Monday, June 6, 2016

Yangon, Myanmar: Facts about a Relatively Unknown Nation - May 2016

Nestled alongside India, China and Thailand, sits the enchanting Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar. Formerly known as Burma, the country is now stepping out from its tumultuous history plagued with civil war, occupation and military rule. Known for its towering golden pagodas and devout Buddhist followers, there is more to this formerly closed nation than meets the eye.
  • Burma was renamed Myanmar in 1989, however some western nations, like the U.S., refuse to recognize the change.
  • The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is the country's most famous site and a revered Buddhist monument; it was erected more than 2,500 years ago using 22,041 solid bars of gold.
  • Traditional Burmese dance features double-jointed performers who bend wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, fingers and toes to stylized choreography.
  • In Burmese culture, white, or albino, elephants are worshipped. The animals are collected by politicians to bring good luck in elections. Currently eight white elephants are actively involved in blessing the country's affairs.
  • About 5,000 elephants are employed throughout the country in forestry operations to haul logs. Elephants start timber-work at age five and typically retire at age 53.
  • Burmese women and children smear fragrant paste made from tree bark, called thanaka, on their faces to combat the sun.
  • In the mountainous northeastern regions of Myanmar, the local diet consists of insect larvae, ants and grasshoppers.
  • Burmese people don't only drink tea, but eat it as well. Lahpet, or tea-leaf salad, consists of fermented tea leaves packed into bamboo tubes along with a variety of spices and accompaniments.
  • The Myanmar border with Laos and Thailand is often referred to as the "Golden Triangle." It is regarded as lawless badlands overrun with drug lords, arms dealers and insurgent armies, and is the primary poppy crop region for opium production.
  • Myanmar is the second-largest producer of opium in the world after Afghanistan, producing around a fifth of the world's supply.
  • 100 days after the birth of a child, the parents invite family and friends to a naming ceremony where the baby is given a name based on astrological calculations.
  • There are no family surnames in Burmese culture or shared names between children and parents; Burmese women keep their maiden names upon marriage.
  • The term "U" is added to the names of senior figures in Burmese culture to signify honor and respect.
  • Burmese girls mark the end of childhood at age 9 with an ear-piercing ceremony.
  • The Chin people inhabiting the western part of the country are known for their dying tradition of facial tattooing. Worn by women, the tattoos cover the entire face with a blue-green spider's-web pattern. A German photographer showcases the tradition on his site: 

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