I first visited Myanmar in 10's. I returned in 2013.
Inle Lake is home to 17 villages on stilts, which are mostly inhabited by the Intha people. The Intha are Buddhist; here are around 100 Buddhist kyaung around the lake and perhaps 1000 stupas. The hard-working Intha are famous for propelling their flat-bottomed boats by standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar.*
It is in architecture that one sees the strongest evidence of Myanmar artistic skill and accomplishment.*
Upon ordination a new monk is typically offered a set of three robes. Bright red robes are usually reserved for novices under 15, darker colours for older, full ordained monks.*
Myanmar marionette theatre presents colourful puppets up to a metre high in a spectacle that many aesthetes consider the most expressive of all the Myanmar arts.*
The marionette master's standard repertoire requires a troupe of 28 puppets.*
Women in the villages of Inle Lake weave Shan-style shoulded bags and silk Zinme longyi on wooden hand looms. Using raw silk from China, the weavers produce more silk garments than anywhere in the country apart from Amarapura.*
Myanmar's truly indigenous dance forms are those that pay homage to the nat. In special nat pwe, one or more nat is invited to possess the body and mind of the medium; sometimes members of the audience are possessed instead, an event greatly feared by the locals.*
A zat pwe involves a re-creation of an ancient legend or Buddhist Jataka whiule the yamazat picks a tale from the Indian epic Ramayana.*
Myanmar has a population of 60 million people, three-quarters of them live in rural areas.*
While lacking material wealth, villagers reach for happiness by drawing on spiritual resources, maintaining a faith in Buddhist teachings.*
As many traditionally Buddhist cultures have, Myanmar's landscape is scattered with temples and monasteries. However, for the most part, Myanmar's architecture has stood the test of time. While some of the more ancient structures are being rebuilt, many traditional Burmese temples and monuments have lasted for centuries, holding a great deal of history. The Asian country has been previously called the "land of the million pagodas".
A pagoda, also referred to as zedis, payas and stupas, are smaller temples with gold pointed roofs that lay scattered along the land. These structures contain ancient Buddhist relics, usually statues of the gods. Tourists are welcomed into these pagodas, and are often said to leave with a sense of just how deep the Buddhist tradition runs in Myanmar.
Other religious monuments, like temples, also contain relics and statues depicting famous religious figures. Many Buddhist monks and nuns still practice in temples such as these, and guests are welcomed into these places to pray. They are offered a unique look at the lives of those who have dedicated their lives to Buddhism, and are able to take into account the enormity of the religion.
Traditional weaving in Myanmar is an honoured handicraft handed down from generation to generation.*
Amarapura biggest draw -- and easily one of Myanmar's most photographed sites -- is this remarkable 1.2km-kig teak footbridge leading across the shallow Taungthaman Lake.
The best way to reach Bagan is by a day-trip on a Mandalay-Bagan ferry down the Ayeyarwady.*
The paya litterally means 'holy one' and can refer to people, deities and places associated with religion. Often it's a generic term covering a stupa, temple or shrine.*
There are as many as 500,000 monks in Myanmar. Every Myanmar male is expected to take up temporary monastic residence twice in his life: once as a novice monk between ages 10 and 20 and again as a fully ordained monk sometime after the age of 20.*
The people of Myanmar have great respect for an expert puppeteer.*
The puppets include the king of gods, a Myanmar king, queen, prince and princess; a regent; two court pages; an old man and an old woman; a Brahmin astrologer; two orgres; an alchemist; a horse; a monkey; a mythical sea serpent; and an elephant.*
Chinlon or 'cane ball' refers to games in which a woven rattan ball about 12cm in diameter is kicked around. Informally any number of players can form a circle and keep the chinlon airborne by kicking it soccer-style from player to player.*
As with music, most of Myanmar's classical dance styles arrived from Thailand. Today the dances most obviously taken from Thailand are known as yodaya zat, as taught to the Burmese by Thai theatrical artists taken captive in the 18th century.*
Classic dance-drama is occasionally performed at the National Theatre in Yangon, were around a dozen amateur theatre groups regularly practise and perform yamazat.*
In many respects, a Myanmarian farmer and his wife still live in the way their forefathers did, working with oxen yoked to ploughs.*
With more than 12 festivals in a year, the community life of the rural Buddhist revolves around discussing the last event, preparing for the next one, and looking forward to bigger dates in the months further ahead.*
Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, is a country located on the Southeast coast of Asia. Like other Asian countries, the nation is rich with culture and history. Although Myanmar was ruled under the British empire until 1948, it is still a very traditional country, keeping the same values and practices alive today. The culture, known as Bamar culture, is influenced by the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, China, Laos, India and Thailand.
Religion is a central part of Myanmar's culture. Theravada Buddhism is the most commonly practiced religion, but the diverse country includes a significant percentage of people practicing other religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and even Judaism. In smaller more traditional villages, the Buddhist monastery is the centre of cultural life. As a coming of age practice, boys are sent to the monastery for a short time, and after the age of twenty, they are encouraged to become monks. For young girls, there is an ear piercing ceremony, and like young boys, are invited to become nuns under the Buddhist faith. Although the country is ethnically and religiously diverse, it is nearly impossible for non-Buddhists to join the army or get government jobs.
