Heading to Myanmar? Bring a little bit of the country home with you with the best souvenirs from Myanmar. With the help of our destination experts, this is our round up of the very best keepsakes to bring home from your journey.
Emerging from decades of isolation makes for a truly fascinating travel destination – not to mention a haven for stunning works and art and beautiful handicrafts. Myanmar is perhaps one of Asia’s most exotic destinations, simply because it hasn’t experienced the same external influence as its Asian neighbours.
That said, the handicrafts and everyday items used by Myanmar’s locals are keepsakes unlike anywhere else in Asia. From intricately crafted clothing to stunning umbrellas to battle the sun and heat, Myanmar’s souvenirs beg for a place among your travel souvenirs.
With the help of our expert Myanmar travel team, we’ve rounded up the best souvenirs worth picking up while in Myanmar – each with a special story to tell. What will you bring home with you?
Lacquerware in Myanmar was originally a skill that was passed down from Thai traders in the 16th Century – but over the course of history, Myanmar artisans have developed their very own brand of intricate designs and patterns that sets Burmese lacquerware apart.
Nowadays, lacquerware in Myanmar comes in three distinct styles: relief molded (Thayoe Pan Yun), Incised (Ka Nyit Yun) and using real gold leaf (Shwe Zawa Yun). As far as designs go, a favourite of ours is designs using the likeness of an owl, which locals believe bring and prosperity according to folklore!
The best place by far to pick up a few lacquerware creations is in Bagan, home of thousands of ancient temples. Plenty of workshops and sustainable shops here sell lacquerware made by families who have carried on the tradition for generations! Depending on the style and intricacy, pieces can cost you anywhere from five dollars to over 100.
Htamein and Longyis
Most that travel to Myanmar will notice a few things about the locals almost immediately – like their friendliness and warmth – but one particular cultural element that’s omnipresent in Myanmar are their traditional clothing. In Myanmar, the iconic pants are called longyis (worn by men) and htamein (worn by women).
For men, longyis usually feature a small gingham check pattern, while women’s htamein have more elaborate, woven designs using silk thread and hand beading. Whether or not you plan to beat the Myanmar heat by donning this local fashion or plan to simply buy one as a keepsake, they make a wonderful and lightweight addition to your suitcase home!
Though longyis and htamein are easy to find throughout Myanmar, buying traditional hand-loomed longyis is best in Mandalay. Here in this ancient and breathtaking city, you’ll be able to pick up one of these handcrafted pieces starting at 20 dollars.
The summer heat in Myanmar is intense, but the locals have figured out a clever way of keeping cool: an umbrella! That said, in Myanmar the umbrellas are brightly coloured and designed with a special exotic “flair” you’ll only find in the far East. Called ‘panthien umbrellas’, these come in plenty of sizes to either carry over a shoulder up to shading your back patio at home!
Panthien umbrellas are popular throughout the country, but the best place to buy them is from right where they are made. Our Myanmar travel team suggesting picking a few of these up from a roadside vendor, as these are often made right on site to save you money and to ensure you’re supporting the artisans that created them.
Conveying the history and folklore of Myanmar is best done through the art of puppetry – so it’s no wonder that this traditional art form (called Ay Myint Thabin in the local language) has stood the test of time in the country’s heritage. The fine craftsmanship and nimble fingers that the creation and operation of marionettes requires makes this a particularly unique cultural element in Myanmar.
Most marionettes are designed in the form of colourful characters and mythical creatures, and their craftsmanship is making a come back in the country’s art and heritage. Visitors that love their design can pick up a few to take home with them!
Marionettes are available throughout the country’s larger cities, but the best are found right in the heart of Yangon. If you head to a marionette puppetry show, it’s usually an option to pick up a few keepsakes on the way out, and this often helps provide an income for traditional puppetry performers and artists.
Myanmar is made up of many different ethnic minorities, each with their own different textiles. Mostly woven from cotton and using natural dyes, lengths of fabric are adorned with beads, shells or intricate patterns. These stunning pieces of art are a great way to experience the heritage of each ethnic minority, and a great keepsake and conversation starter for when you come back home! Plus, purchasing these items sustainably means supporting communities that rely on the sale of handicrafts to survive.
For more upscale textiles, Inle Lake is the place to by fabric made from lotus or silk. These items are usually more expensive, though, since they require more time to create. Expect to pay anywhere from 2 dollars for a cotton scarf up to 200 to 800 dollars for silk or lotus shawls. A tip from our Myanmar travel team? Buy direct from the weavers for the best price!
Picking up Myanmar’s best souvenirs starts with a journey there! Our Myanmar team can help you create an unforgettable customised itinerary in Myanmar that explores its best highlights and heritage in a single journey.