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BOOKS & MAPS

TRAVEL GUIDE BOOKS:

Insight Guide Burma/Myanmar
10th Edition 2015
Publisher: Insight Guides

This 2015 Insight Guide Myanmar (Burma) has been comprehensively updated by an expert author to help inspire and inform travellers wanting to discover this fascinating country. After an inspirational best Of Myanmar section, the country's rich past and cultural heritage are described in a series of lively essays. Contemporary aspects of Burmese life - the changing political situation, the economy, food, architecture, wildlife - are also covered in depth. The Places chapters describe all the sights that should be seen - from the incomparable temples of Bagan, serene Inle Lake, the lost world of Mrauk U and the beaches along the Bay of Bengal to the fascinating cities of Yangon and Mandalay.
Detailed, high-quality maps throughout will help you get around and travel tips give you the essential information for planning a memorable trip, including Insight Guides’ independent selection of the best hotels and restaurants. Discover this most exciting of destinations with Insight Guide Myanmar (Burma).

Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma)  
12th Edition
Author: Simon Richmond
Published: July 2014

Since July 2014 there is the new Lonely Planet, however also the 12th edition disappoints. It is just a rehash of the poorly updated 2011 version. The city plans are good, however the content of the guide book is very thin. Important instructions are partly missing and a lot of areas are badly neglected, like for example Ngwe Saung Beach. Many prices are not correct and numerous means of transport do not apply.
If you are just going to the main tourist areas such as Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Shan State, the new Lonely Planet will provide you with plenty of things to see and places to stay. If you're really wanting to scratch beneath the surface and get off the beaten track, you're much better off checking with local sources.

The Treasures and Pleasures of Thailand and Myanmar: Best of the Best in Travel and Shopping
Published: August 2004
by Ron Krannich

The Treasures And Pleasures Of Thailand And Myanmar: Best Of The Best In Travel And Shopping is an absolute "must-have" for international travelers looking to obtain quality goods or souvenirs from Thailand at a reasonable price. Intended as a supplementary resource and not a general-purpose travel guide, The Treasures And Pleasures Of Thailand And Myanmar focuses specifically upon obstacles, negotiation techniques, and tips and tricks for those interested in shopping for everything from gemstones to textiles to artworks and much more. From learning how to walk away from the "touts" that try to lure tourists into overpriced stores (overpriced because the store must pay the tout a 10% to 40% commission for the service!), to a step-by-step introduction to the art of haggling, to knowing how to avoid paying thousands of dollars for what might be a cheap knock-off gemstone, to why even the locals may not always obtain the best deals (some shopkeepers can give tourists a lower price than their repeat local customers - who would expect the same bargain every time they walked through the door) to dealing with cultural differences and much more, The Treasures And Pleasures Of Thailand And Myanmar zeroes in on exactly what the money-conscious tourist in Thailand needs to know.

 

MAPS:

Myanmar /Burma at 1:1,500,000
Publisher: Nelles Verlag

With street plans of Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay, plus plans of the UNESCO World Heritage site at Bagan and of the ancient capital at Mrauk-U. The map is double-sided, with its smaller size offering a convenient format for use when travelling.

The country is divided north/south, with the panhandle shown as an inset on the southern side. Vivid relief shading with spot heights and names of mountain ranges presents the topography. National parks and/or protected area are indicated. Road network indicates partially paved roads and cart tracks. Railway lines and local airports are included and the map also shows internal administrative boundaries with names of the provinces. Various places of interest are prominently marked. Latitude and longitude margin ticks are at 1° intervals. The map has no index of localities. Map legend includes English.

Insets provide: a street plan of Yangon (Rangoon) with an enlargement of its downtown area, a street plan of Mandalay with a detailed map of the area around the city, an enlargement of the Bagan area with a more detailed plan of Old Bagan, plus an enlargement showing the temples and archaeological sites in Mrauk-U. All these maps highlight places of interest; street plans also indicate selected hotels, restaurants, etc.

Yangon: Historical Walks Map
Publisher: Silkworm Books

Historical Walks in Yangon (Rangoon), a waterproof and tear-resistant folded map from the Myanmar Heritage Trust published by Silkworm Books, with street plans and detailed descriptions of three walks around the city’s best preserved districts.
On one side is a generalized street plan of Yangon naming main streets and districts. Three areas of particular historical and architectural interest are highlighted on the plan and shown in greater detail on separate insets, each with a route for a recommended walk and important buildings cross-referenced to the accompanying list.

