Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar, possesses great tourist potential and attractions in many fields, but tourism is developing slowly. Burma is the largest country by geographical area in mainland South East Asia, with a population of around 56 million.
The country is one of the poorest nations in South East Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, corruption and isolation. Under British administration, which ended in 1948, Burma was the wealthiest country in South East Asia and the world's largest exporter of rice.
Burma's rich and vibrant culture combines with the great natural beauty to offer magnificent temples and architecture. There are many attractions to visit in Burma, but most of the country remains off-limits to tourists, with tight military control.
The main tourist destination in Burma is Bagan, an old capital of several ancient kingdoms of Burma. The ruins of Bagan cover an area of 16 square miles. The majority of its buildings were built in the 1000s to 1200s. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Bagan became a cosmopolitan centre of Buddhist studies, attracting monks and students from as far as India, Sri Lanka as well as the Thai and Khmer kingdoms.
Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon is the former capital of Burma. This former British colonial capital has the highest number of colonial period buildings in South East Asia. Naypyidaw is the present capital of Burma, the city was established in November 2005 on a greenfield site approximately 320 km (200 mi) north of Yangon, and the military government officially relocated the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw in March 2006. The second largest city in Burma after Yangon is Mandalay, this is also the last royal capital of Burma. Mandalay remains Upper Burma's main commercial, educational and health centre.