Shopping in Myanmar
On this page we would like to give a brief over which items are worthwhile to take as a souvenir of Myanmar back home. First point of contact for gems, jewelery, carvings, lacquer ware or silverware is the Bogyoke Aung San Market in the center of Yangon. But in Bagan, Mandalay, Inle or you can purchase souvenirs which are typical for the region too.
The purchase of lacquer ware is very popular. Various objects such as bowls, vases, plates, tea sets and much more are made of it. Traditional lacquer ware produced in Bagan.
Chinese writings mention that the Pyu (3rd-7th century) already used lacquerware. The Pyu used the paint to decorate palaces. It was also used to seal the hulls of ships. During the Bagan Dynasty, the use of lacquer ware was not mentioned. But there were found painted basket vessels from the 13th Century.
Lacquerware are manufactured in China and Vietnam too, however, the lacquerware from Bagan have its own style and design.
The coating is derived from the sap of the lacquer tree (Melanorroea usitata). The base materials for the manufacture of vessels, plates, cups etc. are wood, bamboo and horsehair. The vessels are painted up to 16 times before they are finally decorated with patterns. The artists carve the pattern with needles into the vessels. Then they will filled with color (mostly cinnabar). The preparation of quality products can take up to six months.
Unfortunately, there are many cheap fakes. Therefore, first check the quality of the products. Very good quality is characterized by a high degree of rigidity. Leave the fingers off lacquer ware, which can be easily twisted.
Of course, lacquer ware you can buy best in Bagan. There are many excellent lacquerware shops where you cannot only buy products, but also see the manufacturing process. Here some suggestions:
- Mya Thit Sar Lacquerware Workshop, New Bagan, Bagan Chauk Rd, at Manuha Temple towards Old Bagan
- Royal Golden Tortoise Lacquerware Shop, New Bagan, Connection Rd. Nyaung Shwe - New Bagan, next to Bagan Lodge
- Tun Handicrafts Lacqueware Workshop, New Bagan, Bagan Chauk Rd, Corner Kayay St.
If you do not have the opportunity to travel to Bagan, you can get very good quality, even in Yangon, at Bogyoke Aung San market. The market is open every day except Mondays from 9:30-17:00 clock.
Especially rubies, sapphires and jade are mined in Myanmar. The finest rubies in the world come from Myanmar. They are famous for their value and beauty. Most rubies are mined in Mogok Valley. In this remote region of substantial amounts of rubies and sapphires are mined for a millennium. Sapphires from Myanmar are characterized by their clarity. The pieces are reasonably priced and of excellent quality.
On the Bogyoke Aung San Market, there are many licensed gemstone dealers and usually it is a safe place to buy gems. You can buy gems in the Gems Museum of Myanmar as well. The Museum is close to the Kaba Aye Pagoda in Yangon. Below the exhibition spaces, there are many jewelry stores where you can purchase rubies, jade, sapphires and pearls.
Tapestries, also called Kalaga or shwe chi doe, are primarily produced in Mandalay. Their tradition goes back to the 8th Century to the Pyu period and the court of King Mahayaza.
The tapestries are always handmade. The base is usually a dark velvet, which is reinforced on its back with cotton, will be needed to carry the heavy embroidery. For the very fine embroidery are used gold and silver threads to fix the beads, semi-precious stones or sequins on the ground. Motifs such as elephants, figures or birds are padded with cotton and look thereby more vivid and lively. Over times, the production technology has been refined to perfection. The tapestries usually depict stories from Buddhist scriptures (Jatakas) or mythical animals as Hinthas or Kalong. They were mostly used as wall decorations or even for puppets, dancers and royal garments. Unfortunately, the tradition is slowly dying out. However, many smaller pieces are made as souvenirs for tourists. Tapestries can also favorable purchased on the Bogyoke Aung San Market in Yangon.
The silversmiths craft is a traditional art of Myanmar. Bracelets, rings, bowls, plates, jugs and much more are produced of Silver. Silverware is usually decorated with floral patterns or Buddhist scenes.
For the preparation of an alloy of silver and brass is used. First, the patterns are painted with pencil on the blank and sealed with lacquer. After working out the items are cleaned and polished.
On the Bogyoke Aung San Market, you will find a number of shops offering quality silverware.
May be you are interested in carvings of sandalwood. Most figures are made from it. Note that there are two types of sandalwood. The import from India smells more than the native sandalwood.
In the area around the Inle Lake fabrics are made of Lotus. Here you can also watch the interesting process of manufacturing materials.
Comfortable and convenient to carry are shoulder bags from the Shan highlands. They are seen everywhere on the streets. Boys, girls, monks wear Shan bags, decorated with different patterns.