Travel Diaries – Myanmar
Myanmar (formally Burma) is a gorgeous country glazed with heritage and history. It is a popular tourist destination offering a unique cultural experience. The golden hues of the sun that shine down on the rustic temples and mountains only enhance the beauty of this southeast Asian country that borders India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and China.
While the capital city of Myanmar, Yangon is a busy town that attracts a lot of trade with semi-precious stones and building materials, the other towns such as Bagan and Mandalay are more popular with tourists. For my trip this time, I decided to take the off-beaten path. I had heard of this unique cultural practice that exists only in the Chin state of Myanmar, and as a photographer, I was very intrigued.
The Mindat tribe there is famous for women who tattoo their entire faces. After a 10-hour drive from Bagan with long scenic winding roads, I finally reached the small hilly town. With clouds reaching low enough to embrace the mountains and the quiet and peaceful sunset, I felt welcomed after a long journey. The next day I went to visit a small village close by and was awestruck seeing the famous tattooed women of Myanmar.
Folklore from the tribe suggests that the Mindat tribal women were made to tattoo their faces to make themselves appear ugly. Therefore discouraging various outsiders, from Burmese Kings to British Colonialists, from stealing their women. However other tales claim that the
tradition was used to make the Mindat women more beautiful and desirable to enable them to find a rich husband. Some folklore tales also suggest that the tattoos were used as a method to distinguish the Mindat clan’s women from the other tribes in case they were kidnapped. A
painful process, it would take hours to tattoo a face depending on how many breaks a woman needed to take.
However, this tradition is now obscure and that’s why you only see the older women of the village with these tattoos. Spending some time there, I can tell you that the people of Chin are some of the friendliest you will come across in Myanmar.
Myanmar has so much to offer from the Pagodas, river cruises, night markets, and other archeological interests. Exploring the slightly unknown, and less commercial places added more to my experience. As a photographer, it was a treat for me to be able to capture not just the country, but also the essence of the people who make it the place it is.