Myanmar facts
Myanmar was known as 'Burma' until the military government officially changed the name in 1989. The name 'Burma' is derived from the name of the majority ethnic group of the nation, 'Bamar'. The pronunciation of the group can be Bama or Myamah. The name 'Myanmar' came from the pronunciation of the group.
Myanmar facts
The Burmese make a big deal of the New Year. Thingyan, known as the "water throwing festival," is celebrated in April. This year it takes place April 13-16. Everything shuts down over the four-day New Year -- banks, restaurants, shops. The biggest celebrations are in Yangon and Mandalay. During the New Year water-throwing frenzy everyone throws and sprays water at each other. Staying dry isn't an option. Water symbolizes the washing away of the previous year's bad luck and sins. On New Year's Day, the fourth day of the festival, fish and birds are released as acts of merit and feasts are held for monks. In recent years of privation, hard-core Burmese punks used leather glue to spike up their hair at New Year. The superstrong glue meant their mohawks stayed standing through the Water Festival, but when the party was over they had to shave their hair. These days, Burmese punks use hairspray.
Interesting Myanmar facts for kids
Myanmar has 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) of coastline and some of the finest stretches of beach in Asia. Many beaches along the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea remain undiscovered by tourists and unspoiled by development. Many of them face west, so they produce great sunsets. The best known is Ngapali Beach, a 45-minute flight from Yangon, where almost two miles of white sand are lined with palm trees overlooking the Andaman Sea. Here, you'll find a number of large resorts. Less developed is Ngwe Saung, a beautifully unspoiled beach that's a five-hour drive from Yangon. Also called Silver Beach, its eight-mile (13 kilometers) stretch makes it one of the longest beaches in Asia.
OMG facts about Myanmar
There are few ATMs in Myanmar, so visitors need to bring plenty of U.S. dollars. The higher the denomination, the better the exchange rate. Your greenbacks should be squeaky clean -- that means no creases, stains, marks or tears. A note that's folded or even a little worn is worthless in Myanmar. At present, credit cards are accepted only in five-star hotels and up-market shops and restaurants, usually with a 2-3% fee added to the bill. But this is changing. By the end of the year, credit cards should be more widely accepted. The local currency is the kyat (pronounced "chat") and U.S.$1 will get you about 882 kyat. The new 10,000-kyat note (less than U.S.$12) is the highest denomination -- be prepared for a bulging wallet. There's little worry about carrying a lot of cash. Crime against foreigners is rare and the Burmese -- the vast majority of whom are Buddhist -- are generally honest.
Myanmar facts for kids
The traditional Burmese dress is the longyi, a wraparound skirt worn by men and women. Men tie theirs in the front and women fold the cloth over and secure it at the side. NLD Leader Aung San Suu Kyi is known for her beautiful longyis and tailored tops. Her high-profile appearances have helped boost the popularity of the traditional dress among young women in Myanmar. As for what's worn underneath, that's a matter of personal preference. In the cities, Burmese men usually wear underwear beneath their longyis when they go out, but at home wear it as the Scots wear their kilts. In the countryside, underwear is much less common -- for men and women. As one man jokingly put it: "Longyi are great. Free air-conditioning." That's a plus, especially when the summer temperature tips 104 F (40 C). It's completely acceptable for a foreigner to wear a longyi and can be a conversation starter.
Myanmar fun facts for kids
It's considered rude to eat with the left hand as this is the hand used for personal hygiene. To spell that out -- the left hand does the job of toilet paper. So eating -- as well as giving money -- is always done with the right hand. A typical Burmese meal includes steamed rice, fish, meat, vegetables and soup and all the dishes arrive at the same time. The Burmese use their fingertips to mold the rice into a small ball and then mix it with various dishes. As is the norm, Buddhists usually avoid eating beef and the Muslims don't eat pork. Meals are served with plenty of condiments -- from sweet to savory -- and everyone has their preferred way of customizing a dish.

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Chewing betel nut is a national pastime. Small street stalls selling the palm-sized green leaves are everywhere. The leaves are filled with hard squares of betel nut, spices and sometimes a pinch of tobacco and then folded up and popped in the mouth and chewed. You have to chew a while before you feel the mild narcotic effect of the betel nut. At about 6 cents a wrap it's a cheap hit, but there's a downside. Not only does betel nut stain your teeth a reddish-brown, the little packages are spat out on the floor when finished -- making for messy sidewalks.