Tag Archive | "people"

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Uniquely Myanmar

Posted on 24 February 2012 by traveleatspa

Every country has a unique character that leaves a long lasting impression for the visitor. For example, Vietnam -  it’s the ao dai dress, millions of motorbikes and challenge of crossing the street.

For Myanmar, I’ll always associate it as a place of diverse peoples; men in longyis; thanaka faces; and betel nut chew.

The People

Upon my arrival in Yangon, one of the first things I noticed were that the people looked Indian, moreso than Thai. Once I left Yangon though, I began to see more variety of people.

Myanmar sits at the crossroads between the Indian continent and Southeast Asia and is bordered by 5 countries (India, Bangadesh, China, Laos, and Thailand) which explains the ethnic diversity of the country. Apparently there are roughly 135 ethnic groups!

The various ethnic groups are mainly from the highland areas near the Thai and Chinese border. In big cities like Yangon and Mandalay, there is a dominant mix of ethnic Chinese and Indian influence.

Burmese people of Chinese and Indian descent

Burmese people of Chinese and Indian descent

Woman from the Pa'O ethnic group in Shan state

Woman from the Pa'O ethnic group in Shan state

Muslim, Hindus, Buddhist, Catholics all coexists peacefully together

Muslim, Hindus, Buddhist, Catholics all coexists peacefully together

GQ Casual-Relax Style

I haven’t been to India and I don’t know if the same applies but I have never witnessed a country where more men than women wear a ‘longyi’, a sarong-like attire. They actually make it look stylish without much effort. However, I think only the Burmese men can carry this off. I’ve seen a western man wear one of these – not a good look.

The male longyi are always checkered patterns. I was amazed to see how many varieties of longyis there were – cotton and various grades of silk – and a whole range of color combinations. There are certain styles for formal wear and daily wear. So it’s not as simple as it looks!

Everyday wear for men waiting at the Yangon ferry dock

Everyday wear for men waiting at the Yangon ferry dock

Men wear longyis as part of their hotel uniform

Men wear longyis as part of their hotel uniform

Yangon street fashion - longyi with hoodie!

Yangon street fashion - longyi with hoodie!

Thanaka Beauty Secrets

Another distinctive feature of the Burmese people is the use of thanaka, a yellowish-white paste produced from the bark of an acacia tree. It is normally applied on the face, particularly the cheeks, and is used predominately on women and children. Thanaka is used as a type of sunblock and for cosmetic purposes.

thanaka

Applied for beauty, sunblock, perhaps whitening - for outdoors and indoors

Applied for beauty, sunblock, perhaps whitening - for outdoors and indoors

Babies too wear thanaka!

Babies too wear thanaka!

Betel Nut – A Natural High

If you’ve done a walking tour of Yangon or walk anywhere for that matter – no doubt you would have come across a red splat on the ground. It could be easily be mistaken for blood stains but having seen them everywhere, I started to doubt that that was the case. It wasn’t until I made the connection between the stained red teeth and actually witnessing someone spit on the ground that I learned it was the betel nut chew!

Betel nut chewing is common in Southeast Asia but mainly is seen among elderly folks whose teeth have now turned black. I was amazed to witness such rampant betel nut chewing in Myanmar! And it’s not the elderly or just men – it’s young adults and both men and women. A real shocker!

I think one of the more pleasant outcome is that there are less smokers. This is one Asian nation where you won’t be experiencing second-hand smoking! Betel nut chew is basically the alternative. Instead of cigarette machines – you’ll find betel nut chew stands – nearly at every corner.

The betel nut chew consist of areca nut, betel leaf, lime, and unique to Myanmar is the additional flavored tobacco. The ingredients are placed on the betel leaf and wrapped into a small finger-size bundle which is popped into the mouth like a piece of gum.

Betel leaves - used to wrap the betel chew ingredients

Betel leaves - used to wrap the betel chew ingredients

Betel nut, lime paste, flavored tobacco are applied on top of the leaf - ready to be wrapped

Betel nut, lime paste, flavored tobacco are applied on top of the leaf - ready to be wrapped

Betel nut chew seller. He's got red-stained teeth too!

Betel nut chew seller. He's got red-stained teeth too!

Women also chew betel nut

Women also chew betel nut

It will be interesting to see whether these characteristics will remain a dominant part of the culture especially as the country begins to open up. I hope they embrace their tradition because it’s these cultural differences that makes the country and its people so interesting.

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The Faces of Rajasthan, India

Posted on 21 October 2010 by Nellie Huang

Stretching across Northern India, the region of Rajasthan pulsates with invigorating energy and vibrance. The cacophony of deafening sounds, blinding sights and fragrant smells in India never fail to awaken the curiosity in me. Splashed in bright rainbow hues, Rajasthani cities are distinguished by colours: Jaipur, the chaotic capital, is known as the ‘Pink City‘ for its reddish palaces while the desert city of Jaisalmer is dubbed the ‘Golden City’ for the honeycombed fort that rises above the golden sand.

Against the backdrop of the cities, the streets of Rajasthan are filled with natives dressed in bright orange saris and bulky red turbans. Its spirited people are the reason why this part of India draws million of tourists to its doorstep. Warm, friendly and happy – it’s hard not to get infected by the spirit of Rajasthan. To get a taste of Rajathan, here are some of portrait shots of its beautiful people.

A tribal lady in the Thar Desert

A tribal lady in the Thar Desert, close to the northwest frontier with Pakistan.

A Hindu lady sitting on the window sill of the Amber Fort, Jaipur.

A Hindu lady sitting on the window sill of the Amber Fort, Jaipur.

On the stairs of the Jagdish Hindu Temple in Udaipur, an old lady sells offerings in the form of colourful jasmin flowers and coconut leaves.

On the stairs of the Jagdish Hindu Temple in Udaipur, an old lady sells offerings in the form of colourful jasmin flowers and coconut leaves.

On the streets of Jaisalmer, a lady smiles for the camera.

On the streets of Jaisalmer, a lady smiles for the camera.

Swaggering moustache and multi-coloured turban: a typical Rajasthani man gets ready to milk his cow.

Swaggering moustache and multi-coloured turban: a typical Rajasthani man gets ready to milk his cow.

Hindu ladies, dressed in beautiful saris, stroll through the courtyard of Amber Fort, Jaipur

Hindu ladies, dressed in beautiful saris, stroll through the courtyard of Amber Fort, Jaipur

A priest sits on the stairs of Jagdish Temple, Udaipur.

A priest sits on the stairs of Jagdish Temple, Udaipur.

Mother and son pair strolling through downtown Jaisalmer.

Mother and son pair strolling through downtown Jaisalmer.

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Amy Ma

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