Traditional handcraft prospers in Bagan

Handcraft lacquerware producers in the ancient city of Bagan in central Burma are seeing good business this year amid an influx of foreign tourists and the introduction of international credit card payment systems.

Ohnmar, manager at Tun Lacquerware Enterprise, said the sale of handcrafted products has doubled from last year, as more tourists are visiting the country.

“Now tourists are buying more souvenirs”, she said. “In the past, they’d come with the cards and we didn’t understand how they work. As Burmese banks are now connected to international networks, allowing payment with credit cards such as Master and Visa cards, our sales are getting better this year.”

Foreign tourists are very interested in buying the traditional products. Aye Aye Myint is a third-generation lacquerware producer and runs a shop at the Ananda Pagoda.

“The locals aren’t buying much, but we get a lot of tourists from Italy and Germany.”

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Aung Lwin, a craftsman at Tun Lacquerware Enterprise, says it takes about six months to make a single piece. He’s happy to see the business flourish.

“Now business is good as Bagan is seeing more visitors and I am delighted”, he said. “Seeing something that I created being valued by the tourists makes me happy, as I always try to be different from other makers.”

The ancient capital of the Kingdom of Pagan is the seat of Burma’s famed lacquerware industry, which is expected to grow as Bagan rises on Burma’s tourism horizon.

Last week, a summit of ASEAN Foreign Ministers drew crowds of international leaders and journalists to the as yet undeveloped destination.

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