Monday, September 1, 2014

The Nagar Glass Factory

We visited on Sunday the Nagar Glass Factory which was shut down after it was destroyed by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. What a beautiful collection of glassware they had produced: yellow, blue, green, purple, brown and transparent glasses, vases, trays, fruit bowls, statutes and plates. Everything was hand blown or hand made.

The cyclone left the place in ruin and now, even after six years, you can still see the mass of destruction it left behind. Scattered around the garden there is a maze of broken glass, pieces of wood, intact glassware and destroyed tools and machinery. Only one machine continues working: the one which smoothens the edges of the cut glass. Interesting, this old and traditional machine now helps the owners to sell some of the remaining glassware in case it has unfinished edges. 

Slowly, the wild nature engulfs the glassware and sometimes you will have to literally dig in the mud to take out some pieces you like. In a sense, this is the really fun part, you can surprise yourself by finding really nice pieces of glassware that are still in a good shape, after which you can start looking for other similar pieces. And because we are in the rainy season and everything is soaked in rain you have water stagnating in the scattered glass. And this is a perfect place for the many mosquitos that live in that garden (that looks more like a jungle in places).

I read about this surreal place in different articles and blogs. If you want to know more about the story behind this once very successful factory and its owners which were trained by Murano glass blowers please read articles here and here. So we were very curious to see the place.

Interestingly enough, many locals we asked did not know about the factory or thought the place was completely shut down after Nargis. It is not easy to find the address but a good taxi driver will ask around and ours even opened the way for us when arriving because it was like entering a jungle. From the very first few steps you can see the glass spread around the grass and partly covered with mud.

The owners (the sons and daughters of the founders and their extended family – all have a good level of English) live in one of the remaining houses which has a small open space serving as a living room with a presentation table and shelves to showcase some of the salvaged glass wares. The TV in this open living was broadcasting the National Geographic in English.  The owner was sitting on a chair and watching very intensely at a show about hydro-planes.  It was a bit of a contrast between the poor and run down place and the old man being so emerged in the National Geographic TV show. This further emphasised the surreal atmosphere of the place.

Everything is in chaos like somebody mentioned in another blog. And there is no interest to try to have a bit of order and to gather the good glassware. They leave it either up to nature to burry this treasure or up to interested buyers to retrieve it, but they appear uninterested in bringing order. 

They mentioned the lack of storage space to house all the glass, after the cyclone tore down the factory and its storage rooms. And it would be costly to restart the production of the glassware. But the place has its charm and I believe the tourists are happy to look for, discover and dig up glassware. The pieces one will buy will have their own history. And the owners are happy to accompany you and look with you for a matching set of glasses.

I hope many people will visit this place and buy at least one piece as a souvenir. This is another extraordinary experience Yangon will offer you in case you will sometime visit. But take your time once there so that you can find the pieces you really like.

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