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‘Balloons over Bagan’ operator seeks new opportunities The Magic of Mandalay History & Culture

Shwedagon Pagoda and Environs Ecotourism in Chin State

Sites & Sights Events Calendar Dining & Nightlife Listings City Maps & More...

INGALABA! Welcome to the first edition of My Magical Myanmar, your guide to discovering one of the world’s top emerging travel destinations. To be published every four months, My Magical Myanmar has been launched to meet the huge demand for up-to-date information on the latest developments in the rapidly expanding tourism and hotels sector. There’s feature stories about popular and out-of-the way destinations, a comprehensive guide to hotels, restaurants, nightlife, shopping centres and markets and a wealth of information about Myanmar’s history and culture as well as its breath-taking natural attractions. My Magical Myanmar – your indispensible travel companion – is on sale at airports, bookshops, and selected hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. Welcome to Myanmar! Yamin Htin Aung Publisher

SNAPSHOTS History 4 The People 5 Religion 5 Customs, ceremonies and festivals 6 Social etiquette 9 INDEPTH REPORT ‘Balloons over Bagan’ operator seeks new opportunities



REGULARS Travel sector update 14 What’s coming up 16 Advertorial 18 SPECIAL FEATURES Shwedagon Pagoda and Environs


SITES & SIGHTS Suggested destinations The magic of Mandalay: historical riches and modern day pleasures

Favourite getaway destinations:


Ngapali: A beach that never fails to impress 28


Natmataung: An Ecotourism Site in Chin State 32


Monywa: A Hot Destination in Central Myanmar 36

A TASTE OF MYANMAR Dining in Myanmar Bars Street Eats Kitchen Confidential

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Cover Photo: Guardian at Thanboddhay Pagoda, Monywa. Pix: Mya Swe Than Publisher Yamin Htin Aung Editor Geoffrey Goddard


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Contributing writers Ma Thanegi, Harry Hpone Thant, Douglas Long, Stuart Deed, Jessica Mudditt, Phyo, Manny Maung, Justin Heifetz, Zaw Win Than. Contributing photographers Sonny Nyein, Douglas Long, Aung Photography, Nay Lin Aung, Jessica Mudditt, Thet Zaw Naing, Myo Swe Than, Phoenyan, Shwe Lay Tagon Travels & Tours. Graphic & Layout Design Aung Thu Ngwe, Ye Win Naing, Min Zaw Oo. Published & Distributed by Logistics Media Sercvices Co., Ltd. No.2,Rm :9 (D-E), Zagawar Condo, Moekaung Road, Yankin Township, Yangon, Myanmar. T 01-554 776, 559 768 F 01-559 768 Find us on My Magical Myanmar is a quartely publication of Logistics Media Services Co.,Ltd. Copyright held by Logistics Media Services Co., Ltd, which also publishes The Red Book and Myanmar Hotels & Tourism Guide. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Š All Right Reserved.



History By Ma Thanegi

Scholars believe that some of the Myanmar people, including the Burmese (or Bamar) – the majority race – are of Tibeto-Burman stock whose ancestors migrated from the northeast and some are of Mon-Khmer stock that came from the east. However, after the discovery of the fossilized jawbones of Amphipithecus bahinensis in central Myanmar some historians believe that the people could have evolved from the primate ancestors already living in the landmass that was to become the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. From the 3rd century BC a flourishing civilisation was developed by a race called Pyu whose last great kingdom of Srikhetera was destroyed by invaders from the east in the 9th century AD. The survivors assimilated into the society of the Bagan Kingdom that rose to power in the 11th century many miles north of their ruined city. The rise of the Bagan civilisation saw the strengthening of Theravada Buddhism, fostered by King Anawrahta (r. 10441077) and maintained so well that it has become a strong part of the Myanmar people’s lives to this day. After Bagan was destroyed in 1287 during the reign of a weak king by the armies of Kublai Khan, various kingdoms rose under great monarchs all over the land: Mon, Rakhine, and Burmese kingdoms. Hanthawaddy was the capital of the Mon kingdom under the rule of the Mon king Binnya U (r. 1453-1385). Successive Mon monarchs including the great Queen Shin Saw Pu (r. 14531472) and King Dhammazedi (r. 1472- 1491)were instrumental in the glorification of the Shwedagon Pagoda; they raised the spire to its present height and were the first to cover it with sheets of beaten gold. The royal capital of Mrauk Oo on the western coast was founded in the year 1430 by the Rakhine king Min Sawmon (r. 1404 -1433) who left his throne at Laungyet for many years until he settled in Mrauk Oo. It was a beautiful, cosmopolitan city that dazzled foreign visitors who saw it in the 18th century. King Tabin Shwehti (r. 15311551) and his successor King Byint Naung (r. 1551-1581) founded a Burmese Empire in Lower Myanmar in the 16th century. In the 18th century it was Alaungpaya who founded the


last dynasty of Burmese kings in Upper Myanmar until the country was colonised by the British in 1885 and the last king, Thibaw, was exiled to India. Myanmar’s independence was won in 1948 but Bogyoke Aung San, (father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) who had led the fight for freedom had been assassinated by a political rival in 1946. A short period of democracy plagued by insurgencies gave way to 26 years’ of socialism under General Ne Win. The poverty caused by socialist mismanagement led to countrywide protests in 1988 followed by 23 years of an open economy under military rule. Plans for a transition to democracy were unveiled in 2003 and in late 2010 elections were held. On 30 March 2011 the military handed over power to the present government led by President U Thein Sein, who has since brought many changes although many challenges remain after 50 years of two dictatorial governments.


