Myanmar’s unique heritage has led to a number of crafts and products being developed that are specific to Myanmar. Some ornamental, others practical, they can all make for very useful gifts for your friends back home, or to decorate your own home.

BURMESE LACQUER
Lacquerware are objects decoratively covered with a material called (would you believe it) lacquer – a wood finish that dries by a unique curing process. Burmese lacquer is sap taken from a Thitsee tree – trees that are grown in Myanmar. The sap is straw-coloured but turns black once it has been exposed to air and, once brushed, forms a hard, glossy, smooth surface.

The most popular lacquer items in Myanmar are trays, ashtrays and boxes, in a large variety of shapes and sizes. They are usually intricately designed and to witness them being manufactured is an impressive sight; it makes you realise how much work goes into the process of making them. Again, for Yangon, Bogyoke Aung San Market is the best place to pick up lacquerware.

COFFEE
While not famous on the world stage, there are a number of areas in Myanmar that produce good coffee. The most notable of which are Pyin Oo Lwin and around Mount victoria in Chin State.

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GEMS & JEWELS
One of the reasons Myanmar is attracting so much attention from the international business community is the vast natural resources on offer in the country, particularly in the north. Of those natural resources, some of the most famous are the range of jewels and gems around the country. Myanmar has both raw and finished gems available including rubies, sapphires, pearls, jade and many more.

A range of gems are available at Bogyoke Aung San Market, there are also a number of gem shops dotted around the city.

LONGYIS
You’ll see them worn practically everywhere around Yangon; and longyis are great presents to take home – they’re also very useful in the country’s hot season. Try the local way of wearing it by going “commando”.

PATHEIN UMBRELLAS
One of Myanmar’s more famous and unique products, the Pathein umbrella is an intricately-designed parasol that is more popular as a decoration than as its function of holding-off rain – although they are useful for that too.

The first umbrellas made in Pathein – which is located about five-hours due west of Yangon – were from paper, then the makers became more innovative and made them with cottons, silk and satin. The umbrellas are available in a range of colours and sizes, and are popular for tourists to buy during their Myanmar trip. A good place to buy them is Bogyoke Aung San market.

PUPPETRY
Myanmar’s unique style of puppetry, ‘Yoke the’, goes back a few hundred years and is thought to have had some royal origin – probably performed to one of the kings of the Konbaung dynasty. The traditional art form fell away when the country was under British rule but has slowly begun a re-emergence over the last few decades. Some of the most notable characters in the art form are the nat spirit, the alchemist, the hermit and the buffoon.

TEA
Myanmar tea is grown predominantly in the hilly Shan State and is a huge source of income for farmers in the north part of the country.

photo credit
Andreas Sigurdsson
Chris Ian Smith

This article was first published in MYANMORE’s first survival guide, KnowIt!, November 2014 edition

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