myanmar

Public water dispenser in Yangon

The usual water dispenser that we know of looks as such…

A regular water cooler
However in Myanmar, water sanitation is still quite a problem. Hence, access to drinking water is limited. So, how do the community overcome this? Well, water jugs are commonly found along the streets.
Credits: Dr. Günther Eichhorn
Some are in proper housing as above.. but there are others that are simply placed on racks in the open.
Credits: Monkey Puzzle
Such jugs was one of the first few things that got my attention when I arrived, while on the cab ride from the airport to my hotel. Most that I observed were placed in front of buildings or houses. Initially, I thought that it was part of a culture or Buddhist ritual (had this idea because in Chinese fengshui, water is seen as good luck). I also thought that perhaps it was meant for cleaning the feet before stepping into the house.
However, I also saw some along the streets with no other buildings in sight, or under the tree, away from the houses.
Eventually, I learnt from the locals that these jugs function as public water dispenser. The jugs are always covered to prevention contamination and there will be a cup or two for you to scoop out the water to drink. I was told the water is safe for consumption but I’m really not sure about the source of water (rain water? well water? bottled water??), hence I did not drink from it. I was also concerned about the hygiene of the cup, but from my observations, the locals simply gulped it down, without the lips touching the cup.
I understood from the locals that the water is accessible to anyone and that it will be refilled when it’s empty. However, I’m really not sure how that works. Like, are there officials making rounds every few weeks to refill the jugs? or residents are assigned to check on some jugs regularly?? I have no idea…
Personally, I feel that this act of placing jugs of water is not just another unique culture of Myanmar, but also speaks volume of the Burmese community. By ensuring accessibility of drinking water to the public, it shows the warmth and kind hospitality of the Burmese community. Through this, it is nice to see that community comes together to look out and provide for each other. The strong sense of community is really heartwarming and it is something that we can reflect on.
Another learning point from this is equality for all. Anyone can drink water from those jugs… it doesn’t matter if you’re a fisherman, student or businessman. Nothing matters. Anyone and everyone is entitled to it. Regardless of age, class/rank, religion etc, anyone can drink from that jug.
Simple water jugs, but a few learning points to reflect on 😉

Street peddlers of Yangon

Other than street food… there are quite a few other interesting street peddlers in the heart of Yangon.

 

 

1. Betel nut
It’s basically areca nuts and tobacco, wrapped in a lime-coated betel leaf.

 

2. Phone services
Mobile phones are still not widely used, so… public phones are still commonly found. But, it’s not the typical coin pay phone kind. It’s just like the phone you have at home or work, just that it’s on the street.
I was curious why they were chatting over a table that was so randomly placed along the walkway. The phone on the table caught my attention, but I was still puzzled about it. When I saw more of it, then it hit me that.. ahh, it’s a phone booth.

 

Nope, these phones aren’t for sale.
But, if you want some privacy, head down to any of this booth.

I saw quite a few of such booths and was curious about it. It took me a great deal of courage to peek into one. I timidly stepped into one and craned my next to look around… “Cehhh.. it’s just a phone booth.”.

3. “Hair salon”

To pick out head lice…
4. Fortune telling services
Most of the fortune tellers do it by palm reading based on the posters I saw.
5. Pedicure/ manicure
Even guys need to pamper themselves yeah..
6. Lottery booth

Sarong: Burmese daily wear

Sarong is their daily wear…

Check out the ladies behind me in beautiful sarong…
Ok, fine… lemme crop out my annoying face….
There you go… Happy ladies in sarong
They wear it to school…
for grocery shopping…
and even for dating 😉
The problem with sarong is that it may come loose and need adjustment, especially if there had been too much movement. But, don’t worry.., they have no qualms about adjusting it in public places.

 

Erm, I may seem like a pervert getting such photos, but let put it this way, that I had cultural shock that I had to take a photo. Ok, that sound even weird.. in a state of shock but yet my hands were quick enough to get a snapshot of it. Forget about it, lets just not pursue why I had taken those photos, yeah?
Moving on…
Another problem is that it is without pocket, but hey… one can always do some life-hack to get around that problem 😉
Even without pocket, with a little bit of creativity, you can still keep your wallet and phone on you.

Anyway, had an interesting travelling snippet whilst looking around to buy sarong.

While on the way to Bago, the driver had a quick pit stop for toilet break, refuel and smoke and coffee break for him. There was time to spare, so, I walked over to the nearby weekend market. As I walked through it, I came across a stall that sells sarong.

It’s a relatively undeveloped town, so the stall owner doesn’t speak English and no passerby could translate for me. I had relied on passerby when I have to overcome language barrier in the main city. The shop owner, hand-signed to me the number 1 and 5, which I assumed as 15 USD per piece (about 15,000 kyat). Wanting to ask for discount if I buy more, I wrote on my notepad…

1 —> 15, 000
3 –> 30, 000

Thank god she can read English numbers because a few days before, the locals that I met don’t understand English numbers.

Anyway…. showed the lady what I’m bargaining for and she gasped. She looked so shocked that I thought she wasn’t happy with the discount I asked for. Before I could bargain to something else agreeable, she took my pen and cancelled the last zero. So, apparently a sarong costs only 1,500 kyat (about 2USD).

She must have thought I was mad to think it was
15,000kyat per piece 😂

Thanaka – Burmese beauty secret

Burmese ladies are known for the the pale yellow paste smeared on their face. Almost every female applies them daily…

the elderly…

 

young ladies..

 

you’re never too young for it 😉
 Even for those working in office, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to snap a photo of those ladies I saw working at the post office.

That yellow paste is Thanaka, a natural beauty product. It is made from ground bark of Thanaka tree, commonly found in Central Myanmar. Mature trees (about 35 years old) are cut into smaller pieces and sold. Housewives then grind the bark cuttings into powder form and store them for future use.

As the saying goes, when in Rome, do what the Romans do, I knew that I definitely have to try it.

My local host applying the hand-made Thanaka for me.

 

The family even packed a small amount for me.

One of the best souvenirs is hand-made products, especially an item that is culturally distinctive to the country.

Add tiny amount to the cap and add a few drops of water to get a paste-like texture. I still apply it once in awhile, but not when I’m outdoor though. I use them mostly when I’m lazing at home the whole day.

From the family, I learnt that Thanaka is a cooling agent and good protection from the sun. So, after having Thanaka applied on my face, I’m ready for some outdoor adventure…

A ride on the bike…
and on the boat..
After a day wearing it, I have to agree that it is quite cooling on the face. It also feels like it tighten the pores, similar sensation as when mud pack applied on face. It also has a slight fragrance, which I kinda like. After I returned from my trip, I learnt that there are quite a few benefits, some similar to what the local explained to me. It’s a natural SPF, tightens pores, cools skin and regulates sebum production.

I guess this centuries-old beauty practice will still be carried on given that it works. I know for sure I’ll definitely continue using it. Oh, and I’m not worried if I run out of the Thanaka powder because they do sell it commercially, even in Singapore too.

So, my friends… don’t be surprised if you see me with yellow paste on my face 😉