General Information about Myanmar
Myanmar has a total area of 678,500 square kilometres. It lies between latitudes 9° and 29°N, and longitudes 92° and 102°E. As of February 2011, Myanmar consisted of 14 states and regions, 67 districts, 330 townships, 64 sub-townships, 377 towns, 2,914 Wards, 14,220 village tracts and 68,290 villages.
Myanmar is bordered in the northwest by the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh and the Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh states of India. Its north and northeast border is with the Tibet Autonomous Region and Yunnan province for a Sino-Myanmar border total of 2,185 km. It is bounded by Laos and Thailand to the southeast. Myanmar has 1,930 km of contiguous coastline along the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea to the southwest and the south, which forms one quarter of its total perimeter.
In the north, the Hengduan Mountains form the border with China. Hkakabo Razi, located in Kachin State, at an elevation of 5,881 metres, is the highest point in Myanmar. Many mountain ranges, such as the Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma, the Shan Hills and the Tenasserim Hills exist within Myanmar, all of which run north-to-south from the Himalayas.
The mountain chains divide Myanmar’s three river systems, which are the Irrawaddy, Salween, and the Sittaung rivers. The Irrawaddy River, Myanmar’s longest river, nearly 2,170 kilometres long, flows into the Gulf of Martaban. Fertile plains exist in the valleys between the mountain chains. The majority of Myanmar’s population lives in the Irrawaddy valley, which is situated between the Rakhine Yoma and the Shan Plateau.
The most popular available tourist destinations in Myanmar include big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay; religious sites in Mon State, Pindaya, Bago and Hpa-An; nature trails in Inle Lake, Kengtung, Putao, Pyin Oo Lwin; ancient cities such as Bagan and Mrauk-U; as well as beaches in Nabule, Ngapali, Ngwe-Saung, Mergui. Nevertheless, much of the country is off-limits to tourists, and interactions between foreigners and the people of Myanmar, particularly in the border regions, are subject to police scrutiny. They are not to discuss politics with foreigners, under penalty of imprisonment and, in 2001, the Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board issued an order for local officials to protect tourists and limit “unnecessary contact” between foreigners and ordinary Burmese people.
The most common way for travelers to enter the country seems to be by air. According to the website Lonely Planet, getting into Myanmar is problematic: “No bus or train service connects Myanmar with another country, nor can you travel by car or motorcycle across the border – you must walk across.”, and states that, “It is not possible for foreigners to go to/from Myanmar by sea or river.” There are a small number of border crossings that allow the passage of private vehicles, such as the border between Ruili to Mu-se, the border between Htee Kee and Phu Nam Ron — the most direct border between Dawei and Kanchanaburi, and the border between Myawaddy and Mae Sot. At least one tourist company has successfully run commercial overland routes through these borders since 2013. “From Mae Sai you can cross to Tachileik, but can only go as far as Kengtung. Those in Thailand on a visa run can cross to Kawthaung but cannot venture farther into Myanmar.”