Photo: Gold leaf-making in action.

Artisan workshops and showrooms

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Known as a centre for many of Burma’s traditional artisan crafts—working in marble, stone, gold and teak wood, creating tapestries or making puppets, for instance—Mandalay’s workshops and showrooms display a huge variety of handmade artefacts. For a day of shopping and seeing how these items are created by the artists themselves, here is our list of the more impressive spaces to visit for free.

Gold leaf making
The thin, one-square-inch sheets of gold that have, over time, added an extra seven inches to the Mahamuni Buddha, are exclusively crafted in Mandalay. Many gold leaf workshops surround 36th Street, in between 77th and 79th Streets, but one in particular crosses over as a souvenir shop and has English-speaking staff. King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop staff will take you through the whole creation process. Labourers spend up to eight hours smashing a tiny bar of 24-karat pure gold down to the tracing-paper-thin gold sheets that fly away in the wind if you’re not careful. The heavy hammers fall in rhythmic thuds and the workroom is full of people sitting on the floor, cutting and packing the gold leaf. The showroom displays tiny golden figurines and other souvenirs, at prices lower than you will find elsewhere in the country. Pressure to buy is very low and credit cards are accepted.

Traditional and beautiful. Photo taken in or around Artisan workshops and showrooms, Mandalay, Burma_myanmar by Christopher Smith.

Traditional and beautiful. Photo: Christopher Smith

Wood carvings and puppets
Your one-stop shop to pick up woodcarvings of all types is Aung Nan Myanmar Handicrafts . Hundreds of finely carved figures that fit in the palm of your hand or stand as tall as a man crowd this large workshop. Buddha statues sit in contemplation next to giant screaming eagles in a range of figures that prove that imagination has no limits. One of the specialties of this workshop includes the famous Myanmar puppets in hand-made costumes. Tapestries are also created here, sown and decorated with beads by the agile fingers of artists. Credit cards are accepted and packing and shipping services are available.

Marble and stone carving
While other craft workshops offer plenty of cheap souvenirs,Kyout Sit Dan is packed with intriguing workshops that can make for great photos—of course, you can snap up small elephants and other trinkets at very good prices as well, but the Buddha statues in varying states of completion sit all over the street covered with white dust and sprinkled with traditional charm. Kyout Sit Dan sits just behind Mahamuni Paya, next to the road that connects Mandalay and Amarapura.

 Photo taken in or around Artisan workshops and showrooms, Mandalay, Burma_myanmar by Christopher Smith.

Photo: Christopher Smith

King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop: 36th Street, between 78th and 79th; T: (02) 32135, (094) 714 3078; open daily 09:00–18:00.
Aung Nan Myanmar Handicrafts: 97-99 Sagaing Rd; T: (02) 70145, (09) 201 5813; open daily 08:00–20:00.
Kyauk Sit Dan: Between 85th and Mahamuni Paya.

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