do’s & don’ts

Take off your shoes and socks or stockings before you enter the precincts of a Buddhist pagoda, monastery or nunnery. Some monasteries and nunneries allow shoes to be worn in their compounds but never inside the buildings.

Pix: Phoenyan

The People


By Ma Thanegi

By Ma Thanegi

There are 134 national races in Myanmar by official count, of which the eight major races are the Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Shan, Mon, Rakhine and Bamar (Burmese). Most of the people are Theravada Buddhists, who comprised about 85% of the population, followed by Christians (about 10%), Muslims and Hindus (about 4% each) and others, mostly animists who revere deities in their own culture (1%). The people of any religion are deeply rooted in their beliefs and culture and they hold deep reverence towards their traditions.

THERAVADA BUDDHISM Buddhism is not a religion, because religion is based on faith and prayer whereas in Buddhism practice, i.e the way of living is more important than faith or prayer. Buddhism is also not a philosophy because philosophy is about intellectual thought without practice. Buddhist practice is about using a combination of practice in the Buddha’s way of good living, objective awareness of one’s weaknesses and intellectual thought to discard all that is negative in oneself. Morality is the basis of the Buddha’s teachings and the Eightfold Path, also


known as the Middle Way, teaches adherents to avoid the three roots of evil – Greed, Anger and Delusion – and to live a moral life based on Dhana, Sila and Bawana. Dhana means charity, Sila means purity and Bawana means Conscious Awareness which is achieved through mediation. The Eightfold Path 1. Right Understanding of having insightful knowledge of the Dhamma. 2. Right Thought of having thoughts that are free from lust, ill will and cruelty and thoughts of loving kindness, compassion, non-hatred and objectivity for all living beings. 3. Right Speech of abstaining from speaking false words, slander, rude, harsh and abusive language and idle, frivolous gossip. 4. Right Action of conduct that is moral, honourable and not harmful to others. 5. Right Livelihood of avoiding a living that is harmful to others. 6. Right Effort in being diligent in the avoidance of evil by thought, word and deed. 7. Right Mindfulness in being consciously aware of all the activities of mind and body 8. Right Concentration of meditating to prevent violent emotions from arising. Meditation There are two different practices of Theravada Buddhist meditation. One is Vipasana, a system of conscious awareness to be keenly aware of one’s emotions such as anger, pain, hunt, jealousy, and greed at the very onset of their rising, and thus be able to control them; in a world where you cannot control fate, at least you can control how you respond to it. The other meditation system is Thama Hta, practiced by those desiring to attain supernatural powers. Some practice this first and when they have improved their concentration powers, move onto Vipasana meditation.


Customs, Ceremonies and Festivals By Ma Thanegi

MAKING MERIT The three main practices of a Buddhist – Dhana meaning charity, Sila meaning purity of though and Bawana meaning meditating to achieve conscious awareness – in combination lead to Nirvana the End of Suffering of life cycles, but charity without sincerity is worthless. However it is the easiest to practice and it has become a reflexive action in daily life. SOON KYWAY Buddhist celebrations, apart from weddings and spirit festivals, are centred on breakfast or lunch called Soon Kyway offered to members of the Sangha, the Buddhist Order of monks and nuns. Afterwards the abbot or a senior monk will give a sermon. SHIN PYU Every Buddhist boy can enter the Order as a novice from the time he can


clearly recite the verse of application to the time he is 19, when he is eligible to become a monk. His father, uncles or older brothers can become monks, all of them for a few days or as long as they wish. If the Shin Pyu (novitiation) ceremony is a lavish affair with hundreds of guests, his sister will most likely have her ears pierced at the same time but without any involvement from the monks. OBEISANCE CEREMONY For all religions in Myanmar, respecting older people is a tradition. The Buddhists hold annual obeisance ceremonies of kneeing and bowing in front of all the elderly in the neighbourhood, rich or poor, with gifts for each person. The obeisance ceremony with gifts is also held for mentors such as older writers and artists and for teachers from kindergarten upwards, for as long as the teachers are alive.

