RT special: Pomelo Yangon
It’s no secret, most guide books will recommend a stop at the impressive Bogyoke Market, a ginormous covered market, home to an impressive range of Burmese souvenirs ranging from paper parasols to wooden puppets. In keeping with Yangon’s constant hustle and bustle, it’s also a great way to appreciate everyday local life, with frantic shoppers and busy market vendors creating a fun-to-watch commotion. But what if you are the type of traveller that appreciates a quieter, slightly more low-key experience? Chances are, Bogyoke Market is not for you!
As an alternative, Tour Mandalay are pleased to introduce Pomelo Yangon, a small quality, handmade craft shop that works closely with marginalized producers, small family businesses, community groups and individuals. Located on Thein Pyu Road (just off Strand Road), a stop here works well when combined with a colonial downtown walking tour.
Located a few doors down from Monsoon, one of Yangon’s most popular eateries, the ground floor entrance to Pomelo is not immediately obvious. Be sure to keep your eyes open for a large white sign-board with Pomelo’s bright round logo and follow the well-restored wooden staircase upwards.
As soon as you step through the door into your eyes are greeted with a colourful range of arts and crafts, most of which have been designed in a traditional style. Whilst the range is nowhere near as extensive as what’s on offer in nearby Bogyoke Market, we like to think that Pomelo Yangon have narrowed down their selection to the items that matter.
The items that matter include beautifully designed, handmade woven longyis, recycled notebooks, papier-mâché painted elephants, greeting cards, bracelets, traditional wooden furniture and much, much more. Rather than sticking with the same design that you will find everywhere else, Pomelo Yangon work closely with their suppliers to encourage expression and artistic freedom. This helps to explain why some of the styles you will are a bit more contemporary in nature.
Some of Pomelo’s producers include HIV sufferers, street youths, the mentally and physically disabled, and small family businesses fighting poverty. Rather than creating dependency on aid, Pomelo have created a fair trade market place that targets tourists and international customers, opening opportunities for them to improve their social and economic situation. With this in mind, it is safe to say that any purchase made at Pomelo, has the potential to make a real difference to some of Yangon’s most impoverished communities.
This is going to sound controversial, but for anyone looking for a souvenir shopping experience without the crowds, be sure to drop Bogyoke Market from your itinerary and pay a visit to Pomelo instead. You won’t pay over the odds for anything either!
Address: 89 Thein Pyu Road, Yangon (open daily from 10am to 10pm)