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Street Culture of Myanmar – a Photo Travelogue

February 04, 2015 4 min read

A town’s pulse may be felt in its markets – markets in which the locals shop.

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Traders big and small, the wares they offer, the way these are displayed, their ways of calling attention to their shops, their methods of negotiation, the courtesies, warmth and involvement in their exchanges, the bonding between the buyers and the sellers, the flow of traffic, the prices, the order or the chaos, the little details of the shop, the sentiments that are present and particularly those that are absent, all together describe the character of a town better than any words can.

In every town I visit, the local market is usually my first stop. It is a trailer of the film that will unfold during the journey, if one has time for the film. Otherwise it offers a great glimpse into the society and the matter that are dear to it.

A few photos from the streets of Yangon and Bagu in Myanmar (Burma).



The psychology of Myanmar and how ‘earning good karma’ is the central theme of the life of the people.

Outside the monastery or Pagoda, this man sits with caged sparrows. For a small payment one may earn good karma by buying the release of these sparrows!

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This is similar to the scene that I see often in India. There, outside temples a woman sits with her pet cow and bundles of grass and animal-feed. For a small fee you can buy the grass to feed HER PET cow and thus earn good karma of Punya. What a winner business model the cow-owner has come up with!

In this case though, the caging of the birds is entirely different from holding a pet cow. But perhaps he is earning karma from the service in which he is offering others an opportunity to earn karma.

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Note  the paste on the cheeks of the drink-vendor. These are religious marks are made by applying a paste that is made by dipping a particular wood – Tanakha – in water and then rubbing it on stone. It is applied of the cheeks and arms during visits to the Buddhist temples. Sandalwood is used in a similar way in other places.

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Tanakha wood

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Riding on the tops of vehicles is common across the small towns of Asia! The breeze, the scantier crowding and the view make it worth the risk.

Here we have a monk enjoying the prime spot on the vehicle!

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The markers of courtesy and politeness ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ might be absent in these streets BUT everyone here makes room for everyone else.

And THAT is a courtesy in action – not mere words of ‘hello’ & ‘thank you’.

This attitude of ‘making room for all’ is lacking in more ‘civilised’ societies where the grumbles of drivers can pollute the atmosphere far more than the the emission of their cars can.

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The eco-friendly Cycle rickshaws in tiny crowded streets where everyone makes way for everyone else.

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The hats, the umbrellas are integral components of the costume.

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The sarong … the most comfortable wrap-around skirt. It has also been adopted by men and is called the Lungi.

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The lungi

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Some root / tuber that is flattened by beating and then eaten – another delicacy

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Naturally, if this business has survived, they must have ways of preserving the cooked meat in the heat of the day that can reach 30 degrees centigrade

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All kinds of interesting-looking street food….probably glutinous rice and jaggery

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Someone’s had a brisk business day!!



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Tools for skilled workers

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Saws for cutting tree trunks

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A painter sits comfortably on the floor and paints while her two toddlers play around her on a main street in Yangon

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Puppies for sale – once again on the main street in Yangon

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No idea what this is – and therefore it is interesting!

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Ripe jackfruit. Some people love it – others cannot stand the fragrance of the ripe fruit but love the raw stage!

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A hand-held coconut scraper!

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Burmese Puppets

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These are probably the equivalent of the ‘Evil-eye’ deflectors or the Nazar Butti.

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Monks and nuns must beg for their food every morning …. a group of nun novitiates and their senior.

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Seed vendors

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Home grown chicken – not injected with hormones or anything artificial.

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Puffed Rice

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Lottery Seller!

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And a tailor for any ad hoc stitching jobs that might come up for alterations or torn clothes or bags!

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And even Mickey Mouse has arrived!



Bagu is famous for fermented fish & fermented prawns –  Myanmarese delicacies. Just as one might ask friends traveling to Japan to bring back some Wasabi or bring back Maple syrup from Canada, visitors to Bagu are asked by their families and friends to bring back fermented fish or prawns.

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Chewing Betel nuts and Betel nut leaves is a widely enjoyed habit in Myanmar. In Singapore too, the only place one can find betel nut leaves is the mall that is popular with Myanmarese people!

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And finally the smoke! Called a cheroot the tobacco is rolled up in a leaf! Also another specialty of Bagu!

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And surprise surprise – a samosa snack seller – who has a portable stall o which he makes the yummy fried snacks, keeps them warm on a straw tray above the frying pan that is above the stove AND he speaks to me in Hindi!!

Many Indians stayed back in Rangoon and his ancestors were one of them!

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I saw several Indian women wearing saris  probably originally from Eastern U.P. or Bihar in India …. living their full-on Indian life with ghunghat sarpallu and bright orange sindoor paste in the middle of Myanmar!

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Indian ladies at the railway station

THAT is the beauty of Asia – there is no way she will conform to your expectations! She will always go beyond and surprise you and leave you gawking at the novelty of life!


Jan 2015

The post Street Culture of Myanmar – a Photo Travelogue appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.

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