Shopping is still a subdued affair in Myanmar where there are no glittery malls or international luxury brands. Visitors will find that most shopping will be in the form of strolling around the cities or towns, at small independent boutiques or the local markets. Myanmar offers beautiful hand-woven textiles made of cotton and silk, which are primarily available from the markets where bargaining is a must. Yangon offers the best shopping in Myanmar and one place to check out are the stalls along the Shwedagon Pagoda stairs leading up to the entrance.
In Yangon, it is the Bogyoke Market where shoppers can hone their negotiating skills. In Mandalay, the largest market is Zaycho, which is considered to be one of the oldest in Myanmar. Everything is sold here, from items imported from Thailand to China to locally made handicrafts.
Another popular souvenir is Burmese lacquer. Look at a lot before purchasing to get familiar with the quality, price and types available. The quality varies greatly and price does not necessarily reflect quality. Visitors should know that lacquer from Myanmar is generally made with bamboo on the inside, so it tends to be much more fragile than other wares from Japan or Vietnam.
Myanmar does mine a lot of precious gems and stones, which are primarily sold to international buyers for export. Good buys include jade, rubies and sapphires. However, visitors are recommended not to buy any precious stones or jewelry from markets or street vendors, as most of these are fake. The old rule of thumb still applies, "if it’s too good to be true, it probably is." The only place where visitors are guaranteed to get real gems is at the Gem Emporium in Yangon. However, if authenticity is not a concern and the price is right, there is nothing wrong with a little retail therapy. There is also an ethical consideration, since conditions in these state owned mines often fall short of basic labor or human rights.