Myanmar previously Called

Burma formerly called Myanmar

It' also sometimes called Burma. Burma, as it used to be called, is a land of golden pagodas, mighty rivers and generous deltas. Hear this beautiful story of the Merkleys who shared their lives with the people of Myanmar, formerly called Burma, and brought them joy and love. The Rohingya crisis used to be called "ethnic cleansing". Calling a government official, she was told there was "bad news".

Burma — The land formerly known as Burma is still an exceptional tourist area.

YANGON, Myanmar - When I said to them that I was going to Myanmar, the first thing I got was a question: Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is situated in South East Asia between India on one side and Thailand and China on the other. Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under "house arrest" for about a decade and our administration is among those who have applied financial penalties to Myanmar for its policy on respect for humanitarian law.

However, in recent years Myanmar has become more susceptible to the tourist industry and there are those who believe that this is a way to promote transformation. "As we loathe Burma's oppressive army regimes and are indebted to the Myanmar population and its fight for democratization, we firmly believe that a resumption of independence could be disastrous and that caring, well-informed travellers can have a beneficial influence on the futures of this proud country.

" I' d been told it was a wonderful land with an interesting cultural heritage. So, I started off for a two-week stay in Myanmar/Burma with a group of travel companions. We travelled to the capitol Yangon (once known as Rangoon), to the archeological site Bagan (once Pagan - not such a change), on a boat tour on the Ayeyarwady River (this was more difficult; I still think of the Irrawaddy), to the nice town Mandalay (no name change) and to the cultural wealthy area around Inle Lake (we also saw it as inlay - but that could only be a commentary guide).

This was a short period of timeframe, but in the course of two short periods we could see and do a great deal, which gave us first experiences and enduring recollections of the state. Burma (pronounced "me-an-ma", as if it had a "w" at the end instead of an "r") is a favourite tourist spot for France; Germans also come in large numbers, as do the Japs and Australians.

All over the world they have been kind and warm-hearted and bored us with no bad will for the politics of our state. And it was also great to be in a land where not every little thing was at stake. It was a pleasure to have them photographed - without the cost refund that is anticipated in many disadvantaged nations.

From Bangkok we stayed one night and from there to Yangon, about one hours flying time. We turned back our clocks 30 mins when we arrived in Yangon. Most of Burma's population still carries the tradition ally named Bongyi - both men and woman. Whilst a hotel offers all the contemporary conveniences a traveller could wish for, one still has the feeling that the land is still true to its origins and honours its past.

However, this was only a brief period of time. Until 1885, Britain ruled everything that was Burma then, and it was they who used that name. Until 1930, many Burmese began to press for freedom. Throughout the Second World War they invited the Japans to expel the Brits, but Burma was suffering much under the Japans' invasion, and towards the end of the conflict they rejoined the side of the Allies.

It came under the rule of the military in 1960, which has since reigned - crushed a pro-democracy insurgency in 1988 and renamed the nation Myanmar in 1989. It is said that the first monarchs of Burma were literally Buddha's heirs. Buddhism, still practised by 80 per cent of the land, links the stress on achieving nirvana through personal industriousness and self-control with the adoration of Nat ghosts who rule various facets of the world.

Though the Burmese have little use for memories of UK nationalism ( "one of the reasons for all the name changes), for many of us a hint at Rudyard Kipling's famed poetry about the place where fish are playing "and the sunrise comes like a storm from China".

" There were no flyers, but we noticed the light and abrupt sunrise on the Ayeyarwady stream flowing to Mandalay. The 1,350 mile river/road is an important contribution to the country's economic and cultural development. Flowing south almost the entire length of the land, it divides into a fistful of twigs as it invades the Andaman Sea, and its flooded area is one of the country's most important farming areas.

Flooding comes every year with the rains, which means that all the homes and towns along the riverbank are constructed on stilt. The flooding last year was the highest for more than 25 years, and while certainly causing some difficulties, it has also washed away a great deal of village rubble and waste, giving it a clean, fresh look that can be found in many places around the country.

Most of the towns along the riverbank are only reachable by sea, no road connects them to the land. Humans collect mud from the rivers and make a thousand pans - turned on foot-operated bikes, stamping and decorating by hands, and then stacked in the middle of the town, which is turned into a temporary oven while stacking and burning it.

And Mandalay itself is a nice town, hardly 150 years old. Situated on the shore of the Ayeyarwady, it was established in 1857 as the capitol of Burma's last state. It is the second largest after Yangon with a total of two million inhabitants. Nicknamed "the greatest ledger in the world" by some, this coupé is encircled by 729 plates of pure gold with the whole Buddha School lettering; each plate is placed in its own canopy.

For good reasons, Myanmar is also known as "The Land of Gold". Throughout there are couples and monasteries with towers of gilded stone rising up into the sky. The Buddha in every community, every community and every small community has its own shrine, its own memories of Buddha. "Shwe " means Burmese for Burmese and wherever you see this prephrase you know that there is gold: the Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago, which is the highest in the land at 374ft.

The 180 -foot Shwethalyaung Reclining Buddha with traces that tell the story of the whole wide globe - (surpassed only by the Chaukhtatkyi Reclining Buddha in Yangon, which is 230 -foot long). There is the Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan with four golden Buddhas; and the world's biggest varnish Buddha, which was constructed in the thirteenth centuary and found swimming, saved and gilt in the near-by salon downstream.

However, none of the sparkling gilded chests is more important than the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the holiest place in Myanmar. The central stupa is gilded with 8,688 leaves of 61 tonnes of gilded solid metal and is adorned with 5,448 brilliant-cut diamond and 2,317 precious stones, 2,317 jewels and 1,485 clear-pearls.

Beginning in the 1st millennium BC, Shwedagon has been reconstructed and expanded over the years, and now each of the eight sides of its basis has another eight smaller stupa - about 64 whirling, gold signs of faith in everything. Shwedagon was the name of Shwedagon " a gold secret..... a wonderful miracle with a wink.

" As Somerset Maugham described it, "glittering with golden, like a suddenly hopeful moment in the darkness of the souls. "More than 10,000 people come to Shwedagon every year. When we were sitting quietly with some of them and saw the shifting lights of the sun set dancing on the columns, it was the realisation that the only thing that made this place unique was it.

Dedication enchants in many ways - just like the country that was once called Burma and is now known as Myanmar.

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