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10 Interesting Facts about Myanmar

Did you know?

  1. Wait, is it Myanmar or Burma? Myanmar is one of a handful of countries known by more than one name—even by the people who live there. Many maps will still include both names to offer clarity for anyone who isn’t sure of the proper name. In 1989, Burma officially changed its name to Myanmar, though there are many governments around the world who don’t recognize this change for political reasons. The former capital city of Rangoon was also changed to Yangon.
  2. The people wear bark paste on their faces. Those pale yellow markings on their skin are made from the bark of the thanaka tree. In addition to providing protection from the sun, the paste is also seen as a symbol of health and beauty, usually applied in bold circular patterns on the cheeks and forehead. The preparation and use of the thanaka paste has not changed much over its 2,000-year history.
  3. They ran out of cats. Purebred Burmese cats were once kept as royal pets. King Thibaw, the last monarch of the Burmese dynasty, had as many as 40 of them at one time. When the British took control of the country, the cats were scattered. Purebred Burmese cats had disappeared from the country by the 1930s. Burmese cats were recently brought back to Myanmar from the US and a breeding program has been growing their population.
  4. There is a diamond Pagoda. Built over 2,500 years ago, Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the world. In addition to the gold plates that cover the main structure, the very top is covered in more than 4,500 diamonds.
  5. Driving in Myanmar is an adventure. For over a century, cars in Myanmar were driven on the left side of the road. Then in 1970, the rules changed overnight. In addition to learning to drive on the opposite side of the road, people also had to deal with the difficulty of roads and older vehicles that were designed to drive on the left. This is further compounded by the fact that people rarely follow the laws of the road. Talk about chaos!
  6. It’s not a skirt. Throughout the country of Myanmar, it is not uncommon to see men wearing a long sheet of cloth wrapped around the waist and tucked in at the navel. Though this style of clothing is often called a sarong in other places, in Myanmar it is called a longyi and can be worn for a variety of occasions, including sports. Though the longyi is also worn by women in Myanmar, it varies in pattern and how the knot is tied.
  7. Myanmar has its own units of measurement. It is one of only three countries in the world that do not use the metric system, but unlike the US and Liberia, which use the Imperial System, Myanmar has its own traditional system. Though you may see gas measured in gallons and distances in miles, most other measurements will be confusing to foreigners. It can be difficult to keep track of a long list of local measurements when you are out shopping in Myanmar.
  8. World’s finest rubies. Burmese rubies are world-renowned for their color and purity, making them incredibly valuable. In 2015, the Sunrise Ruby—mined in Myanmar—sold for $30.42 million in an auction, making it the most expensive ruby in the world. Queen Elizabeth even had a tiara featuring 96 Burmese rubies that were given to her as a wedding gift by the people of Myanmar.
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  9. Keep your money pristine! While the local currency in Myanmar is the kyat, most businesses will accept US dollars but with one condition: US dollars must be in near-perfect condition. So, if you plan to use US dollars in Myanmar, make sure you don’t stuff your money into your pockets. Crumpled and folded money may not be accepted.
  10. Children’s Hunger Fund has two Mercy Networks in Myanmar. In 2008, Children’s Hunger Fund responded to the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis with food and other aid. After several trips, an official partnership began with a Mercy Network of churches in Myanmar in 2015. Currently, there are 45 churches in the Mercy Network in Yangon. A second Mercy Network in Northern Myanmar was launched in 2022 with a total of eight churches.


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