Myanmar's culture is rooted in tradition, and particular traditions can be seen in the way members of society dress while at the marketplace, particularly in their face paint. Thanaka is a face rub made from ground bark that is most commonly used by women. It is applied in aesthetically pleasing patterns on the face, but serves as a form of sunblock and promotes clearer, smoother skin. Although Myanmar has held tight to its culture after gaining independence, the nation did adopt the education system of the United Kingdom allowing for a 90% literacy rate across the country.
The traditional dance forms of Myanmar can range from humorous to religious. Similarly to other Asian cultures and their dance, each dance is rooted in some sort of tradition with costuming and movements that hint at a deeper meaning.
Dancers of Myanmar perform a number of routines, all influenced by a neighbouring region of Asia. In their dancing, influences of Indian, Thai and the traditional Khmer dance can be seen through movement, costume, music and subject matter. Types of dance vary; dancers perform dramatic pieces, comedic folk dances and village dances. Some traditions are rooted all the way back from pre-Buddhist times, so specific routines will not refer to the gods like others will.
Dramatic dances usually involve either fast paced movements or specific poses. The fast paced movements indicate more action in the story and are usually performed by men rather than the slow movements based on hitting poses performed by women. Each pose in dramatic dance forms has a different meaning, and the wrong pose could mean mistranslating the story to the audience. Dramatic Myanmar dances also imitate marionette dolls. Dancers will reenact movements made by marionettes on stage and become a sort of living doll.
Myanmar folk dance is usually comedic slapstick performed by people with no dance training at all. These dances include two characters, usually the Old Bachelor and the Spinster. The melodramatic tone of the performances provide comedy to the audience, but it also serves a second purpose. Usually the dancers are working towards a cause and inspiring donations from the crowd. This is rooted in Buddhist tradition, inspiring people to do good for the betterment of their next lives.
The Mandalay produce market is an up-to-your-neck , open-air produce market where ox carts, trishaws and trucks bring and take goods till up the little lanes.*
Dotting the 42-sq-km plain east of the curving Ayeyarwady, Bagan's 3000-some temples not only make up the most wondrous sight in Myanmar. The tallest and most majestic temples are awsesome, mingling Hindu styles from India with local-brewed Buddhist images in, atop and around the structures.*
Boy monks are really kids-at-heart.
Some marionettes may be manipulated by a dozen or more strings; certain nat may sport up to 60 strings, including one for each eyebrow.*
Much of classical Myanmar music, played loud like the nat like it, features strongly in any pwe, and its repetitive, even harsh, harmonies can be hard on Western ears at first. This harshness likely comes from the fact that Myanmar scales are not 'tempered' as Western scales have been since Bach.*
Traditional Myanmar music is primarily two dimensional in the sense that rhythm and melody provide much of the musical structure, while repetition is a key element in developing this structure. Subtle shifts in rhythm and tonality provide the modulation usually supplied by the harmonic dimension in Western music.*
The most Myanmar of dances feature solo performances by female dancers who wear strikingly colourful dresses with long white trains, which they kick into the air with their heels - quite a feat, given the restrictive length of the train.*
Most popular of all is the a-nyeint pwe, a traditional pwe somewhat akin to early American vaudeville.
Farmers live in villages, their fields spreading out from these central cores.*
Family celebrations such as weddings or initiation of young sons into the Order involve the whole village, informal teams handling their own and neighbouring villages.*
The Asian country of Myanmar is known around the world for their traditional ways of life. Traditions are carried out in their culture from dress, to food, to living quarters, and mainly, their craft.
Similarly to other Asian cultures, the craftspeople of Myanmar are heavily influenced by their religion. Theravada Buddhism is the most commonly practiced religion in the country, and acts as focal aspects of art in sculptures, paintings, metalwork, woodwork, and many other art forms. Paintings are strongly influenced by their neighbours; Indian techniques appear in characteristic and colour, using blue to symbolize their bright lifestyle.
Traditional metals like gold and silver were originally used as a sign of status. The richest and most important families used gold and silverware at their table, but now, these metals, including copper, are used to create relics. Metalwork is Myanmar's oldest crafting tradition, and can be seen in pieces around the country. Distinctive patterns are seen on these pieces, intricate patterns known only in Myanmar that range from their metalwork to their textiles. The areas of Mandalay and Amarapura are major centres for silk and cotton sarong production. Like metalwork, intricate patterns typical to Myanmar culture can be found on these textiles created by craftspeople using traditional tools.
Hpo Win Daung is a long mountain shaped like a reclining Buddha. It features 492 cave temples built inside the limestone cliffs. The caves, built between the 14th and 18th centuries, sprawl up and down the west side of the mountain, and are packed with 2588 Buddhas and some boldly coloured murals.*
*These captions are from Myanmar (Burma) -- Lonely Planet's travel guide.