Smiling faces: People from Myanmar

With over 130 nationalities living in the land, Myanmar has a wealth of different cultures that are the subject of coffee table books. Most of the nationalities live in the mountains surrounding the central plains, many in villages reached by hours of walking through jungles and deep valleys. Here we can only give credit to a few.

Akha WomanThe Akha live in the Northeast and as with most ethnic tribes the men are dressed simply in dark blue jackets and wide-bottomed trousers that tie at the waist, but the women are gorgeously costumed in intricately embroidered leggings, jackets and elaborate silver jewellery. Akha ladies look as if dressed for the most formal of ceremonies even when they are just off to work in the fields.

The Chin live in the Northwest border areas or further south in the Rakhine State. Some of the women there tattoo their faces completely in tasteful designs. The ritual is entirely voluntary and as the practise is dying out, not many young women are seen with tattooed faces. Their hand woven cotton and silk in traditional designs and colors are collectors' items.

At the very northern tip of the country is the land of the Kachin, a place rich with jade mines, ice-capped mountains, rare flora and fauna, white-water rivers, thick virgin forests and elephant camps. The area is and explorer's paradise and offers unending thrills to the adventurous. The Kachin celebrate harvest, New Years, weddings and other ceremonies with a Manaw Festival. To the thumping of the long drum carved from a single teak tree and led by men wearing plumed hats brandishing silver swords, the lines of dancers weave in and out like sinuous serpents.

The Lisu prefer to live in remote hilltops and their communities are found in bothChin Woman Kachin and Shan States. T women's long skirts are covered in front with a hanging rectangular embroidered cloth; their jackets are sewn with silver coins and rows of beadwork. The Lisu of other regions wear full gathered skirts instead of sarongs, with long sleeved jackets and beaded caps. Strings of beads and shells are draped across the bosom and under one arm.

If males of other nationalities fade in comparison to their wives, the men of the Naga race parade like peacocks. The many sub-tribes of the Naga come out in all their finery at their annual New Year festival in January, a gathering of the clans. They strut into town decked out in feathers and beaks of hornbill, claws and teeth of bear and tiger, tusks of boar and elephant, fur of bear, monkey and mountain goat, and shells brought over the mountains from seas they have never seen.

Pa O womanAlso known as Taung Thu, the Pa O live in the Southern Shan State and are very diligent farmers who grow the best garlic in the country. Hard working and prosperous, their needs are simple and their lifestyle Spartan, and it is reflected in their costume: the women wear long tunics and jackets of dark blue in good woolen materials and the only touch of color is the bright woven scarves or towels casually and elegantly draped around their heads.

The Padaung live in both the Shan and Kayah States. If they so wish the women's necks are circled with rings of brass. The brass is kept well polished and additional decorative touches are strings of gold beads and tassels hanging from under her chin or either side of her face.

The Rawang people are one of the six Kachin sub tribes, who inhabit the most northerly and remote valleys of Myanmar. Their chiefs are known by woven-cane hats decorated with boar's tusks, with a silver-handled sword in a wooden scabbard tucked under their arms.

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