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The company has also sought to introduce its wines to foreign markets. "Last year, we were one of two Myanmar companies chosen to participate in an ASEAN exhibition in South Korea and I think we've got a good chance of being selected this year to go to Japan," Mr Raynal says. The difficulties of making wine in the tropics appear to be a thing of the past, with wineries now relatively widespread in Thailand and India. There's even a rival establishment, Aythaya Wines, not far up the road from Nyaungshwe to Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, that professes to be Myanmar's first internationalstandard winery. Nonetheless, the climate does have a significant impact on the production cycle, Mr Raynal says. "There's no real winter, so no dormancy period, and there's two grape cycles a year. We only keep the grapes grown during the dry season, which are harvested in February," he says. The grapes that grow in rainy season don't receive enough sunlight and are thrown away. "We tried to make wine with them one year as a test, but it wasn't good enough, and we found it reduced the quality of the next batch." With almost 75 hectares

in total and state-of-the-art winemaking facilities, there appears to be just one thing holding Red Mountain back: an almost non-existent local market. The cavernous winery is lined with steel tanks, but not all are full. Some contain wine from 2010, while others hold wine from 2009 that is just waiting to be bottled. The problem, Mr Raynal says, is one of economics. "This is a very big investment. We've got equipment imported from Italy, and the vines have come from France and Spain. But the market in Myanmar is still quite small. Wine is relatively expensive; most people here can't afford it." Nevertheless, Mr Raynal says production is expected to expand in 2011 from 70,000 bottles last year, with higher yield from the maturing red vines at the Myay Phyu site. Partly, the winery is encouraged by the improving state of Myanmar's tourism industry. After a series of setbacks in 2007 and 2008, arrival figures have bounced back considerably and the country welcomed more than 200,000 tourists in 2009. Inle Lake, along with Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan, is considered one of the country's "big four" attractions, and perhaps the most reliant on international travellers. After taking a boat on the lake, those not interested in trekking to nearby ethnic villages are often left with little to do, and the winery is open daily to curious travellers.

"

Last year, we were one of two Myanmar companies chosen to participate in an ASEAN exhibition in South Korea and I think we've got a good chance of being selected this year to go to Japan.

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Western travellers in particular want to try local wine at least once while they are here. They usually choose us over a wine from Bordeaux or Australia because they can drink those any time at home.

"The past few years there have been very few tourists but the situation started to improve last year," Mr Raynal says. "It's a really strong market for us because Western travellers in particular want to try local wine at least once while they are here. They usually choose us over a wine from Bordeaux or Australia because they can drink those any time at home."

Ultimately though, Mr Raynal says, the winery's future lies with local consumers rather than the unpredictable tourist trade. "If you look at most developing countries, when the economy picks up, people shift from beer and whiskey to wine. It's happening in China and India and we expect it to happen in Myanmar too."

Passengers referring to this ad will be eligible for free transportation and 10% discount on any purchase.

No. 527 New University Avenue, Bahan Township, Yangon 11201, Myanmar. Tel: + 95 1 549 612 Fax: + 95 1 545 770 E-mail: [email protected] Web: www.manawmayagems.com

Mondays to Saturdays 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, by appointment only on Sundays and Public holidays.

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Traditional medicine: East beats West

Words by Kyle Sherer

I

n 1985, U Hla Myint was confronted with a problem. His 22-year-old daughter, Ma Htay Htay, was suffering badly from menstrual pains. But instead of seeking conventional treatment, U Hla Myint hit the books and studied traditional medicine. "I wanted to cure my daughter," recalls U Hla Myint, now 78. Motherless from just one month of age ­ and fatherless from 14 ­ U Hla Myint had worked a variety of jobs, from hauling bunches of bananas for two kyats an hour in his native village near Zalun township, Ayeyarwady Region, to setting type at the Yan Naing Printing House in Yangon. But before 1985, he'd never been a professional medicine man. Traditional medicine still commands respect in Myanmar. On the streets of Yangon, vendors sell roots for treating acne and seeds to cure cancer. Honeys that promise to act as everything from memory aids to aphrodisiacs are sold on pharmacy shelves next to packets of paracetamol. Anti-malarial wine is available in bottle stores, and many of Yangon's prominent politicians and captains of industry often treat themselves to ­ and with ­ acupuncture therapy.

