I WAS in Myanmar and Thailand last week. Apart from admiring grand temples and food tripping on pad thai and sticky rice, my attention was also on beauty in each culture.
Everywhere we went in Myanmar, men and women, the young and the old alike, had this cream plastered on their faces. It turned out to be sandalwood paste, which the locals explained was used as sunscreen and for keeping pores small. A waitress at a restaurant in Nyaungshwe was sweet enough to apply some on my and my friend’s faces because we were so curious what it was. The sandalwood paste comes in a tub and is mixed with a little water before being brushed on the face with a plastic brush. In Mandalay, we saw some little girls who had used leaves to stamp a pretty design of the cream on their faces.
At Inle Lake, we got to meet the long-necked women of the Padaung tribe, who continue the tradition of wearing brass coils to elongate their necks. What started out as a legend that the brass was to protect the neck from tiger bites now no longer really has a purpose except for beauty and cultural identity. Girls start wearing the coils as early as five years of age, and add more as they get older.
In modern, busy Bangkok, we saw a number of women who were very glammed up, sporting full eye makeup, including false lashes, in the morning. I’m not sure if they were models off to a shoot, but there were several of them around the mall and on the train.
I also noticed that several girls were wearing a sheer apricot shadow blended out quite far out around their eyes. I guess it must be a trend over there, but I didn’t get to ask.
As with food, art and architecture, beauty is a cultural facet and I just find it interesting how the definition of beauty varies from place to place.