Myanmar, the country is full of surprises. As the country has been recently accessible to tourism, there are many mysteries about the country, which makes it even more fascinating for travel enthusiasts. On your first visit you might ask many questions regarding the country, so here are some things you might need to know.
Source: Agencia EFE
Chewing Betel leaf will be one of the most appalling things you will ever experience in any culture. After chewing this leaf, you will release red spit. You might see this kind of chews in other parts of Asia. However, in Myanmar, you will encounter the betel leaf chewers a lot more that no one can miss them. Even though spitting red spit in front of you might be worse, but people smiling with red teeth covered in the stuff is also quite troubling. You will see the evidence of the betel spit frequently dried up in the street.
Source: Los Angeles Times
People in Myanmar are not used to seeing tourists, even though the number of tourists is increasing rapidly here. And, they also have been through a long stretch of political isolationism imposed by a military dictatorship. Myanmar reopened its borders to tourists in 2011, when the Burmese junta got officially dissolved and the financial penalties suspended. For those who love getting attention and being the center of attention, you will get it more. While walking through the streets of Myanmar, you will feel like a famous star, being spied on and having your picture taken. Don't think it's only in rural parts; it'll happen to you in Yangon and Mandalay as well!
Source: Los Angeles Times
In Myanmar, one in a hundred people is actually a monk. In numbers, there might be more than 600,000 monks and nuns in total. Here, most people in their younger time get to spend some time in monasteries, and later many of them turn to the monk, giving you the impression that everyone is a monk. Monks' responsibility is not only to pass on Buddhist teaching but also plays important roles within their societies. Monks are very respected here, and their opinions are highly sought after. They also have the power to draw senior government official's attention to any social issues and its' resolution. Monks themselves led the 2007 non-violent protests, referred to as Saffron Revolution, which Burmese military turned to a bloodbath.
You might think locals are just being conversational when they ask where you are from. These are among the few English phrase most people use in the country. However, most of the vendors there will ask you the questions and try to be friendly only to make you purchase something from them. Unfortunately, this will make any aware ones a bit less friendly. Although, there will be people asking it out of pure curiosity or in an attempt to practice their English, so don't always be very suspicious.
Mt. Hkakabo Razi, the highest mountain in South East Asia at the height of 5881m lies in Myanmar. However, this mountain is not much popular due to its remoteness and the lack of infrastructure at its base. Myanmar climber Myima Gyaltsen and Japanese Takashi Ozaki were the first to conquer this mountain, in 1996. Since then, there have been very few people that have succeeded in their attempt. Hkakabo Razi lies on the fringes of the Himalayas bordering with Tibet, surrounded by rainforest, rocky outcrops, stunning gorges, and remote villages. If you are an adventure enthusiast, this site is for you.
Source: The Myanmar Times
In many countries, horn honking might be a way to communicate a negative attitude towards fellow drivers. However, in Myanmar, honking is more like a "I'm coming," and they frequently honk when they are about to pass the vehicles in front of them. This type is not unique in Myanmar. However, this might have become a part of the Burmese everyday life due to the change of traffic regulations since Ne Win.
Source: Asian Wanderlust
Yes, those bills were real! These bills came as the General's astrologists told him that 9 was his lucky number. So, from then on, he decided to make bills that were in multiples of 9. However, it didn't last long. Anyway it took a toll on the local economy and the military government quickly restored the usual bills. On a bit less silly (but equally comical) note, though, a protest led by monks on the 27th of September 2007 was suppressed by the government because it was thought that if you add up the date's numbers, you will get 9. (2+7=0+9=2+0+0+7=9)
You might think that the ban of motorbikes in Yangon is to ease traffic flow. However, the reason is quite a darker one. Yangon was formerly the capital of Myanmar, and all the Army generals used to live here. With the political opposition becoming more powerful, the military government was struck with severe fear. They saw conspiracies everywhere and feared that motorbikes would be handy for an organized attack against it, especially in downtown Yangon. This ban was very tough to apply and took a lot of time. However, it is still effective.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The country's national beverage is Laphet Yey. In Myanmar, you will see people in the side of the street teashops, discussing politics and personal lives, or watch the football, while sipping hot tea from small porcelain cups. Many teashops and restaurants in Myanmar also offer tea to eat in a delicious salad called "laphet thote." The local word is very distinct compared to in other country. "Tea" is believed to originate from the Hokkien "te" and Cantonese "cha." These words have been adopted by most countries. However, Myanmar has a contrary belief.
The World's Largest Book, Kuthodaw Pagoda, lies in Mandalay, listed in 2013. King Mindon Min built this pagoda in 1857 and housed 729 marble slabs, which contain the Tipitaka – or the Buddha's teachings. Each page of this book is five feet high, three feet wide, and six inches thick. According to legend, it took around eight years to write this book, and six months for the transcriptions. The book lies in the north-eastern part of the city, near the palace.