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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Pagodas, Buddhas, and Palm Readers

The most important religious structure in Mandalay is the Maha Muni Pagoda. The Maha Muni Buddha figure is more than 12 feet high and is coated with layers of gold leaf several inches thick. Except during the rainy season, when the Buddha's body is cloaked with robes, one can watch the Buddhist faithful pasting on the very thin gold leaf. The statue was originally cast of metal, but the offerings of the gold leaf have had an irregular effect. The Maha Muni Buddha figure now has an irregular outline.

Buddha in the Mahamuni pagoda

As U San Lin started to tire, Sally decided that we should rent a room at the Mandalay hotel across from the Mandalay fort so that he could rest for the afternoon. Sally kept insisting that we had to visit the palm readers in front of the entrance of the Kyauk Tawgyi Pagoda. She said they were one of the best in Burma. After U San Lin was settled in his hotel room, Sally, the lady guide, and I went to the palm reader.

The palm reader who looked at my hand didn't speak a word of English. The lady guide from Tourist Burma sat behind me and translated. I was so surprised at the accuracy of the palm reader. He didn't know about my past or present life, but the things he said surprised me so much. He told me what to expect in coming years, and many things he said did happen.

I was never a strong believer in palm reading, but there is something about the Orient in this trade that makes it very mystic and unexplainable. There is a very strong power about this in that part of the world which you don't find that easy in the Western world. After the palm readers we went inside the Pagoda and offered some money. Mandalay has so many beautiful Pagodas, but our time was very limited and we had to move on to Maymyo.

As we walked back to the hotel we passed by a large water well. many people were around the well. Some used the well water to have their bath. Others were washing clothes. Mothers were bathing their children, and then you had the ones who just filled their buckets to carry the water home. The water well must be right in the center of this village. Here people have no newspapers or radios. So the water well becomes like a gathering place to get the latest news or gossip. I was always fascinated by the scene at the water well. There was so much human warmth and affection between each other.

From Mandalay we drove to Maymyo. As we drove through the hot dusty roads of Mandalay, it was a relief driving through the foothills of the Shan Plateau. It's about a 2 hour drive to get to Maymyo from Mandalay. We drove to about 4,000 feet elevation where there are breathtaking views across the Mandalay plains. Going up the hill to the town of Maymyo we stopped at a cooling station to change the water in the radiator. It's a steep climb and the motors overheat very fast. As we waited in a lounge the tea was served free. I felt awkward getting such nice service and didn't have to pay for it. The service was so nice that I quietly gave the waitress a tip.

During the ride up the hill I noticed many trucks loaded with all kinds of cargo. The trucks were all old models. Some of them must have been left by the British army from World War II. But somehow the Burmese people are able to keep them running. Beside the cargo there was always a group of people on top of the truck carrying along all kinds of filled baskets. I am sure they must have paid the driver a little fee to travel along from town to town.

Pleasant temperatures predominate in Maymyo even during the hot season, and during the cold season there is no frost. All kinds of European vegetables and fruits are grown. Chrysanthemums are seen all over. People decorate their gardens with them and in every Pagoda you can see them. The lady guide and I went for a walk to the Botanic Garden. It had a golf course and three waterfalls in the vicinity for swimming and picnics. Horse-drawn carriages are still the chief mode of transportation. These closed vehicles with their high doors appear to have been left behind by the 19th century. That night we stayed in the Maymyo Hotel.

CONTINUED: The Mountains in Burma
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index

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