Why to Meet Myanmar Tattooed Women?
Myanmar known as one of the untouched country in Asia will leave you speechless for many reasons. With unaltered traditions, alive culture and interesting history and beliefs, Myanmar manages to keep its authenticity despite fairly recently opening to tourism. Being a professional travel photographer as well as travel photography guide, I never tired of getting off to find the beautiful landscapes and remote villages. A journey to the remote village of the Myanmar Tattooed Women was believed to be the most memorable and joyful. Off course , there are some remote places where we can find chin women with tattooed face in Chin state. To me , my suggestion to do Myanmar Private Photo Trip to Tattooed Women is to visit Mindat ” Tiny Town ” located in southern part of Chin state , Myanmar .
Where is Mindat to find a vanishing face ?
Mindat is a small town in the Chin province of Myanmar (also known as Burma) in Southeast Asia. It’s west of Mandalay and nestled on the side of a mountain at an altitude of 1500 meters. Mindat is becoming popular with travelers due to it’s women, who sport full face tattoos, a tribal tradition that has put Mindat firmly on the map when it comes to must visit tourist destinations in Myanmar.This tiny town was only recently opened to tourists in the last few years by the Myanmar government. If you’re considering a visit then be aware that Mindat is really hard to get to. Almost 200 km from Bagan, an ancient city in central Myanmar, it can take between 6 to 12 hours to reach on the road via Pakkhoku.
Visiting Chin state in Myanmar is worth the journey for the atmospheric scenery and hiking around Mount Victoria but the main reason most travelers visit the area is to meet during Myanmar Private Photo Trip and photograph Mindat’s famous tribal women and see their traditional full face tattoos that are worn with pride and honor, in person.
The Chin people are believed to have originally descended from Mongolia. Although isolated and difficult to get to, the Chin State has become renowned because of the local women and their remarkable face tattoos.
Intricate, black ink designs adorn the women of this community, covering their face in its entirety.
According to legend, the Burmese King dating back to 11 century ,stumbled across the Chin State women and became mesmerized by their beauty. As the story goes, the King kidnapped one of the women to take as his bride. In an effort to protect their daughters, the mothers began tattooing their faces to make them “unattractive” to the King, should he return.
Another version of the legend says that the King’s kidnapped bride managed to escape her royal captor by cutting her face to disguise herself on the trek back home. To honor her, future women of the tribe started tattooing the same marks on their own faces. While the stories behind the Chin State women’s tattoos are enchanting, another simple explanation attributes the face tattoos to tribe distinction. Today there are 60 different clans that make up the Chin minority. Of these various clans, it is the M’uun women whose tattoos prove most recognizable due to their P” or “D” shapes on their faces and “Y” symbols on their foreheads. Although these women have different stories about how the face tattoo tradition began, they all agree on one thing: it hurt.
Yes, funny that, but anyway today the tradition is getting lost. Before, every villages had their own tattoo patterns and skills, but it is all forbidden now. This tradition was pretty offensive to women’s rights, you know! And also very painful. Today, women can be beautiful again in the Chin province!
How They Did the Tattoos
The ink and needles used for the Chin State women’s tattoos are all derived from nature. The tattoos use leaves for color, soot as a disinfectant, and grass shoots as a natural bandage for healing. The women use thorns from cane plants as the tattoo needle, then heat the bark from pine trees and capture the smoke in a mud pot, mixed with various leaves, to create the ink. The tattoo process itself, all depends on each girl’s pain threshold and could last several days, followed by several days for healing.
The style of the tattoos vary depending on the woman’s clan. Most of the women living in the area come from the Muun, Dai or Kaang clans, but it is estimated that there are around 60 different clans in the area. Muun women( Shown above )describe the symbolism of their tattoos, saying that the semi-circles of their cheeks represent the moon, the lines on the nose and chin the rays of the sun, and the dots the stars.
Why the tradition of tattooing is fading away ?
A lot of travelers visiting the villages ask the guide about the causes of the tradition’s decline. I have heard and read about a couple of explanations:
- Forgotten knowledge: each village used to have an artist familiar with the art of face tattoos. Over time as the artists died, they have not passed this knowledge to the next generation
- Government ban: In 60’s and early 70’ the government made the practice illegal
- Change of attitude towards tattoos: getting a tattoo was previously an integral part of growing up. Women used to get a tattoo before marriage. There was a also lot of environmental pressure from parents and peers to get a face tattoo
It is probably a combination of all three factors that contributed to the decline of this unique tradition. Much like the story of how it all began, many of the Chin State women tell me they feel conflicted about how their tradition will end. Some believe the face tattoo practice should continue, while others believe the women of today should be allowed to decide. The Chin State women of today are the last of the face tattoo tradition. Once they are gone, the tradition and history of Chin State tattoos will go with them.
Tourists and Travelers Visiting Mindat
Many of the local Mindat women, although perplexed by the interest in their tattoos, welcome the increased tourism to the area. There is a hope that the money that tourism brings in will support local schools, where there are plans to teach the local Chin language alongside Burmese.
Also note, if you’re planning to travel to Mindat, that there is no place to get local currency (no ATMS) and internet access is extremely limited. Don’t expect to be able to check your emails while here because you are seriously off-the-grid. So make sure you plan in advance and bring everything you will need with you.
When it comes to accommodation in Mindat and the surrounding villages, don’t expect luxury but there are some clean and small hotel and local guest houses . On the bright side, the views are amazing and the people are truly unforgettable!
If you are thinking of doing Myanmar Private Photo Trip to TATTOOED WOMEN in Chin State , We are quite confident and well experienced in making your dream come true .