The Cheroot plant (Cordia dicotoma) grows only in areas at more than 2000 ft above sea level. There are two different types of cheroots. One is a wild plant that grows in the forest while the second one is cultivated and used for cigar making.
The branches of the plants are cut each year to produce new shoots for the next growing season. Each plant can reach an age of about 50 years. During the period from July to August, the leafs are harvested and the hard parts of the leafs removed. Then the leaf are roasted in a flat metal pan on a wood-fired several meter long stove. Between 40 and 50 leafs are placed in a circle on the metal pan and covered first by a cotton tissue before they are covered by two layers of a flat rounded sandbag to provide enough pressure during the roasting. The roasting process takes about 30 minutes.
After cooling, the leafs are placed in big bamboo baskets and transported to cigar factories in Nyaung Shwe and Taunggyi where they are rolled into cigars. The factories sell the cigars throughout the whole country.
Bamboo is a versatile material. It grows everywhere in the region and is used for building houses, tools, baskets and other handicraft.
In former times every Pa-O man did bamboo weaving and basket making for their own use. However, nowadays the knowledge of basket making is not transferred to the younger generations anymore and this skill is slowly disappearing. However, tourists coming to the villages and showing interested in this craftsmanship help to revive the tradition.
Pa-O people usually wear their own traditional dresses which includes hanging a bag over their shoulders. This can be partricularly seen when they are travelling to the market and during ceremonial occasions.
Therefore the bag is one of their essential accessories. Beautifully designed bags in different sizes and colors can be found throughout the region. In former times the bags were made of cotton, which was grown at their own farms. Nowadays the wool threat is imported from neighboring countries. Thus the bag can be woven from cotton or wool.
Usually in a village some of the Pa-O women can weave bags and other clothing. Farming is the first priority work for their income, whereas weaving bags is done in their spare time at home. Although it is a minor occupation, it can be an additional income for their families. The traditional bag weaving can be observed in the CITs of the Pa-O region.
The Pa-O people living on mountain ranges far from towns and do not have the a lot of opportunities to eat factory made snacks. Therefore they have developed a wide range of traditional snacks.
Some of the most famous traditional snacks are:
The “sugar cake” is known as molasses. It is produced from the sugar cane. The sugar cane is cultivated allover the Pa-O region at the foot of the mountain ranges. It is planted before the rainy season and harvested from February to May.
When the time comes for harvesting, they first cut the stem of the sugar cane and grind it into a liquid the same day. Otherwise they risk that the sugar cane juice inside the stem is reduced by the heat and air. Some use machines for grinding whereas others who cannot afford to buy machines are using buffalos being the strongest animal.
After that, the juice of the sugar cane is inserted into big pans, which are on a stove giving heat from fire wood for boiling until the liquid reaches a viscous state. Then it is poured into a bamboo mat for cooling. After the viscous liquid gets cool, it changes into a solid state. Then it is cut into pieces like sweet cake or made it into candy or sugar.
This sugar cake is used for eating as sweets, fermenting rice for making rise wine (sakae), rum distilling, sweetening eatable fruits and vegetable. It is also used for sweetening fruit juice, coffee and tea. The grinded stem of sugar cane is used as cigar filters and as fire wood. The leaves of the sugar cane can be to make roof thatching material.
The sugar cane plantation and its production are one of the main supplementary income earners for the people from the Pa-O region. Such kind of sugar cake production process can be seen in some of the Pa-O areas.
In some areas local Green Tea making is a supplementary income earner for the Pa-O people, while in other areas tea is only produced for home consumption. The quality of the tea is better from areas in higher altitudes. The tea leaves are harvested all year round.
The tea leaves are usually picked in the rainy season. The leaves are collected at the home and roasted the same day in a big iron pan with a little bit of moist. After approximately 20 minutes the leaves become softer and are put in small plies on a bamboo mat and are than kneaded on the mat to reduce the moist. Once sufficiently dry the leaves are spread out on the mat. When the leaves are completely dry they are kept in a plastic bag or brought to the market for sale.
Lacker Production, Preparation of Traditional Thatching, Traditional Drum Making, Traditional Gong and Musical Instrument Making, Straw Hat Making, Traditional Herbal Medicine
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