Welcome to Myanmar, tho the "r" is a silent lengthener of the previous vowel: "myanmaa". And what's with the name? Burma ("baama") or Myanmar? It's complex. I refer you to
Let's start with a geography lesson!
The country is long north and south, somewhat shaped like a wedge between India and China. The red lines and captions show our trip segments, starting and ending in Yangon (Rangoon). Myitkyina and Sittwe are two destinations which were put on the "closed to foreigners" list as our trip unfolded. The first due to an out-break of hostilities between the government army and Kachin Independence Army, a successionist movement formed in 1961. The second due to an out-break of communal violence between Buddhist and Muslim groups. So our trip was compressed into the BIG FOUR tourist sites. The map shows our route: Yangon > Mandalay > Bagan > Mt. Popa > Inle Lake > Yangon, but the photo journal will show them in a historical order.
Mt. POPA is the main shrine to 37 NATS which are pagan spirits, who protect and assist one in everyday life.
INLE LAKE is in the Shan State and, although the Shan have disagreements with the governement, this area is peaceful and long on the "Gringo Circuit". It is known for its stand-up style of paddling and netting fish.
BAGAN was the power center in the 9th to 13th Century when Buddhism took deep root. And thousands of monuments to that devotion remain.
THE AYEYARWADY RIVER (a.k.a. Irrawaddy) is the "Nile" of Myanmar; it connects Bagan with Mandalay and Mandalay with Yangon, as the Nile connects Luxor to Cairo to Alexandria.
MANDALAY, founded in 1857, was the last Royal Capital of Burma. After conquest by Britain, and exile of the last King and Queen, in 1885, the center of power, commerce and growth shifted to Rangoon (Yangon).
YANGON, with more than 4 million people, is Myanmar's main metropolis. In 2005 the national government, or most of it, moved to a new city, Naypyitaw, but it seems to have hardly dented the energy, magnatism, or chaos of the former capital.