www.groovekorea.com / June 2014 58 F or the past few years, Myanmar has been emerging from beneath the cloak of mystery it’s lived under for decades, isolated from the rest of the world. This seclusion has fostered a dy- namic culture unlike that of anywhere else, but things are changing quickly. Here’s why you should go say “mingalaba” to wonderful and wacky Myanmar now, before globalization subdues much of its charm. Men wear skirts The longyi, an ankle-length skirt formed by securing a sheet of cloth around the waist, is the clothing of choice — in lieu of pants or shorts — for the vast majority of Myanmar males. They’re held in place by a confounding combination of folds which, when done cor- rectly, not only secure the longyi but also form a handy pouch for your tobacco and money. woMen are slathered in tree-bark paste – even in the airports Thanaka, a beige paste smelling faintly of sandalwood, is the ubiquitous traditional makeup and sunscreen of Burmese women (and many men, too). It helps remove acne, promotes smooth skin, provides a cooling sensation and acts as a sunblock all at the same time. While basic circular and rectangu- lar cheek patterns are most common, it is not unusual to see thanaka-crafted hearts, smiley faces and more abstract patterns and designs all over people’s faces. bloody drool (but not really) Myanmar is a betel leaf-chewing country. A concoction made of areca nut and slaked lime wrapped in a betel leaf is addictive and makes you feel good — really good. But it also stains the mouth a shockingly deep blood-red color. With nearly every man and woman throughout Myanmar chewing (and spitting) betel, many streets appear to have been the setting for a knife fight in a Quentin Tarantino film. you get to sMooch your server It is not necessary to learn the Burmese word for waiter or waitress. Instead, you need to practice puckering up. The method to re- quest the attention of your server is to make a loud smooching noise, typically repeated Story and Photo by George Kalli 10 reasons to pack up and head south DESTINATIONS Edited by Shelley DeWees (shelley@groovekorea.com)