Saturday, February 04, 2006

Burmese Dreams

I visited Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) last month. Having been closed for so long, this land is relatively untouched by time and the influence of the West - filled with mysterious temples, men in sarongs called longee and women who make up their faces with thanaka, a whitish paste made from the bark of a tree.

Thanaka is used in the Myanmar countryside as a natural (and free) sunscreen and skin protectant. It is a unique practice in Southeast Asia and has become so closely associated with Myanmar's national identity that even as the country modernizes, urban women use it in a stylized fashion, creating circles, lines or patterns of leaves on their cheekbones to wear to work or while running errands.

I had the pleasure of trying thanaka myself from a vendor selling jars of the pre-ground paste. She mixed the dry paste - which smells delightfully of sandalwood - with a small quantity of water and applied it to my cheeks. Then she used a special brush to create a horizontally striped pattern on my cheeks. As it dried, it created a nice cooling sensation and the color lightened (but still could barely be seen against my fair complexion).

Thus made up, I walked among Yangon's most famed temples and I caught many Burmese looking at me and smiling. I was afraid they'd perceive my cultural experience as mockery or inappropriate, but our guide assured me they thought it was adorable.

Visit Myanmar for yourself - before the men shed their longee for blue jeans and thanaka has been replaced by Western cosmetics.


At 1:37 PM, Blogger Real Girl said...

It *is* adorable!!

At 12:02 AM, Blogger Beauty Chick said...

Quite a compliment coming from the "Real Girl" herself! :)

At 3:01 PM, Blogger CaliforniaStyle said...

Great pictures! My parents grew up in Burma but I've never been...adorable. I'm new to blogging and found yours interesting...I'm also writing out beauty products that I like to use. Would love to hear more about your recommendations.

At 5:53 AM, Blogger Beauty Chick said...

Hi CaliforniaStyle! I just checked out your blog and it's awesome and adorable. I just got back from a trip and will be updating soon so please stay tuned.

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