Photo: The famous umbrellas of Pathein.


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While the Irrawaddy Delta’s major township of Pathein is certainly a fun, friendly and lively — if off-the-beaten-track — spot to visit, there aren’t many specific sights to see around here. It’s that kind of wandering around, smiling at locals, soaking up the atmosphere and sitting in tea shop kind of place, but one essential thing to do is visit one of the local parasol makers.

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You may get offered a cup of tea too if you're lucky

You may get offered a cup of tea, if you’re lucky.

While they’re yet to hit Western shopping malls, vividly coloured Pathein parasols are well regarded throughout Burma and have been made in the town for more than a century. The production is still very much small scale — it’s a cottage industry really – and several family-run operations have workshops that you may visit. They’re mostly grouped together on the bridge (west) side of Pathein, a little way before reaching the small town centre; you should see direction signs on the side of the main road.

Preparing the wood and bamboo frame

Preparing the wood and bamboo frame.

The parasols are traditionally made from paper but are now also produced using silk and cotton. Certain designs with slightly kitsch figures and flowers may be a bit too colourful for foreign tastes — they are intended for the local market — but there is a wide variation of colours, sizes and designs, many of which may appeal. Some are lacquer-coated for water-proofing and function as umbrellas while other paper ones serve merely as sun parasols or decoration.

Yes, some are a bit on the kitsch side

Yes, some are a bit on the kitsch side.

You can witness the entire fabrication process, from the bamboo and wood frames to the fabric preparation and painting, and fascinating stuff it is, too. Finished articles are on sale in the workshops but on the occasions we’ve visited there is absolutely no hard sell and we’ve been given good English explanations for the various processes too. Most workers just seem genuinely pleased to see the trickle of foreign visitors now coming through and they can be good sources for additional local info and tips too.

Far more complicated than you probably ever imagined!

Far more complicated than you probably ever imagined!

Going to see the parasol makers is a great thing to do on your way into town and the locals will be more than happy to help arrange some transport to the market afterwards if you desire.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Pathein.
 Read up on where to eat on Pathein.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Pathein.
 Read up on how to get to Pathein.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Pathein? Please read this.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

See below for more sights and activities in Pathein that are listed on

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Pathein? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Burma_myanmar.

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