A recent working trip to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma provided a lot of exciting images unseen in many developed countries. Formerly administered by the British and subsequently occupied by the Japanese army, but the country now is under the regime of its own military Junta (SPDC). Development has always been slow but surely
This used to be the Yangon's old Central Railway station but rail tracks are no longer seen. I can still feel the greatness of its British architecture as it had many Moorish elements. This structure is one of the many excellent buildings in and around Yangon. A famous Buddhist temple, the Shwedagon (a.k.a the golden Dagon) is located in the heart of the city where foreigners are charged 5USD per entry. The top half of the majestic dome is lined with gold plates while the bottom half, gold flakes. I was being told that it is being topped by one of the world's biggest diamond. Frankly, I did not see any security concern for the safety of its gold plates or diamond. No spades, chisels or C4s are lying around too, and definitely no Italians with Mini Coopers!
In Yangon (Myanmar's biggest city), a world famous - The Scotts Market is located. And in the local language, it is called the Bagyoke Au San Market where jewellery like jades are being sold openly. Local handicrafts are aplenty too. Just before the entrance to the market, I saw a boy selling fried crickets cheaply. Tempted to buy, but I have insufficient courage to try :)
It was truly a busy market with beggars everywhere (they talk almost perfect english), but they are not that aggressive like in some other countries I have visited.
One popular stall is the guy selling Betel Leaves (& Nuts) with teeth lined with brownish red chewing gum like thingy. It seems that everyone there are doing it all the time! Having tried myself from an 'uncle' U Aung Thein, one can get 'high" chewing this leaves.. :p
Back to the story of Shwedagon the infamous Burmese Buddhist temple (pic below) its intricate structure carving is being molded with materials made of cow dung and flower ashes. These are then hardened to form the stucture and painted gold. I learnt that the 'unique' technology came from India (naturally, these materials are found abundance in India!)
Jades are an attraction to most visitors to Yangon, and they can be found in every corner of the city. I am sure they are of high grades and I am equally sure that some of them are fakes waiting for people like me to be fooled. I would go into labour to differentiate a genuine gem stone from a green plastic resin bangle! (Damn! its easier to identify film from digital camera!)
A lot of wooden carvings found in the Scott's Market are made of Sandalwood, a type of wood that emits aroma-therapy scent and pretty expensive too. Those woods that are not scented are primarily teakwood, a government controlled commodity.
After walking for almost 1 hour in the market which was hot & humid, it was very tempting for me to sit on this shiny small stools. I tried pretending to buy and have a go at sitting, but soon enough the trader realised my intent and gave me a wry smile... almost telepathically saying... "go ahead" :>
Most Burmese ladies wear this cheek powdery wipes - yellow in color called THANAKHA to cool them off when the weather is hot. Its part of the local culture. The small cut-wood are sold in the Scott's Market for around Kyats 3,500 (depending on sizes too).
Scrub the wood against a flat mortar, presprinkled with water. The yellow resulting paste are then finger-swipe once on your cheeks just like the red-indian did before going into battle. I had a good swipe on my cheek with a 14yr-old 'girlfriend' who constantly persuade me to buy her postcards! ( She's fluent in English, French, Malay and German, all by selling postcard since she was was nine!). We joke to take her in as our new Marketing Manager
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(all images above are captured with Blackberry Bold)