Five Interesting Things in Myanmar
Myanmar (Burma) is absolutely one of the most must-visit and undiscovered countries in the world. I strongly recommend you should travel to Myanmar if you ever have a chance to set foot on Asia. Unlike Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam or any other countries that have been already affected by the booming of the globalization in Southeast Asia, Myanmar is truly a local destination full of mysteries unexplored. Having just connected to the outside world after 50 years isolated, this golden land is like a charming princess moving out from the castle for the first time.
This article covers the most fascinating things that I have ever seen during my adventure in this beautiful country - Myanmar.
#1 People are deadly addicted to betel nuts
When you arrive in Myanmar, I'm pretty sure that you will be first impressed by the Burmese spitting out red saliva with their teeth stained black. Don't be shocked at it! If you drink tea or coffee, people here chew betel nuts. Betel nuts are actually betel quids which are the combination of areca nuts, lime, cinnamon and sometimes tobacco all wrapped in a betel leaf. Betel nuts are sold in almost every vendor along the sidewalks in Myanmar, so why don't you try integrating into the local culture by dying your teeth red and painting the ground red with betel stains?
Burmese monk chewing on betel nuts. Photo by Rico Schiekel via flickr.com
#2 People put an exotic paste on face
Whenever I was asked to unfold my Myanmar travel story, I always kicked off with a wonderful Burmese cosmetic named Thanakha and never felt frustrated with digging into it millions of times. It killed me when I first saw Burmese men and women having such yellow paste on their cheeks and foreheads. An outburst of curiosity inside me was all of a sudden transformed into action. I approached the locals and finally got taken to a small house where the Burmese were continually grinding the bark of a Thanakha tree on a huge, flat and thick piece of stone called Kyauk pyin. Thanakha cream is used not only for beauty purpose but also as a perfect sun protector. It is truly a great souvenir that you can bring home.
#3 Traffic in Myanmar is strange
To be honest, traffic in some countries in Southeast Asia is really exciting to see. If Vietnam makes you feel overwhelmed with their tons of scooters sticking around pedestrians, Myanmar will definitely get you astonished by their rule of the traffic game! Burmese people have right-hand steering since their country used to be a British colony, and they used to drive on the left side of the road; However, in these days they drive on the right side! I heard from the locals that the Prime Minister of Burma made that change because he had a dream the country could be developed after switching the directions. If it was true, it would not be so reasonable. All in all, you should be very careful if you ever have thought of joining in this confusing traffic.
Yangon city. Photo by Ben via flickr.com
#4 Burmese men wear skirts
As soon as I landed at Yangon International Airport, I was exceedingly surprised at Myanmarese men wearing skirts. I could not help but stick my eyes on their amazing national costume. I loved it, trying to find out what it is, and eventually, I got the answer which is Longyi. When the men's longyi(es) were loose, I saw they quickly wrap the sheet again and bundle the knot in front tight. If Scottish men wear kilts, and Sri Lankan men tie sarongs, then men in Burma put on Longyi. Longyi is common that way. Longyi is a sheet of fabric wrapped around the waist, running to the feet. While women often have colorful Longyi(es), men choose plaid patterns.
Burmese men wearing Longyi. Photo by David Pham via flickr.com
#5 There are giraffe women in Eastern Burma
It is exactly what Daily Mail (Dailymail.co.uk) called Kayan women in Kayah State. If you ever drop by Mae Hong Song province in Thailand - the border area with Myanmar, you could hardly forget the image of women wearing a lot of heavy brass neck bands. They are Kayan residents moving to Thailand and spreading some Myanmarese scent with a long-standing traditional beauty of the brass neck coils. There are some interesting myths I was told about this culture: Kayan girls started to wear one band at age 5 and they continued to put another one on when a year passed by. The more rings they put on, the longer their necks become. Besides regarded as a sign of jewelry, the bands are used to keep the women away from dangerous animals and men coming from other tribes. Any woman who betrayed their husband had to remove the neck rings, which is seriously a harsh punishment. I don't know whether it is true when people told me that women's neck loaded with these rings will break off once they remove them away. Sounds so scary, doesn't it?
Kayan woman. Photo by Valentina Armenise via flickr.com