On the reverse each walk is given a very detailed description illustrated by old photos from late 19th and early 20th century. Further notes provide more information about the city in its colonial days.

Also provided is a Heritage Building List of the city’s 187 buildings identified by the Yangon City Development Committee as the first step towards promoting heritage awareness.

 

NOVELS:

Burmese Days
A Novel by George Orwell

Imagine crossing E.M. Forster with Jane Austen. Stir in a bit of socialist doctrine, a sprig of satire, strong Indian curry, and a couple quarts of good English gin and you get something close to the flavor of George Orwell's intensely readable and deftly plotted Burmese Days. In 1930, Kyauktada, Upper Burma, is one of the least auspicious postings in the ailing British Empire--and then the order comes that the European Club, previously for whites only, must elect one token native member. This edict brings out the worst in this woefully enclosed society, not to mention among the natives who would become the One. Orwell mines his own Anglo-Indian background to evoke both the suffocating heat and the stifling pettiness that are the central facts of colonial life: "Mr. MacGregor told his anecdote about Prome, which could be produced in almost any context. And then the conversation veered back to the old, never-palling subject--the insolence of the natives, the supineness of the Government, the dear dead days when the British Raj was the Raj and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. The topic was never let alone for long, partly because of Ellis's obsession. Besides, you could forgive the Europeans a great deal of their bitterness. Living and working among Orientals would try the temper of a saint."
Protagonist James Flory is a timber merchant, whose facial birthmark serves as an outward expression of the ironic and left-leaning habits of mind that make him inwardly different from his coevals. Flory appreciates the local culture, has native allegiances, and detests the racist machinations of his fellow Club members. Alas, he doesn't always possess the moral courage, or the energy, to stand against them. His almost embarrassingly Anglophile friend, Dr. Veraswami, the highest-ranking native official, seems a shoo-in for Club membership, until Machiavellian magistrate U Po Kyin launches a campaign to discredit him that results, ultimately, in the loss not just of reputations but of lives. Whether to endorse Veraswami or to betray him becomes a kind of litmus test of Flory's character.
Against this backdrop of politics and ethics, Orwell throws the shadow of romance. The arrival of the bobbed blonde, marriageable, and resolutely anti-intellectual Elizabeth Lackersteen not only casts Flory as hapless suitor but gives Orwell the chance to show that he's as astute a reporter of nuanced social interactions as he is of political intrigues. In fact, his combination of an astringently populist sensibility, dead-on observations of human behavior, formidable conjuring skills, and no-frills prose make for historical fiction that stands triumphantly outside of time.

Letters From Burma
By Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is the embodiment of the decade long struggle for political rights and an end to authoritarian rule in Burma, and her recent release was a hugely important event on the road to freedom and accountability in the country. Her 15 year house arrest curtailed her political protest but she was nevertheless a constant thorn in the side of the military junta, not least as a symbol of the dissatisfaction and frustration that most ordinary Burmese felt. Letters From Burma collects her letters from her period of house arrest which reveal her tireless work to spread the cause of Burmese democracy as well as offering an insight into her selfless mentality, and her thoughts and reflections on her countrymen and women, for whom she strived for so long.

The Piano Tuner
A Novel by Daniel Mason

When Edgar Drake is summoned to the British War Office and asked to tune an eccentric major's 1840 Erard grand piano in the jungles of Burma, he is both confused and intrigued. The year is 1886, and the British Empire is attempting to tighten its control of its colonies in the Far East, to fend off French rivals in the Mekong Delta, and to quell the resistance of a confederacy of local Shan tribes in northern Burma.
Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll has established an important foothold in Mae Lwin, employing unconventional methods - reciting poetry and playing music - to negotiate treaties with Burmese opponents of British rule. He has demanded that a grand piano be hauled through the jungle and now requires a tuner to be sent to him as well. Such eccentric behavior causes the major to be regarded by some as a genius and by others as a suspicious renegade, but, as Edgar soon realizes, his actions may conceal even stranger truths.
As Edgar embarks on his first trip abroad, the beauty and mystery of Burma, its entrancing landscape, its customs and music, and an exotic woman named Khin Myo cast a spell that he cannot resist. After his task is completed, Edgar decides to stay on with Anthony Carroll - a choice that will change his life as he becomes entangled in a series of events and emotions that spin dangerously out of control.
Written in a prose capable of both historical precision and mystical lushness, The Piano Tuner explores British colonialism at a moment of crisis and the ill fortune of a man who confuses "the cause of music" with the cause of empire.

