Tanakha, the Myanmar beauty powder continues to fascinate me. Many Burmese use Tanakha as a protection against the sun, to make the skin smoother, or because they regard it as beautiful to paint their face with the light brown powder, which is derived from tree bark. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanaka), the tradition of using Tanakha goes more than 2000 years back in time.
Even here in Thailand it is fairly easy to see that a person comes from Myanmar, because he or she uses Tanakha. Thailand has many Myanmar guest workers, because they can be paid lower wages than the new official minimum salary of 300 THB/day. Here in the tourist resorts along the Andaman coast Myanmar guest workers are especially numerous. They work in restaurants, in shops, in hotels, and on construction sites. The border to Myanmar is not very far away and easy to cross and to find legal and probably more often, illegal work does not seem to be difficult.
Assuming that I can spot someone from Myanmar because of my fascination for Tanakha, makes it often easy for me to start a conversation. Yesterday I had long talks with two young persons from Myanmar, one working in a shop and one working in a restaurant. I started commenting on the Tanakha that they had used to decorate their faces and they were surprised that I at all knew what Tanakha is. Do you speak Burmese – is usually the question I get. But of course the only word I know is Tanakha!
The young shop assistant wanted to know all about my trip to Myanmar and told me where he comes from. I showed him proudly my encounter with Tanakha in Myanmar, all my Myanmar pictures and how I had put Tanakha in my face, instructed by two nice Myanmar ladies. We left the shop with four shirts at half of the price he had given me before our conversation started. It is really good to know what Tanakha is!
The young waitress in the restaurant, where we had our lunch, also got really interested in my Myanmar stories and upon my question where I could buy Tanakha (I really should have brought some with me from Myanmar – next time I will) she told me that I could not buy real Tanakha here (i.e. the wood/bark and the sandstone grinders), but that I could get bars of Tanakha in the nearby market. When I left the restaurant, she gave me a precious little present: her bar of Tanakha! How sweet of her!!