Meet the beautiful Khin Mar Win. She is a Thanaka saleswoman in Mandalay but is originally from Pakokku—an area famous for producing the finest quality Thanaka trees in Myanmar. She makes her striking design by using her fingers to apply the needed Thanaka paste and finishing up with a brush to make it look "neat" and tidy.
Khin Mar Win is one of many Pakokku natives that travels to cities across Myanmar to sell his or her Thanaka product. She is a 35-year-old entrepreneur who purchased the land to start a Thanaka plantation with her siblings some years ago. Thanaka farming is a long-term investment. After preparing the field for the first time, the trees must be planted and closely monitored with supportive beams to grow straight from taproots to treetops. The trees are then cut after 10 to 15 years of growth, and this generates the highest quality product. Lesser quality trees can be grown at higher volumes in shorter time periods, typically five to seven years, using imported fertilizer. Khin Mar’s family lets their trees grow naturally for a span of 15 to 25 years, longer than the average timespan we have heard.
Once they reach maturity, trees are divided up into usable segments. Merchants then sell virtually every part of the tree from the roots and precious logs to the leaves, which are used for medicinal teas.
As Pakokku is a region flooded with quality Thanaka trees and respective products, many plantation owners, like Khin Mar Win, branch out to outerlying areas to sell their product at higher prices. Owners, in turn, are always looking for new untouched markets, which results in taking their crop to the far reaches of the country in areas that are unfamiliar with Thanaka. This is one significant factor in the enduring dispersion of Thanaka culture.