Throughout our travels in Burma we had many opportunities to discover and experience special activities and learn about customs. One for instance, is that Burmese woman and sometimes men apply a paste to their cheeks that serves as a sun block to keep their skin pale. The paste is made from the wood of the Thanaka tree and is sold as a log, powder, or paste.
In Bagan we visited a workshop to learn about how a popular soy-bean sauce is made in large batches cooked over wood fueled burners. Hot, steamy work.
Here the women are packaging the paste for retail.
In Kalaw we stopped to observe how sap is collected from a palm tree and then made into sugar, sweet syrup, candy, and potent spirits – everyone enjoyed samples, especially the spirits!
Burma has lots of gold mines. Even the soil is rich in gold dust. In Mandalay we watched how gold leaf was made by pounding with sledge hammers packets of papers with bits of gold in between so that after many hours of hammering, tissue thin leaves of gold were made.
These are sold to Buddhist to apply to statues of Buddha. Eventually the details of the statues disappear under thick layers of gold as is the case with these bumps.
The gold is also used in lacquerware.
In Mandalay we visited the jade market and learned how buyers speculate on rocks.
The fellow in the red shirt is using a flashlight to assess the rock from which a slice has revealed part of the interior. He is looking to see if the rock has potential for containing valuable jade. He offered the seller $10,000 but was turned down because the seller wanted $12,000. Sometimes a rock is sold without slicing it open and where only the surface is inspected in the hopes the rock has value. Many of the rocks are bought and then resold for a profit before they are processed.
Most jade from Burma is sold to China where it is very popular, especially jade bracelets.
In Kalaw we visited a school and spent some time with the children who are studying English along with their other studies. They sang for us and we played Simon Says with them. It was a new game for them and they were delighted with it.
Barbara, a teacher in our group, gave the kids an English lesson and they caught on very quickly.
Our tour group company, Overseas Adventure Travel, supports various endeavors in the countries where they have tours. The school has benefitted from their foundation by providing a clean water system, new toilet facilities, and are now constructing small apartments for the teachers who have to travel long distances to get to the school.
In the same village we visited a monastery and were introduced to the head monk who gave us instructions in meditation.