The best souvenirs to bring home from Myanmar
Myanmar is a land of vibrant cultures, peoples and colours. The array of souvenirs and mementos a tourist can take home is so diverse it can be a little overwhelming; subsequently, buying great quality goods for a reasonable price can be difficult. The good news, however, is that market sellers in Myanmar are not as pushy as those in some south-Asian countries, which takes the pressure off buying something you don’t necessarily want. Below is our guide to the best souvenirs you can buy in Myanmar.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Parasols
Traditional Burmese parasols are a common sight in Myanmar, most frequently in the hands of monks. Traditionally, a bamboo frame is covered in paper made from the fiber of the Mulberry tree, which has a lengthy and complicated manufacturing process itself. Dyed, lacquered and painted, these are beautiful, fragile gifts that if cared for will nonetheless last a lifetime
Myanmar Souvenirs: Longyi
The Longyi is the native dress of the Myanmar people and makes for a great gift. We can attest to their comfort (especially in the heat!) and while you may find the recipient a little unwilling to wear it outdoors back in Europe, it will undoubtedly make them smile. Longyi come in a variety of styles from utilitarian to ornately ceremonial, yet tend to cost very little and look incredible – a perfect gift.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Lacquerware
Myanmar lacquerware takes its root in Chinese tradition, and has a history dating back to about the 12th century. Using resin made from the Thit-si tree, bamboo is repeatedly lacquered in such a manner as to improve both its appearance and durability. As the process is entirely by hand, good lacquerware can be a little expensive, but there is a very good chance you’ll fall in love with a beautiful piece and buy it anyway!
Myanmar Souvenirs: Silverware
Our favourite area for purchasing silverware in Myanmar is Inle Lake. Here you will find local silversmiths forging and polishing the products you buy before your very eyes; thus ensuring they are of the high quality they say they are! Popular purchases include articulated silver Inle Lake fish with ruby eyes, and silver rings and necklaces studded with jade and other precious stones. Similar products can be found in markets across the country, but be sure you are buying a genuine silver product and not a cheap imitation.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Gemstones
Gemstones and jade are eternally desirable gifts and are subsequently one of, if not the, largest industries in Myanmar, with some reports estimating their worth at nearly 50% of the country’s GDP. Considering the dubious ethics of the mining industry, and the abundance of fakes sold to tourists, it is extremely important to ensure you are buying from a reliable source. A good guide will be extremely helpful in this case – please get in touch and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Cigars
Myanmar cigars (cheroots) make a cheap, unique and very tasty souvenir. Handmade all across the country – but particularly in Shan state – they comprise a tobacco leaf rolled around a mix of tobacco, stems, wood chips and spices, and are extremely pleasant to smoke. The best quality cigars are found in tobacco shops on Inle Lake, but they can be bought for very little money in markets all over Myanmar.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Paintings / sand paintings
Paintings are one of the more common souvenirs purchased in Myanmar as they are cheap, readily available and invariably stunning. So stunning, in fact, that Myanmar art is often resold abroad, particularly in Thailand, for an extravagant mark-up. Sand paintings are perhaps the most popular style on offer. Sand paintings are copies of Bagan’s temple murals, and are unique to the area. The process of sand-painting is very laborious, and culminates in hours or days of sprinkling sand through a sieve to recreate the mural. These make an inexpensive and extremely well-received gift.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Teak products
Teak products, while not unique to Myanmar, are produced here in much larger quantities than anywhere else in the world and the quality of this remarkable wood really shines through. Used in almost every conceivable industry, for the average tourist the best teak pieces are furniture. Beds, armchairs and tables are all extremely common, and if you have the chance to pick up any of this wonder-wood you won’t regret it.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Marionettes
Marionettes or puppets are an unusual gift yet one you will see for sale regularly, particularly in Bagan and Inle Lake. These puppets are a traditional form of Myanmar entertainment that can still be seen around the country. Beautifully hand-crafted, these make a wonderful memento of you time here (particularly if you managed to catch a show!).
Myanmar Souvenirs: Fabrics / clothes
Myanmar is a riot of colour and the clothes and fabrics you can buy are no exception – think rich tapestries of every shade imaginable. Tailors and seamstresses are abundant in Myanmar, so find a material you like and you can have a shirt or dress made from it in no time at all. Silk made from lotus roots makes a particularly fine dress; the only limits are your finances and imagination.
Myanmar Souvenirs: Bells, gongs
Usually struck to announce the presence of monks or summon them, beautifully ornate bells and gongs are visible all over Myanmar, and make fantastic gifts. Do be careful of buying anything that could be considered antique however; there is a blanket ban on taking them out of the country.
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