One of the artisan crafts that is found specifically in Mandalay is the making of Gold Leaf. This is a long and manual process whereby a small amount of gold is beaten by hand (with a large sledge hammer) to become the gold leaf that is used in any Burmese Monastery or temples in Burma, for decoration and even eaten for good health.
Visiting a workshop
There are a number of workshops in the area around 36th & 78th Streets. The workshops often look like Burmese house but just look out for statues or signs out front indicating visitors are welcome.
There is no need to book, just locate and wander in. You will find someone will come and talk to you – explaining the process and showing you around the workshop. There is generally no charge for this, but of course they are happy if you wish to purchase a packet of gold leaf as a souvenir – but there is no hard sell or pressure for you to do this. In 2012 a pack of 10 leaves cost about $5
The process has a number of steps and time is controlled by a water and coconut clock – the beaters know that 15 minutes have passed when the coconut shell sitting in the bucket of water has filled up – there is a small hole in the bottom of the shell.
A small ribbon of gold about an inch or 2.5cm long will yield 100 piece of Gold Leaf. After an initial beating period of half an hour the pounded gold is split into smaller pieces which are beaten again for another hour before another splitting is done. The beating process can take 5 to 7 hours.
Once thin enough the gold leaf is packaged for sale to locals and interested tourists.