With so many ethnic groups present in the country, there is no single culture in Myanmar. However, the traditions of the Bamars, who make up the majority of the population, certainly dominate in those regions most visited by tourists. Fostered by royal patronage in Bagan and the courts of Mandalay, ‘Burmese’ culture became quite distinct from that of neighbouring Thailand and Yunnan, from which it drew many of its influences. In the area around Inle Lake, on the Shan Plateau, you’ll also encounter Shan, Pao-o, Intha and other minority people, with their own distinct forms of dress, cuisine and crafts.
The Burmese capital for over five centuries, Mandalay is where you’re most likely to experience Classical Burmese music, dance and puppetry. Most of our tours include visits to local theatres to see performances of Kinnara, in which dancers dress in elaborately gilded costumes similar to those worn by the Konbaung courtiers of the 18th and 19th centuries. The dancers are accompanied by musicians playing Burmese gongs, drums, harps and xylophones – a wonderfully evocative sound.
Mandalay is also the home of traditional puppetry. We’ll make sure you have an opportunity to see at least one marionette show, in which sumptuously attired figures enact stories from the Hindu and Buddhist epics.