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Myanmar Moment

Wearing a longyi in Myanmar
Wearing a longyi in Myanmar

When I think back to my time in Myanmar I am filled with memories how the people dressed and the fascinating way the women decorated their faces. I’m sure these traditions will change as the country, long hidden from the world  by a military dictatorship, comes into the global view.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a country where life has gone unchanged for 2500 years: a land filled with peasants and oxcarts and have eaten the same foods and worn the same kinds of clothing for generations.

I found this totally intriguing.

Woman in Myanmar

First,  lets take the longyi. Perfect for the hot steaming country, a longyi is a long tube shaped garment, tied in the front by the men and on the side by women. Men can wrap theirs up to create shorts if they need more freedom. The longyis also become privacy protection when one was bathing in the river.

Here are a couple of photos to give an idea.

Wearing longyi in Myanmar
Working guys in their longyi in Myanmar
longyi in Myanmar
Installing a banner at a temple
longyi in Myanmar
Wrapping up the longyi for flexibility
longyi in Myanmar
The lounge adapts to swimming
longyi in Myanmar
Beautiful young girl in longyi at a festival
longyi in Myanmar
Interesting combination of traditional dress and the cell phone

I know that as the world descends on Myanmar, many locals will adapt and change to Western dress. Here’s an example.  You see five young guys sightseeing at a temple, four in longyi and one in jeans. The change is happening.

Young men taking selfies at a pagoda in Myanmar
Tourists taking selfies at a Pagoda in Myanmar

I might mention, that often when we were sightseeeing, we were asked to pose for photos by Burmese tourists. Tourists are such a novelty in this country that locals  wanted to record our presence. An odd experience for a mid-westerner like me.

Probably more fascinating than the longyi is the Thanaka worn by children and women. When I first saw photos of women prior to taking the trip Myanmar, I thought this must be special ornamentation for festivals. Nope. It is every day wear.

It’s made from the bark of a tree—grinding the bark and making the paste is part of every woman’s daily routine. It cools the skin, prevents wrinkles and gives the women a chance to be creative.


wearing thanaka in Myanmar
Wearing thanaka in Myanmar




Thanaka Bark Myanmaor
Woman selling the thanaka bark at a festival
Thanaka Myanmar
Thanaka as a means of adornment
Thanaka in Myanmar
Thanaka has been used for generations

I do have to point out these ladies. I was out for an early morning walk and came across these women having their photos taken by a German tourist.   After we both got permission, snapped some shots and gave out a tips, he commented to me that he had been in this same part of Mandalay two years prior and had seen them sitting in exactly the same spot.

Selling breakfast in Mandalay
Selling Breakfast in Mandalay

“Time stands still here,” he commented to me. I believe it.

You don’t have to go to a museum to view thousands of years of history in Myanmar. You can watch it play right out in front of you.

Weaving in Myanmar
Young woman demonstrating weaving in Myanmar
Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Julie Hawksworth
    Aug 23, 2016 Reply

    So interesting Susan, to hear about this country that has been in a way held back in time, can imagine you will be tempted to go back in a few years to see how it is all developing. thanks for sharing!

  2. posted by
    Aug 23, 2016 Reply

    Beautifully written….a joy to read a relive happy memories, thank you

  3. posted by
    Susan J. Smith
    Aug 25, 2016 Reply

    I agree. I’d love to go back to Myanmar at some point and see the changes. Hopefully they are positive. How to improve the daily lives of the people with education and food and housing and yet not lose their culture is the challenge.

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