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Visit Myanmar for yourself - before the men shed their longee for blue jeans and thanaka has been replaced by Western cosmetics.