The Gentleman in the Parlour: A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong
A Novel by W. Somerset Maugham

Among the many memorable books on travels in Burma before the Second World War, Somerset Maugham's leisurely progress from London via Colombo, then up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay and onwards through the then peaceful Shan States to Thailand and Cambodia ranks among the most enjoyable. He was not only a sharp-eyed observer of human nature but writes about his encounters with a good deal of emphaty quite uncommon among travel writers of the 1920's.

The Glass Palace
A Novel by Amitav Ghosh

Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her.

The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”

The Native Tourist: A Holiday Pilgrimage In Myanmar
By: Ma Thanegi

This is the delightful story of an eighteen-day bus pilgrimage to sixty pagodas across Myanmar. As the author settles into her seat, the aisle blocked with luggage, she trains our eyes on the collection of characters that, like it or not, will be her traveling companions for the whirlwind tour. This native tourist amuses us with her adventures of eating at roadside cafes, climbing up pagodas, bathing in rivers, shopping at markets, and sleeping on temple floors. Along the way, she encounters deeply rooted cultural values and develops camaraderie with strangers that become like family for the duration of her travels.

The River of Lost Footsteps
By: Thant Myint-U

Is a fascinating look into Burma. For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma - through sanctions and tourist boycotts - only to see an apparent slide towards even harsher dictatorship. But what do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about the present and even its future?

In The River of Lost Footsteps, Thant Myint-U relates the story of modern Burma, in part through a telling of his own family's history, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic and appalling. His maternal grandfather, U Thant, rose from being the schoolmaster of a small town in the Irrawaddy Delta to become the Secretary General of the United Nations in the 1960s. And on his father's side, the author is descended from a long line of courtiers who served at Burma's Court of Ava for nearly two centuries. Through their stories and others, he portrays Burma's rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through the decades of British colonialism, the devastation of World War II, and a sixty-year civil war that continues today and is the longest-running conflict anywhere in the world.

The River of Lost Footsteps is a work both personal and global: a distinctive contribution that makes Burma accessible and enthralling.

From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey
By: Pascal Khoo Thwe

The astonishing story of a young man's upbringing in a remote tribal village in Burma and his journey from his strife-torn country to the tranquil quads of Cambridge. In lyrical prose, Pascal Khoo Thwe describes his childhood as a member of the Padaung hill tribe, where ancestor worship and communion with spirits blended with the tribe's recent conversion to Christianity. In the 1930s, Pascal's grandfather captured an Italian Jesuit, mistaking him for a giant or a wild beast; the Jesuit in turn converted the tribe. (The Padaung are famous for their 'giraffe women' -- so-called because their necks are ritually elongated with ornamental copper rings. Pascal's grandmother had been exhibited in a touring circus in England as a 'freak'.) Pascal developed a love of the English language through listening to the BBC World Service, and it was while working as a waiter in Mandalay to pay for his studies that he met the Cambridge don John Casey, who was to prove his saviour. The brutal military regime of Ne Win cracked down on 'dissidents' in the late 1980s. Pascal's girlfriend was raped and murdered by soldiers, and Pascal took to the jungle with a guerrilla army. How he was eventually rescued with Casey's help is a dramatic story, which ends with his admission to Cambridge to study his great love, English literature.

The Trouser People: A Story of Burma in the Shadow of the Empire
By: Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall has written an unforgettable adventure story, the wry account of two journeys into the untraveled heart of Burma. Part travelogue, part history, part reportage, The Trouser People recounts the story of George Scott, the eccentric British explorer, photographer, adventurer, and later Colonial Administrator of Burma, who introduced the Empire's best game (soccer!) to Burmese natives and to the forbidden Wa state of headhunters, who were similarly enthusiastic about it. The second, contrasting journey is Marshall's own, taking the same dangerous path one hundred years later in a country now devastated by colonial incompetence, war, and totalitarianism. Wonderfully observed, mordantly funny, and skillfully recounted, this is journalistic travel writing at its best.

Finding George Orwell in Burma
By Emma Larkin

George Orwell’s time in Burma, where he served in the British Imperial Police, formed his early perspective on politics and society which he would take to new heights with classic works such as Animal Farm and 1984. However, as Emma Larkin discovers in Finding George Orwell in Burma, Orwell’s fame in Burma ran far deeper than that early biographical connection suggested. To many he was considered a prophetic figure who presaged Burma’s tumultuous 20th century, and whose works take pride of place on the bookshelf of any Burmese intellectual, not for their resonances with 20th century politics of Europe, but for their depiction of the political system which dominated Burma for much of the same period. Emma Larkin explores this connection and uses Orwell as a guide as she travels across Burma, visiting the places he lived in and finding the lingering influence of the colonial bureaucracy of which he was a part. Her travels allow her to see both Burma and Orwell anew and to understand the political development of one of the 20th century’s most vital literary figures.

