By Amrita Kundu
With the amalgamation of 135 ethnic groups, Myanmar is a mix of various culture and tradition. Aside from that, the country boasts a number of unique traditional products and customs which are excellent options to explore for a tourist.
In Myanmar, you will often see women with yellow paste on their cheeks. It is called Thanaka, a paste made from the bark of several trees that grow in Myanmar. The barks are ground on a flat circular stone to make the paste. However, today, thanaka powders and creams are readily available for easy applicability as Thanaka prevents the skin from sunburn and radiates a healthy glow.
Weaving is a common practice among the locals of Myanmar. From fine silk to cotton, one can find a variety of woven industries in Myanmar. However, the most unique among them is Lotus Weaving – a traditional handicraft practised by the inhabitants of Inle Lake. Lotus stems are taken and the fine threads are extracted before being woven into beautiful garments.
Each of the 135 ethnic groups has their own traditional dressing. Generally, most locals wear Longyi, a versatile cloth that can be wrapped around the waist. However, there is a distinct difference for wearing the garment between men and women.
Men wear the Longyi (locally known as Paso) by making two folds and tucking it in the waist. Pasos are usually striped or checked. The women wear their Htamein (the local name for Longyi worn by women) with just one fold and match it with a fitted blouse. Htamein is usually available in floral and coloured designs.
Another integral feature of Myanmar is puppets. The culture of puppets in Myanmar date back to around 11th century – 15th century when wooden puppets were used as a major form of entertainment by the royals of the country. Myanmar has regular traditional puppet shows featuring mythological stories and modern-day plays.
Chinlone is the national sport of the country where there are no opposing teams. A group of people play this together where they try to keep a cane ball off the ground as long as possible. It is a fun and non-competitive game which is enjoyed by all.
This unique umbrella is specific to Pathein, the capital of the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar. The canopy of the umbrella is made with silk and cotton where beautiful floral designs are painted on. The rib and the shaft of the umbrella are made from bamboo. This beautiful umbrella is a representation of the feminine beauty of the country, and is an ideal item to pick up as a memento from the country.
If you roam around Myanmar, you will find betel nut in every nook and corner of the country. Commonly known as Kun Ya, a betel nut is wrapped up in betel leaf along with slaked lime and eaten. The additional items added in the betel leaf vary from one shop to another and can include tobacco, chilli and jam.
Cigars or Cheroots is another unique tradition of Myanmar. The roll is made from the dried leaf of Thanet Phat or corn, whereas the inside of the roll consists of dried wood and tobacco. Locals roll the cheroot in their own style, adjusting the tobacco level and the size of the cigars. The tropical zones of Myanmar have an abundance of Thanet leaves.
Exploring the local culture is highly recommended if you are in Myanmar. Try the local products, pick up some mementoes and roam around the country to get a full experience of everything that a tourist can crave for.