As we cruised up the Irrawaddy River and wandered through towns and villages, I could spot a dazzling golden stupa at almost every moment. I learned how their design has evolved over time since the 7th century and usually enshrines a holy relic.
2) Loving kindness everywhere I went.
I greatly admired the loving kindness that everyone exudes, despite the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011. The country is seeing a major shift after the government changed hands earlier this year, so the feeling I picked up must be that of hopefulness. I couldn’t help but feel spoiled for not feeling positive more regularly back home in Canada.
3) Traditional clothing and cosmetics
Most men and women wear the modern style longyi, a sarong-like tube of fabric. They’re everywhere!
Ideal for keeping cool and versatile in its tying styles and uses, the longyi is a piece of fabric that is a part of everyday life. Patterns, fabrics and lengths vary with the occasion. As tourism booms, more and more foreigners have been spotted sporting longyi, to the delight – and amusement – of locals.
The pale yellow cosmetic paste seen on cheeks, noses and foreheads of women and children throughout Myanmar is thanaka, known for its sun protection and anti-aging benefits. The paste is produced by grinding the bark of the thanaka tree on a flat, smooth sand stone with water. The fragrant liquid dries quickly when it’s applied to the skin and provides a lovely cooling sensation.
4) The contrast of modern and traditional ways
I spotted Buddhist monks playing on cell phones; logged into the WiFi at a traditional silk weaving factory (pictured below); purchased modern art painted on rice paper; and drove by a luxury car dealer in Mandalay (I had ridden a horse cart on the day prior). The contrast is staggering!
Only since 1991 has the government encouraged tourism. The culture is changing, but I sincerely hope Myanmar keeps its traditional charm that I long to return to one day. It’s a land that will surprise you.
Click here to learn more about Private Journeys through Myanmar.