from a young age, which can weigh up to ten kilos. While originally from Myanmar, due to conflict in the 1980’s, the tribe was forced to the Thai border. This causes many people to think that these amazing women are Thai, but the Kayan and their culture was, and always will be a part of the beauty of Myanmar. 

4. Skirts for everyone?

Men and women in Myanmar wear skirts called Longyi’s. These long skirts are the traditional dress of Myanmar and you’ll even find young men and women still adorned by them today. You can purchase longyi’s in a myriad of colours and prints. Many of the weaves and patterns can signify regions or ethnic cultures and the more exquisite ones are kept for special events. So, if you plan to blend in with one of locals, a longyi is the way to go. However be careful, they are not unisex garments and the style and the way you tie it differs between men and women.

5. Tea is life

Everywhere you go in Myanmar you will find tea shops. These are the equivalent to the local pub, where you can buy a beer, eat a meal and drink tea all day long for free… which is awesome. But even better than that, they pickle tea leaves and eat them! Pickled tea leaves, called Lahpet, are highly nutritious and delicious. It’s most often sold in tea shops as Lahpet Thoke (tea salad) and mixed with roasted garlic, prawns and peanuts. Mmmmm… delicious.

6. What’s in a name?

In Myanmar names are very unique and there are three reasons for this. One; they have no surname (or patronymics) to signify family groups. Two; an integral part of a persons name can be a title such as Daw for senior women or U for a senior man. And three; A person can change their name (and they often do so) at any time without government approval to signify a change in their life such as age or social status. All this can leave an outsider feeling very confused as to what a persons name actually is… but never fear, the Myanmar people are kind people and will happily keep you informed of their (ever-changing) name.

Thanaka Face Paint

7. Thanaka

The hot Myanmar sun can be harsh even during winter. But the Myanmar people have been using a natural sunblock for the last 2000 years. Thanaka, is the pale yellow paste you may see on the faces of women, children and even men throughout Myanmar. It is used as a sunscreen but it’s also used decoratively to adorn the faces of young and old women alike.

Follow us for more travel tips and stories from the ground in Myanmar. And if you want to see these extraordinary things come to life join us on one of our annual trips. You can find out more by clicking here.

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