Pix: Myo Swe Than


MONTHLY OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS Full Moon days of each month coincide with a Buddhist event but only the most important are official holidays. Christmas, Ramadan, Depavali and Karen New Year are also holidays. The Water Festival holiday preceding the Burmese New Year that falls on 17 April is the longest, with government offices closed for ten days from 12 to 21 April. In October and November there are Light Festivals, with the October festival celebrated with paying obeisance with gifts to older members of the family or workplace. In November, there are street fairs in the cities, villages and neighbourhoods setting off fire balloons and all-night weaving contests held on pagoda platforms to see which team finishes a monk’s robe by dawn. MY MAGICAL MYANMAR OCTOBER | 2013

WEDDINGS The ritual of a traditional wedding is elaborate but no monks participate. There is no need for dowries although in many communities it is the groom who needs to pay the bride’s family. Marriage, for all the races, means a union not only of two people but of the extended families of each side. However for Buddhists, apart from a wedding or a reception, the marriage is also commemorated by a Soon Kyway in the same way that births, birthdays, deaths, anniversaries of marriage or death, house warmings and other events are commemorated. SUPERSTITIONS Most of the Buddhists and many of the ethnic races who live in remote places still believe in the celestial beings that guard nature, as well as in spirits of animist worship. Most Buddhist families have horoscopes made of palm leaf marking planetary positions of the time of birth, so that when an astrologer is consulted he need not calculate that data but only on the present position of the planets. For a Buddhist person, the day in the week with its animal symbol is more important in marking his birth than the monthly zodiac sign. As suggested by the astrologer or palmist any bad fortune can be removed by a ritual called ‘Yadaya Chay’ so the person’s anxiety can be easily eased with this very effective placebo ritual. In general, consulting fortune-tellers replaces the need for therapy. Suppositious belief often leads to animist worship of the 37 Lords and Ladies, as the pantheon of nat spirits is known. Also there are “protector” celestials, ascetics or ogres whose legends are often entwined with the history of famous pagodas as well as the “guardians” of villages or towns, mountains or jungles. THANAKHA One custom shared by almost all the races is the use of Thanakha bark paste to smear, lightly or thickly as preferred, on the face and limbs as a cooling agent, sun screen and to clarify the skin. It has a fresh lingering fragrance that is most attractive.



Social etiquette By Ma Thanegi

Myanmar may have been slow in material development due to 50 years under two dictatorships but society is on the whole based on warmth and support. Childhood friends and distant relatives stay in touch as connections between friends and families are not only strong but extended widely. The fabric of society is held together by a deep respect for appearances, which in many cases also means control on one’s emotions and actions, since in such a close-connected society few things can be hidden. Respect for appearances mean dignified behaviour in public and as guests, and with this mindset the people are as cleanly dressed as they could be in public and very well dressed as guests for to be otherwise is an insult to the host. Polite behaviour in public is so important that no one would argue with you or show their anger, which does not mean they agree with you or that they are not upset. With this culture they are most embarrassed for anyone being angry or aggressive in public. Here, aggression is not a sign of strength but a sign of weakness that the person concerned does not have the breeding and discipline to control his or her emotions. The strongest cultural trait is the emphasis on being considerate to others, or ‘ah nar dei.” It means the inability to offend the other person not within the family circle to such an extent that there will be no disagreement voiced towards another, nor any refusal made of a favour or work commission that could not be fulfilled. Myanmar are raised

with this attitude as well as the cloak of appearances so that they can easily read faces, body language, tone of voice etc to get the real meaning, which would be beyond the comprehension of foreigners. If you are unsure, privately ask another local what the conversation really meant and it is better if you can delegate such negotiations to a local friend or assistant. People in Myanmar grow up with a respect for elders so extensive that in the presence of another local who is older, or of a higher position in social strata or holding a higher office, they would not express their views even if they have good ideas. They will sit in silence and it is better to talk to them individually in private.

Pix: Aung Photography

do’s & don’ts

When you visit Myanmar homes, remove your shoes but you can keep on your socks. If you are invited to a Myanmar home for a meal, the women may not dine with you. They are not taking an inferior role to you; they are being good hostesses by making sure everyone is properly served. Getting outraged at this and insisting that they sit and eat with you implies that you think they are playing an inferior role, which is insulting. MY MAGICAL MYANMAR OCTOBER | 2013

It is not a compliment to say that a Myanmar woman is ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’. In Myanmar, such language belongs in the sex trade. Personal sex lives remain private. Women must not go topless at beaches or hotel swimming pools. Neither is it appropriate for a woman to wear only a swimming suit, especially a two-piece one, while visiting a coastal village. Not only will such behaviour give offence but the woman will be regarded as a prostitute.

Make sure when you sit that the soles of your feet are not pointing towards a Buddha image, pagoda, monk, nun or anyone elderly. When sitting before a monk or Buddha image, tuck your legs under you. Only men are allowed to sit with crossed-legs before monks. Do not offer to shake hands with a monk, nun or a woman you don’t know well.


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Golf Course

Lintha Village

Yoma Cherry Lodge Crescent Cove

Htein Lin Thar Ngapali


Htay Htay’s Kitchen



Golden Rose

Silver Beach

Best Friend

Bayview Lin Thar Oo Memento

Thande Beach Aureum Palace Mya Pyin Village


Amata Laguna Lodge



Pleasant View

Lone Tha


Royal Beach

To Jade Taw &