Myanmar, also known as the Golden Land, has recently emerged from decades of isolation. Such isolation has led to many cultures and traditions to be intact as it was decades ago. The people are still deeply rooted to these norms and traditions and embraces them in their everyday life. Here’s our list of the top cultural experiences to seek out in Myanmar.
TRY WEARING THANAKA
Thanka is a yellowish-white paste made from grinding bark on slab. You will see it applied on the faces of women and girls and sometimes by little boys around the country. It is used both as a cosmetic and a sun screen in everyday life. Thanaka comes either in small logs or powdered version. Try applying on a sunny day out.
TRY WEARING LONGGYI/HTAMAIN
Myanmar traditional Longgyi/Paso (for men) and Htamin (for women) are fabrics sewn into a tube shape, like a skirt. It is perfect for Myanmar weather as it is light and breezy. Men and women wear it differently and have a slew of different patterns and types of fabric for both men and women depending on the ethnic tribe. For men, you should try wearing it with a Chinese collar shirt or Spread collar shirts. For ladies, a simple blouse will best suit you.
The best way to drink tea in Myanmar is either by the road side or your corner tea shop. Traditional ingredients such as Burmese black tea, condensed milk, evaporated milk and sugar and mixed in a varying degree to serve you from bitter tea, all the way to the sweetest tea you will ever had. You can pair your tea with burmese snacks such as samosa and fried snacks served by the tea shop. Take your time to enjoy it, and watch kaleidoscope of life passing right in front of you.
TRY KWUN YA (PANN)
First thing you will see in the roads of Myanmar are betel stains which might look like a crime scene at first glance. Kwun Ya (Pann) stores are the most ubiquitous and will find a stand every few block. Kwun Ya usually contain betel vine leaf, areca nut, slaked lime, tobacco and traditional or indian herbs depending on the region. Don’t swallow the juice!
GIVE OFFERINGS AT TEMPLES AND PAGODAS
Myanmar Buddhist offer Alms such as flowers, candles, and incense sticks, umbrella in various colors all according to the day of the week they were born on.
WATCH A LETHWEI FIGHT (MYANMAR BOXING)
Myanmar boxing has its roots since 11th century and over the years has become the most practiced and sort after Myanmar martial arts. Myanmar lethwei has many similarities to Muay Thai but differ greatly in many ways. There is no point system and the only way to win a match is to knock out your opponent. It is the only martial art in the world where head butts are allowed. Lethwei tournaments take place year-round, so be sure to catch one if you have the chance! It is such an adrenaline rush!
APPLY GOLD LEAVES TO BUDDHA IMAGES
This is where you will appreciate how “golden land” is coined for Myanmar. All the temples and Buddha images that glitter are literally gold. They may sometime be gold plates or layers of gold paint. As men, you can go into most scared grounds to apply gold leafs on Buddha images but ladies are much more restricted. There are a few Buddha images that allows ladies to apply the gold leaves too.
TRY BURMESE MESSAGE
Myanmar traditional massage take influence from Indian, Chinese and Thai styles with deep connection to traditional medicine. Prominent feature of traditional burmese massage is that masseur not only massages your sore muscles but also apply some pressure for a minute or so on the various pressure points. Upon releasing, it will create a warm sensation and greater blood flow.
go to YGN MUGET Japan for a sensational massage.
PARTICIPATE IN FESTIVAL
Myanmar is a land of festivals, from spiritual to hard core fun, you will find varying degree of festivals throughout the year. Myanmar enjoys the craziest (and longest) water festival in South East Asia, celebrated over 4-5 days in April to celebrate the new lunar year.
Or run away from fireworks flowering down on you on a chilly night in Taungyi for Dasaung tine festival in November. If you are spiritual, participate in Kasone Festival to celebrate the life and death of Buddha by releasing fish to the wild and offering water to the Banyan Trees.
GIVE ALMS TO MONKS
In Theravada Buddhism, monks do not have the right to own money and hence need to survive on donations from kind donors. Some monasteries do not have a steady flow of daily donors and will have to collect alms every morning. It is a beautiful and spiritual thing to take part in the early hours of the morning to donate alms (in terms of food and curry) to the monks who would line up in straight lines every day. Whether rain or sun.
DONATE TO NAT NANS
Nat (spirit) worship, lives alongside Buddhism for many centuries in Myanmar. In Myanmar folk lore, They are divided between the 37 Great Nats and all the rest (i.e., spirits of trees, water, etc.) They are believed to grant you wishes and help protect you throughout your life. Offer traditional offerings such as banana and coconut to the nat shrines for them to protect you on your life journey.
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