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And roughly a century ago, the holy grail of Asian traditional medicine ­ Tiger Balm ­ was developed in Yangon. Concocted by a Chinese herbalist who lived near Kandawgyi Lake, the original Tiger Balm factory operated on the site where the Chatrium Hotel now sits. According to Ministry of Health training books, traditional medication is based on four principles: Dasana naya (teaching of the Buddha); Bayisa naya (anatomy); Nakata naya (astrology); and Vizadaya naya (the mundane world and supra mundane world). However, U Hla Myint was not unacquainted with the world of traditional medicine when he decided to enter the field to help his daughter. "I have been familiar with traditional medicine since I was a little boy," he says. "My great grandfather was a master healer. He could sense patients' pain from afar. He was famous for healing stroke victims, and treating people with leprosy for their pain. They called him `the healer from the heavens'. "I have been studying traditional medicine my whole life. I self-studied by reading books and treatises, and then took three 12-week courses in 1978." The result of his studying was Kathy Pan ­ a homemade tablet with 22 ingredients sourced from native barks, plants and weeds. He gave it to his daughter and it helped alleviate her pain. But U Hla Myint didn't stop there. "After she was better, I wanted to share the solution with my friends," he says. And after two years of experimentation,

which saw the product tested and changed, and feedback was given by trusted friends, U Hla Myint formed the Kathy Pan medicine company and began to distribute his products. News spread slowly at first, via word of mouth, and production was limited by the company's hand-crank tablet press, but the medicine grew in popularity. "We started in 1987 with hand-made tablets. By 1994, advertising made [Kathy Pan] more and more popular. In 2000, we got a new machine that let us make larger quantities of medicine," says U Hla Myint. Today the Kathy Pan Medicine company, run by Daw Htay Htay since 2005, exports six types of traditional medicine to Singapore, where they are shipped to countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, and Australia. The company's factory, which employs 50 people, produces four to five tonnes of medicine a month, all made from natural ingredients. "In my opinion, Western medicine is very chemical," says U Hla Myint. "[Whereas] traditional medicine is very natural. It's wholesome." Daw Htay Htay says Myanmar's traditional medicine is similar to products found in other countries in the region. "We use the same chemicals, the same products, the same basic ingredients. But the manufacturing process is different," she says. "Myanmar traditional medicine is mainly powders and capsules, rather than liquids. We [also] work with older machinery." Kathy Pan sells for K1080 a

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Traditional medication is based on four principles: Dasana naya (teaching of the Buddha); Bayisa naya (anatomy); Nakata naya (astrology); and Vizadaya naya (the mundane world and supra mundane world).

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box and is marketed as a tonic and pain reliever for women, with the packaging showing a young, smiling girl with a flower in her hair. But while the medicine gave the company its name and its start, over the years the company's other products have overtaken it in popularity. "We have medicine for pain relief in children, for tension headaches, for cramps, for reducing obesity," says Daw Htay Htay. "The best seller used to be the one for children, but it has been overtaken this year by the one that reduces obesity. Nowadays, people are getting fatter, and they need this medicine for their lifestyle." But changing lifestyles also have negative effects on the traditional medicine industry, as people increasingly turn to Western medicine for health solutions. "People now want to do things the easy way," says U Hla Myint. "If they feel pain they don't want to know about the source of their pain, about

the cause and effect. They just want a painkiller." Daw Htay Htay said that there has also been a gradual reduction in the number of traditional medicine practitioners. "You can't study alone," she says. "You have to work with a teacher. And teachers are rare. There's only a few people left who know the art. "I want to teach a new generation. [But now] it's very rare to find people interested in traditional medicine. It's just handed down from generation to generation." Nevertheless, U Hla Myint says there will always be a market for traditional medicine in Myanmar. "There is a very constant type of consumer," he says, "one who will always be strongly committed to traditional medicine. Even though Western medicines are becoming [more popular], a certain type of person will cling

"

People now want to do things the easy way. If they feel pain they don't want to know about the source of their pain, about the cause and effect. They just want a painkiller.

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But outside of the factories and workshops of the big companies, many traditional practitioners are content to ply their trade in small villages, or in street side stalls, just as their ancestors did.

vera, avocado, pineapple and licorice, and promises to fade freckles and whiten skin. But outside of the factories and workshops of the big companies, many traditional practitioners are content to ply their trade in small villages, or in street side stalls, just as their ancestors did. U Than Win sells natural medicine every day on Bogyoke Aung San Road in downtown Yangon, laying out his products on a small white tarp. He buys the roots and seeds from a larger merchant and resells them to his clients at a mark-up that's so small on some days he barely has enough money for a taxi ride home. He says that many of his customers are regulars, and that he never fails to recognise them ­ or their previous ailments. "I'm not worried about any side-effects [from traditional medicine]," he says. "I trust in the books."

to traditional medicine, and I make my products for them." Also tapping that market is Fame Pharmaceuticals ­ a Yangon-based company established in 1994, which exports traditional medicine to countries including Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Foremost in Fame's arsenal is its line of nine types of honey that are each infused with traditional herbs and roots. Noni honey, marketed as a "cancer prevention" product, also promises general pain relief and a "euphoric" effect. Licorice honey is designed to treat peptic ulcers, flatulence and hyperacidity. Asparagus honey is a "tonic" and Propolis honey is used in some Myanmar hospitals as a wound dressing. Fame also has a "LadyMax" line of traditional medicine aimed at women, including LadyMax Breast Enlargement cream and LadyMax Depigmentation cream, which is made with aloe

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