Photo Essay: Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon Brims with Treasure

Colorful, broken glass bottles at Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar.

When I first heard about Nagar Glass Factory just outside of Yangon, Myanmar, I couldn’t think of anything other than what treasures I might discover there. Every moment leading up to the first time I got to go, my thoughts were fixated on piles upon colorful piles of handmade, blown glass just waiting to be unearthed.

The place is reminiscent of days long gone. Like many parts of Yangon left to decay, Nagar has seen better days. This is what I find most charming about the city. That crumbling buildings, stained neighborhoods – and people within – all have vibrant stories to share. 

You’ll need several hours to explore what’s left of the glass factory. Don’t rush through your experience. Bring a friend, dig for gems, and then sip some tea while waiting for your finds to be cleaned and polished. If you’re fortunate, you’ll even get to hear stories of how it all began from a few family members still tending to the site. 

Opened in the late 1940s by a master glassmaker, the factory became famous by crafting unique pieces for several of the city’s finest hotels and restaurants. Although most of its structure, including kilns and machinery, were destroyed in 2009 by a cyclone, the factory had already shut down a few years before due to rising costs of materials, namely gas, to make glass.

Most locals seem unaware Nagar Glass Factory still exists, but several tourists can be seen roaming the glass-lined paths from day to day. Treasures to be found range from bottles and vases of all shapes and sizes, to wine glasses and vintage ice cream cups, to chess pieces and nativity sets. Most of the glass creations are separated into similar type and color, so if you’re looking for a set of something in particular you might be in luck.

Items vary in price, and are a bit more expensive than what you may anticipate. But, keep in mind these are handmade pieces of art, and by purchasing them you’re supporting a family and paying for a truly distinctive adventure. Large bowls are around 8,000 kyats each, small plates are 4,000, and the popular “roly-poly” votive-style cups are 3,000 a piece.

Go to Nagar Glass Factory, even if you’re only in Yangon for a few days. What you’ll stumble upon is an area that resembles of landfill brimming with beautiful, ornate glassware scattered and shattered about fallen trees and dilapidation. It’s a must-see attraction for anyone in the mood for an off-the-beaten-path destination. Wear shoes and watch out for a small snake or two.

Piles of glassware at Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar.
Piles of handmade glassware at Nagar Glass Factory outside of Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

A visitor looking for old glass items around Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar.
Stephanie Warren looks for glass treasures at Nagar Glass Factory near Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

Colorful broken bottles stacked on top of each other around Nagar Glass Factory, Yangon, Myanmar.
Colorful broken bottles stacked on top of each other around Nagar Glass Factory, Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

A stack of blue bottles and a plant in sunlight at Nagar Glass Factory near Yangon, Myanmar.
A stack of blue bottles and a plant in sunlight at Nagar Glass Factory near Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

Blue glass bottles on an old dresser at Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar.
Blue glass bottles on an old dresser at Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

Old, broken glass bottles at Nagar Glass Factory on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.
Old, broken glass bottles at Nagar Glass Factory on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

A few glass items and old pieces of what was inside Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar.
A few glass items and old pieces of what was inside Nagar Glass Factory in Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015. 

Some machinery, a kiln, scattered glassware, and various other items within what's left of Nagar Glass Factory.
Some machinery, a kiln, scattered glassware, and various other items within what's left of Nagar Glass Factory.

One of several family members to tend to what's left of Nagar Glass Factory just outside of Yangon, Myanmar.
One of several family members to tend to Nagar Glass Factory just outside of Yangon, Myanmar. April, 2015.

Nagar Glass Factory on Google Maps.
How to Get There:

Nagar Glass Factory is located just off Insein Road in Hlaing Township. Look for lot 152 on Yawgi Kyaung Street. I’ve never been able to reach anyone by phone, so it’s best to just show up. Most family members tending to the grounds speak English very well.

The public is welcome to visit, but please note it’s no longer easy for the owners to demonstrate glass blowing. Large tour groups are difficult to manage. Individuals and/or small groups are preferred.

Interested in reading more about Nagar Glass Factory? Check out this article!

Comments

  1. Amazing. Such a cool adventure. Hope you got a neat piece or eight. Jealous!

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    Replies
    1. Parker! You'd love it. I've already been three times, and I've spent way too much on so many beautiful treasures. Listen. I'll get you something there on my fourth trip, and I promise I'll either send it to you, or I'll carry it with me until we meet again. Sound good?

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