Two country trivia - Malta and Burma
The world as we know it
There are about 196 countries in the world. Each one is unique and rich with its own culture and history. It is hard to grasp all the information there is out there about the various countries. Here are some random interesting facts and trivia shared on two such countries that dot the world we live in.
Malta is a very small country just south of Sicily and lies in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a major tourist attraction and the country receives at least three times the number of tourists compared to the size of their local population, annually. This country measuring just over 300 square kilometres in area got its independence from the British in 1964. Valletta is the capital of Malta and is also a World Heritage Site. This historic city dates back to the 16th century and was founded by the knights of St John. Malta is basically an archipelago and consists of three islands with Malta being largely the commercial, administrative and cultural centre.
Malta on the World Map
The Maltese Falcon
A famous Humphrey Bogart movie released in 1941 was called ‘The Maltese Falcon’. The plot of the movie was around a bejewelled falcon of gold that dated back to Malta’s history of the knights in 1539. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards.
Malta was accepted to the European Union in 2008 and they adopted the Euro as their official currency.
Some useful Information for visitors: (courtesy the Lonely Planet)
- Visas are not needed for most people staying up to 90 days
- Malta is well connected from Europe and North Africa. Regular sea links from Italy are also popular.
Gladiator- the movie
Remember the man who plays the role of the old gladiator and buys Maximus (Russell Crowe) offering him a chance of freedom in the movie Gladiator (2000)? It was portrayed by the British actor Oliver Reed who died during the production of the film. The film was in fact being filmed at Valletta in Malta.
Lascaris War Room
Among the various historical sites to see in Malta, there is one called the Lascaris War Room. During World War II, the British considered Malta very important due to its strategic location. It was the way to access and control North Africa. Thus, the British navy had its headquarters at Malta during the 1930s. There were furious air and sea battles between the Allied forces and the Germans and Italians in Malta during World War II. The Lascaris Room is where the Allied headquarters were stationed back then .The rooms were situated under solid rock under the Lascaris Bastion and are hard to locate even today.
The weather in this tiny country is the typical Mediterranean sort and the months of April- June are a good time to visit it when the crowds are less and accommodation is cheaper.
Ever been to Malta?
Also known as Myanmar, Burma is a country in south east Asia. If you are facing the world map, the country lies to the right of India and also shares borders with Bangladesh. Post the Anglo Burmese wars of the mid 1800s, Burma came under the rule of the British Empire. The capital of Burma is Naypyidaw. Yangon, earlier known as Rangoon is one of the country’s largest city. The country got its independence in 1948.
Politically, Burma has mostly been in the news for its national figure Aung San Suu Kyi. She is the leader of the National League of Democracy in Burma and was under house arrest for over 15 years until her release in 2010. Her pro-democracy political ideology did not match the government’s viewpoint and was the reason for her being under house arrest for so long. She has been given many awards for her persistence and determination, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Burma on the World Map
Movies set in Burma
The Bridge over the river Kwai (1957) starring Alec Guiness was set in Burma and won seven Academy Awards. Its story line traces the attempts of the Japanese to invade Burma by building a bridge over the river Kwai. The construction workers constitute prisoners of war held by the Japanese during World War II. The movie is originally based on a book by a French novelist.
The famous Rambo series has had its most recent movie based in Burma too. Released in 2008, starring Sylvester Stallone, the fourth Rambo movie has a plot around Rambo helping out missionaries in the dense Burma jungles where he now resides.
Tourism in Burma
Burma is one of the most less economically developed countries in the world where there are no ATMs! Cell phone usage is minimal and so is the internet. It is almost like a country that is lost in time and not moved forward. The most commonplace sights are the monks and people travelling on carts. Yet, it has a charm of its own. Most of us would have heard of ‘Mandalay’. There is even a casino in Las Vegas named after it. One of the most modern cities of the country, it is also the home to most of the monks residing in the country. One can fly in directly to Mandalay.
Burma is not known to be a very tourist friendly country, with most parts not accessible by foreigners and strict controls by the government on interactions between locals and tourists.
The majority of the population are Buddhist by faith. The country gets a lot of rainfall and so visitors prefer the months of November to February to visit when the temperature is not too hot and the rains are less.
Nevil Shute & Burma
The Chequer Board (1947)written by Nevil Shute has much of the story based in Burma. It is about a British pilot who realises he has only one year to live and decides to trace three men who survived an air crash along with him to see where life took them. While tracing one of the friends, he heads to Burma. There are glimpses of Buddhist belief and concepts of ‘karma’ in the book which kind of tally with the dying man’s conscience; knowing that the three men whose lives he saved all turned out fine.