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Myanmar Information - Page 1
Geography
The Union of Myanmar, formerly Burma, lies between Bangladesh to its west, India and China to the north and Laos and Thailand to the east. To the south, Myanmar borders the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

Yangon (Rangoon) is the capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is the second most important city.

To the north of Myanmar the Himalayas begin and ranges of hills run north to south the length of the country. Between them run the country's great rivers: the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), the Sittoung and the Thanlwin. Lower Myanmar, consisting mainly of the valleys of these three rivers, has a monsoon climate. Central and upper Myanmar is flatter and drier, while the north is heavily forested and has a very high rainfall.

The river deltas, like those of Bangladesh and Egypt, are very fertile and rice is a major crop.

Environment
Almost half of Myanmar is forested and the supplies of teak and other hardwoods are among the country's most valuable resources, though at risk from over exploitation. Along the coasts there are tidal mangrove forests and, in the north, pine snow forests. Myanmar has a rich supply of bamboo, many types of fruit trees, palms and flowering plants such as hibiscus and rhododendrons.

The bird life of the country is also rich and varied with the river deltas an important habitat for the region's water birds.

Rare animals include the red panda and rhinoceros. Tigers and elephants are more common and bears, leopards, wild cats and buffaloes are among the native mammals. Dolphins and dugongs are found off the coast and in the rivers.

Myanmar has a number of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. The Hlawga Wildlife Park is the home of seventy types of herbivores and ninety species of birds.

There is a problem of deforestation because the hardwoods such as teak are slow growing and cannot renew themselves fast enough to keep up with the logging.

Architecture
Bagan (Pagan), a region in central Myanmar by the Ayeyarwady, is the most important architectural site in Myanmar.

Myanmar is most famous for its temples and pagodas, with the Shwedagon Pagoda the most well known.

Until recently only religious buildings such as pagodas were made of stone; all other buildings were of wood - even the royal palaces. In the countryside traditional village homes are made from bamboo and wood.

Buildings from the British colonial period are still in use, especially in Yangon (Rangoon).

Population
The population of Myanmar was estimated at 48,137,740 in 2009. The Union of Myanmar is ethnically mixed: Burmans, Shan, Karen, Rakine, Mon and some Chinese. This mixture of peoples has caused conflicts, especially in the areas along the Thai and Chinese borders.

Languages
Burmese is the main language but minorities have their own languages, for example, Karen, Shan and Mon. English and Chinese are also spoken.

Religion
The majority of the people of Myanmar are Buddhists. Every male Buddhist is expected to spend time in a monastery, firstly as a child novice, then around three months as an adult.

As well as Buddhism there is an everyday belief in "Nats". These are spirits of forests, mountains and trees. Spirit houses are built for Nats who have been displaced, for instance, by building a house. Every year in August there is a major festival for the Nats and throughout the year musical and dramatic performances are held to invoke and please the Nats.

Food
Rice is the staple food, often eaten with curry and stir-fry vegetables.

Buddhists are not allowed to kill animals but as fish die when they are taken out of water, it is acceptable to eat fish. Salted and dried fish and a paste made from fermented fish are important ingredients in Burmese cuisine. Noodle dishes are popular, often with chicken, as are salads of fruit and vegetables. Chinese and Indian food is also available.

Tea is the most popular drink, sometimes in Chinese style but usually with milk and sugar.

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