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Christmas & Other Stories

Perhaps unexpectedly for a majority Buddhist country, Myanmar embraces Christmas with gusto. Yangon’s Bogyoke Road Christmas Lights give Oxford Street a run for its money, and hotels and shopping malls have without exception decked the halls with clamouring festive cheer.   Yangon’s St Mary’s Cathedral doesn’t hold back either, and legitimately so as a key meeting point on the map for Myanmar’s three million Christians.  Beyond the secular neon lights and scary mechanised Father Christmases is a devoted Christian community, who starting on the 1st December, their “Sweet December”, celebrate Christmas in much the same way as we do, with church and carols (the same ones!) and food and family.  In fact, Christmas aside, Burma excels at Festivals. With around...

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Burmese Bites

Burmese food has a bit of a Marmite effect on tourists; some can't get enough, others just can't get it... But with a little bit of homework, and some help with pronunciation, it's possible to eat like a Burmese king and enjoy it.Let's start with the most famous, and the most bizarre to a foreigner: Lahpet Thoke, or Tea Leaf Salad.

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Relics of Rangoon

Rangoon, now called Yangon, has had a hell of a ride. Just a little fishing village until the late 18th Century, it grew into one of the largest ports in the world by the 1940s.   Best of British Under the Brits, who had characteristically taken charge in the mid-19th Century, some of the city’s most iconic sculptures were built.  Among them is the magnificent Secretariat building, which served as Government buildings until 2005. The Spell of Time A combination of damage during the war, and neglect under the junta government, has cast a rather magical spell on the city. The buildings which survive have been on pause for 60 years, preserved except for the Banyan trees which now inhabit...

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Deep Dive into Dye

Don’t freak out, but some of our fabrics are made with banana. Yup – mashed banana skins. When mixed with lemon leaves, palm sugar and a little bit of burnt maize ash, they create the right pH to allow the Indigo plant release the right enzymes to create its dreamy blue hue. In fact, natural dyes are made from all sorts of things. Our cushions, throws and jackets may contain traces of fresh indigo leaves (blue), teak leaves (pale pink and grey), onion skins (burnt orange), rose madder root (deep pink), apple leaves (pale green), black beans (dark green), and even crushed insects called cochineal (crimson and red). This is an ancient process which has been honed since the Neolithic...

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From the Chin down

Burma is a colourful place, particularly in the clothes department. There’s no concept of “The New Black” round here; black was never in. Bright and beautiful is the norm across all 135 of Myanmar’s diverse ethnic groups, which, as well as having distinct traditions and dialects, have their own tribal textiles and outfits.  That’s a helluva lot of textiles. While jeans and t-shirts are undoubtedly on the up, on tribal national days, weddings and special occasions everybody proudly dons their identifying uniform. Let’s have a look at the outfits of the Chin Tribe, our “mother” tribe (Kalinko coming from Ka-Lin-Kaw, a Chin sub-group). We’ll start from the chin down…  If you’re in Northern Chin State, you may find a head-hunter...

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