Burma Chronicles
By Guy Delisle

A unique take on Burma, Guy Delisle’s Burma Chronicles is a graphic novel depicting the year Delisle spent in the country with his wife and young son, and their surreal experience of dealing with the autocratic military junta which ruled the country. Written in Delisle’s typically unadorned and minimalistic style, Burma Chronicles is a simple but hugely enlightening book which reveals the graphic novel’s capacity for reportage. It depicts the seemingly small but telling cases of authoritarian repression which affect Delisle and his family, and which reveal the wider truth about life under the generals. Delisle doesn’t come with any preconceptions, and although he has made something of a name for himself by writing graphic novels about authoritarian regimes – see Shenzhen and Pyongyang respectively, this book is determined to record the Burmese experience, and to relate it in the simplest form possible.

The Road to Wanting
By Wendy Law-Yone

Possibly Burma’s most celebrated writer, Wendy Law-Yone has made a career out of reinterpreting the Burmese experience in her works. The Road to Wanting is her most celebrated novel, and depicts the story of Na Ga, a young girl from Burma’s North Eastern border region, who is searching for a better life. Beset by poverty and the malaise of rural life, Na Ga is swept up by various apparent rescuers, who only lead her to dissolution and further despair. This novel is an insightful depiction of life on the fringes of Burmese society, whilst also being a deeply personal exploration of anomie and depression, which transcends all national borders.

Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess
Memories by Inge Sargent

When Inge Eberhard married a Burmese student she met in Colorado, she had no idea of the incredible future awaiting her as a princess. Unbeknownst to the young Austrian woman at the time, the man she called Sao would reveal himself to be a prince and the beloved leader of an ethnically diverse Shan state upon their arrival in Burma. In a stirring tribute to a remarkable man--and a gripping tale from beginning to end--Sargent reflects back on her loving, cross-cultural marriage to the prince of Hsipaw, with whom she had two children, a marriage that prospered until the disappearance of Sao Kya Seng during the 1962 coup d'{‚}etat and takeover by dictator Ne Win. Although the prince was never seen again, Sargent manages to illuminate the harsh conditions in Burma over the last quarter-century in a touching memoir that would read like a fairy tale were it not for the unfortunate ending.

A World Overturned: A Burmese Childhood 1933-1947
Memories by Maureen Baird-Murray

Shuttling between her mother's Burmese village, an English convent - and then witnessing the Japanese occupation of her homeland as a nine-year-old, Maureen Baird-Murray had an eventful childhood. She captures the disorientation and drama of those years in this fine memoir.

 

ART & ARCHITECTURE:

Shwedagon: Golden Pagoda of Myanmar
By Elizabeth Moore, et al

For hundreds of years the golden stupa of the Shwedagon, the pagoda enshrining the sacred hairs of the Buddha, has dominated the landscape of Rangoon. Since the nineteenth century, it has been the spiritual symbol of the entire Burmese nation.
Few countries have a shrine such as this, ancient yet with as much relevance today as it had long ago. It is an unforgettable vision to see the pagoda across the Royal Lakes at sunset or as a golden shimmer against the black night sky. Everyone who has been to Myanmar has a memory of their first visit to the Shwedagon; for all born in Myanmar, the monument is a cornerstone of their life and a guardian for their future.
Shwedagon provides a multifaceted view of this magnificent Buddhist shrine. The atmosphere of a visit to the site is admirably captured in Hansjorg Mayer's photographs. The texts, by archaeologist and art historian Elizabeth Moore and Burmese scholar U Win Pe, discuss the history and evolution of the stupa, and are illustrated by evocative old pictures and plans

Burmese Design and Architecture
By John Falconer

About the Author
John Falconer is a curator at the British Library and is the author of A Vision of the Past, the first detailed history of photography in Singapore and Malaysia. Luca Invernizzi Tettoni is a world-renown photographer who has lived in and worked in Asia since 1973. He specializes in books on aspects of Asian culture, architecture and landscape. His books include The Arts of Thailand, The Tropical Garden, and Filipino Style: his work also appears frequently in Asian, European, and American Magazines.

