Monday, March 10, 2014

Thanaka and Men in Tachileik, Myanmar

A well traveled American girl once argued with me, saying that the "thanaka", a cosmetic paste applied on the face of many Burmese, is exclusively for females. I disagreed because I saw several men wearing them during my Burmese travels. I even asked them about it. Why they use it: 1) cosmetic reasons - culture has them believing that the thanaka lends them more beauty the way make-up and lipsticks do; 2) they cool the face, like mints; 3) they can function as sunblock; 4) they are believed to promote smooth skin and prevent pimples. The active ingredients are courmarin and marmesin. This paste is made from ground bark and you'd easily see the plant sold in sidewalks.

The American girl wouldn't budge of course and I wasn't in the habit of convincing her. I didn't really care what she thought. You see, you can be a seasoned traveler and still be ignorant of the things around you - and it's not going to be worth anything to me. But if she saw this Tachileik boy wearing his thanaka, what would she think? Probably he's a girl? ;)

Tachileik is a border town in the Shan state of eastern Myanmar and is quite far from Yangon or its capital Naypyidaw. I crossed Tachileik from Mae Sai, an "eccentric" northern Thai town. But that's for another story.

This is the Eye in the Sky!


NRIGirl said...

Interesting! Hearing of it for the first time! Thank you!

eye in the sky said...

It is a fascinating piece of tradition from a really unique country. :)