Myanmar Business Guide: Geography

An overview of the geography and climate of Myanmar


1.1 Overview

The Union of Myanmar which covers an area of 678,500 sq. km., lies to the east of India and Bangladesh, the north-west of Thailand and to the south-west of the People's Republic of China. The Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea form the southern boundaries of the country. The central part of the country is marked by wide rivers and expansive plains. Mountains rise to the east along the Thai border and to the north where you find the eastern most end of the Himalayas. The highest mountain in Southeast Asia, Hkakabo Razi, at 5,881 meters, is located right on the border between Myanmar and Tibet. Myanmar is, in fact, surrounded by a ring of mountains which not only affects the climate, but has throughout history isolated the country from the outside world. The central basin is divided into the fertile rice-growing region of lower Myanmar which includes Yangon and the dry region of upper Myanmar. Myanmar's main transportation link is the Ayeyarwardy River.

1.2 Resources

Myanmar is a country rich in natural resources. Tropical forests cover over half of Myanmar and, with some 80% of the world's teak reserves, Myanmar is a major exporter of valuable hardwoods. However, if smuggling and the granting of timber concessions continue at current rates, it is feared that widespread deforestation will be inevitable. There are considerable reserves, largely untapped, of various minerals as well as oil and natural gas. The 1,800 km. coastline of Myanmar provides the basis for a wide range of fish and other seafood.

1.3 Climate

The central plains of Myanmar are extraordinarily hot during most of the year with temperatures reaching over 45C during the months from March to June. Winter months (October to January) are dry but cold winds occasionally blast down from the North. In the summer months the coastal areas receive up to 5,000 mm. of rain while the central region, which is protected by the rain shadow, receives only 500 mm. The geography of Myanmar considerably affects the monsoon rains. The delta region around Yangon receives around 2,500 mm. a year but the rainfall rapidly diminishes as the monsoon continues North. Temperatures are more bearable during the monsoon season although the humidity is always very high at around 100%. Hence the best time to visit Myanmar is during the winter months (November to February).
average temp Yangon
average rainfall Yangon

1.4 Rivers

Most of the country's agriculture is centered along the flood plains of the Ayeyarwardy River, which flows south from its source in the eastern Himalayas to the vast delta region south-west of Yangon. The Ayeyarwardy has played a major role in Myanmar's history providing one of the main sources of transport and communications for centuries. Other major rivers are the Chindwin, which joins the Ayeyarwardy between Mandalay and Pagan, the Sittoung, and the Salween which flows from China and, for some distance, forms the border between Myanmar and Thailand. The Mekong River forms the border between Myanmar and Laos.