Book Description
The Burmese tradition of architecture, art and design is ancient, diverse and wonderfully rich. A reflection of a civilization unbreached by European powers for 3,000 years and influenced by China to the north and India to the West, Burmese design is interwoven with spiritual, religious and political messages. It is only now that this tradition is coming to be appreciated by Western students of architecture and design.

Burmese Design and Architecture will deepen and enhance that appreciation, for this is the first book to capture the entire span of Burmese design, from arts and crafts to architecture, from the monumental pagodas of Bagan to the architectural heritage of contemporary Rangoon. Covering both religious and secular design, this book offers expert insights provided by leading archaeological experts in this field. With 500 full-color photographs, this is a major work-and a must-have for serious connoisseurs of architecture, design or Myanmar itself.

Burmese Lacquerware
By Silvia Fraser-Lu

For the past 200 - 300 years the art of lacquer has been one of the show industries of Burma. Early travellers to that country have commented most favourably on it and it would be a rare Burmese household or monastery which did not have at least a few prized pieces of lacquer.
The initial impetus for the development of the craft in all probability came from neighbouring China and Thailand, but Burmese creative genius channelled it in new and unique directions. Burma's polychrome incised wares are unsurpassed for their boldness and liveliness of design while its gilt moulded lacquer inlaid with glass mosaic 'outshines' European ormolu work in its sheer sumptuous effect. The best of Burma's gold-leaf design work is equal to that of Thailand, the leading exponent of the craft in South-East Asia. Painted wares too are emblematic of a robust folkcraft tradition.
Over the years the Burmese lacquer worker has been most adept at adapting to changing circumstances brought about by the colonial experience and post-war Independence. To meet the needs of a diverse clientele, artisans have added different colours, new forms and experimental techniques to the repertoire. Despite modern innovations, the lacquer artisan continues to draw strength from the past. Ancient temple murals continue to provide much inspiration and subject matter.
This book explains the various techniqies practised by lacquer artisans, and describes the various forms, and the use of a wide range of wares. It also introduces the reader to some of the leading exponents of the art in different parts of Burma. Lacquerware collections both within that country and abroad have also been described.

Visions from the Golden Land: Burma and the Art of Lacquer
By Ralph Isaacs, et al

Lacquer is one of the most important artistic traditions of Burma - and also a living craft. Frequently used to decorate vessels of great style and variety, it is also important in the embellishment of architecture, furniture and musical instruments, in the making of sculpture and even in the Burmese theater. A natural plastic, refined from the sap of a tree, lacquer can be used to elaborate almost any surface, and its visual impact can be stunning - objects are dazzlingly colored, often in scarlet, gold and black, and are frequently inlaid with colored glass to produce an effect of shimmering irridescence.
Until now, Burmese art generally - let along this important branch - has been little studied. This beautifully illustrated book features some 200 items which demonstrate the skill of the Burmese lacquer-craftsman. Many of these came from a recent gift to the British Museum, the Ruth and Ralph Isaacs Collection, while others from national, regional and private collections. A series of essays examines the history of Burmese lacquer, the methods of production, the wide regional variations, the inscriptions found on many of the vessels (a new and important area of study), the role of lacquer vessels in the ubiquitous betel habit, and the Buddhist context of many of the objects.

Imperial Pagan: Art and Architecture of Old Burma
By Paul Strachan

A descriptive catalogue of Buddhist temples build in the Pagan Plain of Burma from the mid-11th through the 13th century. The profuse illustrations include 34 color plates. Published in hardcover in 1989 as Pagan: Art and architecture of old Burma.

 

HISTORY & CULTURE:

The Illusion of Life: Burmese Marionettes
By Ma Thanegi

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Burmese marionettes enjoyed a rare and powerful privilege as speakers for both kings and subjects. Never merely for entertainment, puppetry was a high art held in much esteem. Marionettes were means of making people aware of current events; a medium for educating the masses in literature, history and religion; a display of lifestyle and customs. These yoke-thei, 'small dolls', enjoyed greater freedom of speech, dress and movement than live performers. They therefore played a significant role in the development of dance and dramatic arts. The author is a well known Burmese painter, and this lively book is liberally spiced with information about Burma and Burmese ways. It contains a systematic presentation of the Burmese marionette tradition, a tradition in the danger of extinction.

Burmese Dance and Theatre (Images of Asia)
By Noel F. Singer

This handy and colorful little book traces the history of dance and theatre in Burma in the courts and countryside, and describes the various dances, plays, and musical accompaniment that evolved as a result of the country's cultural and religious mix and its changing political circumstances.