Aside from the usual postcards, refrigerator magnets and t-shirts, Myanmar has wonderful handicrafts that make ideal souvenirs. Not only will these items remind you of your fond trip to Myanmar, they will also look beautiful when on display in your home or office.
Here is our suggestions for the top five Myanmar souvenirs:
- LACQUERWARE – Myanmar produces some of the highest quality lacquerware in Asia. The best products come from Bagan and on your Myanmar holiday, we suggest visiting a Bagan lacquerware workshop to see the traditional craftsmen at work. Each item is made from tightly woven bamboo that is then sealed with a mixture of lacquer and ash. This paste is left to dry then reapplied several times, resulting in a strong, waterproof vessel. Then the lacquerware is decorated with incredible detailed patterns and natural inks. The best thing about this Myanmar souvenir is the variety! Lacquerware comes in various sizes, shapes and colors so you can chose a souvenir that fits your personal taste.
- ART- Most travelers do not consider buying art abroad due to the logistics getting it home! But, in fact, a rolled up canvas painting is an easy Myanmar souvenir to carry home on the plane with you. In Yangon and Mandalay, there are dozens of art galleries with watercolor, oil and mixed-media paintings. High-end galleries like River Gallery and Nawaddy carry famous local artists with a hefty but reasonable price whereas shops at Bogyoke Market carry copy paintings at a fraction of the cost. For a more unique Myanmar souvenir, seek out shops selling sand paintings and gem paintings. These artworks take unique skill and are very popular with local residents and are often sold outside pagodas in Bagan.
- TEXTILES- Despite the rapid modernization of Myanmar, it is still common to see locals wearing longyis. These long sarong-like wraps come in an endless variety of patterns and colors. Cheap ready-made cotton longyis cost less than 5 US Dollars but tailor-made silk longyis can cost hundreds of dollars! If you are not keen on a longyi¸ there are other textiles available such as scarves or decorative items like pillow covers. The best place to buy textiles in Myanmar is directly from the source! Visit a weaving center in Amarapura (near Mandalay) or in Inpawkhone Village (Inle Lake) to see skilled artisans creating intricate patterns on traditional wooden looms. In addition to using cotton and silk, Myanmar also has a third, more unique material for weaving: the stem of the lotus flower! Weavers slice the stems then twist the fibers together to create a fine thread. The result of this process are stunning, soft textiles that are a unique Myanmar souvenir.
- MARIONETTE- One of Myanmar’s traditional art forms is Yoke The, or marionette puppetry. Each marionette has 18-19 strings, allowing the puppeteer to move the marionette in life-like ways! In a traditional Yoke The show, there are 27 different characters – each with distinctive costumes and faces- so when choosing your Myanmar souvenir, you have a variety of choices! Although they look delicate, the marionettes are actually very sturdy and easy to pack into your suitcase for the journey home!
- PARASOLS- In the lower elevations of Myanmar, people use umbrellas year round. In the rainy season, they are used to keep dry and in the other months of the year, they protect from the intense sun! Traditionally, these parasols were made by hand using bamboo and teak for the frame and oil-soaked silk, paper or cotton for the covering. The parasols are then hand-painted for a touch of decoration, although those for monks and nuns are left plain. There are still a few places in Myanmar making traditional parasols. The most famous parasols come from Pathein, a town located in the delta region 5 hours from Yangon. But there are many shops in Yangon and Bagan selling these parasols! Alternatively, in the town of Pindaya (1.5 hours from Inle Lake) there are workshops making traditional parasols from mulberry paper which are equally beautiful! To cater to tourists, the umbrella makers now produce a variety of sizes from mini child-size parasols to huge parasols to be used to shade an outdoor table or garden area. Although a bit more cumbersome to pack, parasols are a wonderful Myanmar souvenir!
Start planning your tailor-made Myanmar holiday! Get in touch with Odyssey’s team of Myanmar travel experts on [email protected]