Many different arts, crafts and antiques are available throughout Myanmar. Handcrafted lacquerware, mostly produced in Bagan, comes in all shapes and sizes. Embroidered cottons and wood carvings also make good souvenirs. Myanmar is of course renowned for its precious stones, particularly rubies. You should only buy from government licensed shops, which must issue an official receipt.
The most representative craft of Myanmar, lacquerware comes in many forms: plain red, black and gold, etched with colour-filled designs, or gilded and embellished with mirror inlays and fake gems. The items range from bracelets to placemats to furniture.
Many galleries and shops offer exquisite watercolours, a medium in which the local artists excel. There are many galleries in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan, well worth an afternoon’s browsing.
The marionette theatre is a grand tradition of Myanmar culture, with puppets once bearing bad news to the kings that human messengers dared not utter. Many are available in all sizes, gorgeously dressed in faux gems and silks.
Gems and jewellery
With prices to suit all budgets, jade, rubies, sapphires and pearls of all colours and sizes are available. Silver and golden pearls are pricey but worthwhile investments. Twice a year there are gem emporiums where buyers from around the world compete by auction.
Hand-woven cottons and silks are plentiful and are available in all colours of the spectrum. Silk pieces woven with 100 or more shuttles, which create intricate patterns, are unique to Myanmar. Fabrics and exotic blankets hand-woven by ethnic hill tribes are also available.
Boxes and artefacts of silver are hammered by hand. Traditional items include small boxes in filigree or relief work, showing traditional motifs, mythical creatures or scenes from classic religious stories.