Traveling to well-known monuments is not the only way to explore a country. Sometimes, tourists need to “smell and taste” Myanmar from every cultural traditions and belief.
1. Myanmar’s people
The dominant ethnic group in Myanmar is Bamar people (Burmese), numbering approximately 30 million people. Since the Burmese constitute the majority of Myanmar's population, their customs and identity are closely intertwined with the Burmese national identity as a whole. In addition, most citizens have deep Buddhist roots.
International tourists describe Burmese as “rich” people. They are abundant in love, mind, and care. Visitors to Myanmar always feel being welcomed because of the hospitality of the citizens here. In addition, “Special resting house” can be found everywhere without fee just for anyone who demands a place to stop for a while. Even though they are houses for free, they are carefully taken care of under good hands of Myanmar people.
Furthermore, visitors may also be impressed by the availability of many jars of free drinking water in every corner of the country, from the city to the countryside. The special design of jars reveals the colorful mind of Burmese artists since they are made of terracotta instead of plastic.
In urban areas, it is dangling along the road, drinking water is carefully shielded by beautiful small table cages. In rural areas, they are sometimes under the shade of a tree, sometimes a beautiful house is built for storing these jars.
Lots of volunteers are said to sweep temples very often. They also carry stones and load sand to build pagodas without taking wages. Even in such a high level as Mount Popa, there are always many volunteers cleaning the path.
The wealth of Myanmar and its people cannot be measured in dollars. It is not only the golden jewel but the people here and the blocks of compassion and wisdom contained in these people. But most importantly, about 90% of Myanmar's population is Buddhist. So they are very rich in Buddha nature. And perhaps thanks to Buddha, not so many resources have been exploited indiscriminately.
2. Culture identities
Located to the South of the two largest cultures, particularly India and China, though Myanmar culture has been deeply affected, it still remains its own traditional values.
Culture of Buddhism
Myanmar is home to thousands of Buddhist temples and pagodas, especially the most well-known one, the Shwedagon golden tower in Yangon capital and a complex of Buddhist temples consisting of over 200 temples in Bagan. Close to 90% of the population today are Buddhist, Buddhism has been a crucial part of Myanmar’s culture since the 1st century and has blended with non-Buddhist beliefs. The life of Myanmar society is completely built on the foundation of Buddhism. The compassionate spirit of Buddhism is deeply imbued with every Burmese soul. It is not surprising that monks here are very respected and occupy high social status. Their influence dominates every social class.
The Buddhist life of worship in Myanmar
Due to the dignified and sacred atmosphere, some rules must be noticed since tourists are not allowed to do things below:
- Any types of footwear must be removed before entering pagodas or walking on temple grounds, including socks, shoes and other types.
- Never party or climb on pagodas where visitors are not allowed.
- Do not leave knees and shoulders exposed when visiting religious structures: Even in Bagan where many of the pagodas and temples have not been often watched or kept track of who is coming and going, it is important to be respectful regardless where you are.
- Do not point your feet, especially figures of the Buddha.
Festivals in Myanmar relating to Buddhism are held each year.
- During “Wazo” Festival, also known as “Festival of Flowers”, any forms of entertainment or celebration activities give space for charity works and helping poor people. Monks are given offerings of new clothes, medicine, and other necessities.
- “Thadingyut” Festival or “Festival of Lights” is held on the full moon day with lots of fun and alms that lasts for three days. At night, pagodas and monasteries, as well as all Buddhist families, light lamps. And the whole country of Burma is submerged in the sea of colorful light.
“Tazungdaing” Festival with similar activities
- “Thingyan” Festival or “Festival of Water”, after cleaning Buddha statues in fragrant fragrances, Buddhists have a custom of inviting monks to come home to make offerings. Those days, people often go watering to each other.
Culture of cuisine
“Sar pi bi lah?”, known as “Have you eaten yet?”, one of the most common greeting throughout Myanmar that shows how seriously the people take their food. The food here relies heavily on locally-grown produce, fresh ingredients, and seafood, so seasonal variations are common and there is always a delicate balance of texture as much as flavor in traditional dishes. In addition, chopsticks are not commonly used except for noodles, instead, Myanmarese utilizes their hands to eat.
In order to explore the Myanmarese eating style, have a quick glance at some typical suggestions that visitors can try.
- Chew some betel nut: Lots of folks in Myanmar proudly display their permanently red teeth to you.
- Drink a glass of sugarcane juice: The juice goes out at the end after the sugarcane going in the machine may soothe you down in the sweltering day.
- Having your meal at a local restaurant: A local meal truly shows what local people consume every day. You will never know a country until you try to do what ordinary people commonly do.
Culture of costume
Each country, each nation owns a traditional and unique outfit which expresses its own culture, habits, and lifestyle. The traditional costume of Myanmarese people is called “Longyi” (sewing pants and tight pants) that combined with “Taipon” (shirt or jacket).
Both Myanmarese women and men wear their national costume every day, not for only special occasions. Longyi is considered to be comfortable and easy to take off.
Other unique customs and traditional values
Thanaka make-up: New tourists to Myanmar may get shock when they see all women with their face painted yellow. Burmese women seem to have no interest in international cosmetics products with chemical, the used yellow powder is a common local make-up product. This powder is called “Thanaka”, powder from a national woody plant and applied to women’s face. Myanmar people use Thanaka as a versatile cream, having all the effects such as sun protection, makeup, day and night skincare because it is believed to be good for natural beauty.
- Kissing sound to get the waiter's attention: Burmese have to make normally a kissing sound of two or three short kisses in order to get a beer. Walk down the street in Yangon's Chinatown and you may hear that kissing sound a lot. This narrow and pedestrian-only street is where the Burmese come to drink very often.
- Avoid eating or giving gifts with your left-hand: It is considered rude to eat with the left-hand since the Burmese’s left hand usually does the job of toilet paper and personal hygiene.
- Myanmar people consider West side stands for a death whereas the East side represents luckiness. That is why beds in Burmese home are not located to the West.
Like any country, there are many rules and cultural protocols visitors must follow when visiting a mysterious and religious country like Myanmar. It is much easier if you know the people and the nation well.
However, the journey to Myanmar strictly requires an eligible visa. We are ready 24/7/365 to provide you the best online service of helping international tourists apply easier for their eVisa without waiting for hours at the Embassy under those heated days.
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