12 Photos
Infrared film helps accentuate plant growth and sediment accumulations in this near-vertical photograph of the numerous mouths of the Irrawaddy River in western Burma. The Irrawaddy Delta, one of the world's great rice-producing regions, consists of fertile river mud and sand deposited during the last 2 million years. The deep reds and violets at the southern end of the multichanneled delta (top of photo) reflect large mangrove forests. The light blues show the sediment plumes within the stream channels extending southward into the Andaman Sea. Image courtesy of NASA.
The ancient city of Bagan is located in Mandalay Division and is home to over 2,000 pagodas and temples. The majority of the buildings were built during the 11th to 13th centuries when Bagan was the capital of the Burmese Empire.
Htilominlo Temple in Bagan was completed around A.D. 1218 during the reign of King Nantaungmya; it is reputed to be the location where this king was chosen as crown prince. The three-story temple rises to 46 m (150 ft) and is built of red brick.
Ananda Temple is one of the four main temples remaining in Bagan. It is said to have been built around A.D. 1105 by King Kyanzittha and showcases traditional Mon architecture.
A golden Buddha statue sits in one of Bagan's many pagodas.
The Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple, built in traditional Burmese architectural style, is the only remaining structure from the original Royal Palace in Amarapura. The temple was later moved to nearby Mandalay where is remains today. After King Mindo died in the building in 1878, it was converted into a monastery dedicated to his memory. The monastery is known for its teak carvings of Buddhist myths adorning the walls and roof.
Mount Popa, an extinct volcano, is located southeast of Bagan. It has become the site of religious and mystical interests, notably "nats" or the spirits of ancient ancestors. A monastery sits atop the volcano and houses several monkeys.
Inle Lake is located in Shan State is is mostly known for local fishermen practicing a distinct rowing style stroking an oar with one leg. Inle Lake is also home to a strong weaving industry and floating gardens.
The Irrawaddy Delta is a lowlying region in southern Burma that plays a dominant role in the fishing and rice cultivation industry. The region was devastated in May 2008 by Cyclone Nargis that by official estimates left 84,500 dead and 53,800 missing.
More than 90% of the world’s rubies come from Burma where most of the mining takes place in the nation’s mountainous Mogok area. The term "Burmese Ruby" is synonymous with the best and most valuable rubies as they have the finest color – red to slightly purplish-red and medium-dark in tone, with the color enhanced by a red fluorescence commonly referred to as "pigeon's blood." Mined in Burma in the 1930s, the 23.1 carat Carmen Lúcia Ruby pictured here is among the largest faceted Burmese rubies in the world. The stone’s high transparency, fluorescence, and color saturation are very rare in large rubies. Dr. Peter Buck gifted the Carmen Lúcia Ruby in 2004 to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in memory of his wife. (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Natural History Museum/Chip Clark.)
Despite sharing a common name and a love of bamboo, red pandas (aka lesser pandas) and giant pandas are not closely related. The name “panda” is believed to come from the Nepali word “ponya,”meaning “bamboo eater.”  Red pandas live in the rainy mountain forests of Nepal, India, Bhutan, northern Burma, and central China where they spend most of their lives in trees sleeping, eating, and sunbathing. The diet of a red panda is 95% bamboo, but while the giant panda feeds on nearly every above-ground portion of bamboo, the red panda feeds on the most nutritious leaf tips and, when available, tender shoots. They live solitary lives except during breeding season. Red Pandas are considered endangered as they are threatened by habitat loss, fur trapping, or capture for the illegal pet trade. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo.)
Valued as a gemstone since at least the ninth century B.C., sapphires occur in a wide variety of colors with blue as the most popular and valuable. Sapphires are a gem variety of the mineral corundum (aluminum oxide) with small amounts of impurity atoms imparting a range of colors (iron and titanium give the pictured sapphire its color). The gemstone is found in Burma, Sri Lanka, the Kashmir region of India, Thailand, Australia, Madagascar, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. The 98.57-carat cornflower blue Bismarck Sapphire pictured here is one of the largest sapphires in the world and was mined in Burma. The sapphire was donated to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in 1967. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.)