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

The Mountains in Burma

In the Maymyo Hotel there was no TV. There was a lounge where you could have some drinks. I tried some of their Mandalay beer and rum. the lounge was closed very early. Not knowing what to do with myself I went out for a little walk through the village. It was dark already and there are no lights outside at all. Out of curiosity I wanted to know what the people were doing in the village during the night As I was passing by some village houses I heard them chanting. I suppose they were meditating in front of their Buddhist altar.

During the night I left my hotel windows open, and in the morning it was very cold in my room. Fortunately the showers worked very well in this hotel. After a real American breakfast (ham and eggs and toasted white bread) we were ready for our next flight to Heho.

First we drove through the town of Maymyo. It was so noticeable that many British people had lived in this town before because of the structure of the houses with the gardens all around, many flowers, and well-trimmed green hedges. It didn't look Oriental at all. We stopped on the top of the Maymyo hill where there was a beautiful Pagoda. Sally and I went in and offered some flowers and money. Outside this Pagoda was a fascinating panorama all around.

Maymyo Botanical garden 

The ride from Maymyo to Taunggyi was very interesting. We drove through many small villages. The countryside and the scenery are something you will never see in any part of the Western world. Driving through those little villages with nothing but bamboo houses it looks nothing like the world I come from — they are 100 years behind our way of living. But there is something nice about those little bamboo houses and the people. Most of the people I saw smile and are very hospitable in their kind of life. There is something rich about those people which we don't have in the Western world. The town of Taunggyi (or called Big Mountain) is nearly 6,000 feet high. Two roads lead to the top. There are numerous lofty peaks around Taunggyi. As we drove to the Taunggyi Strand hotel I was surprised to see this beautiful little brick stone Catholic Church. It was called Saint Ann Church. I asked Sally to tell the driver to stop as I wanted to go inside the church. As Sally and I walked into the church we heard the organ music with children singing and a strong smell of incense. The statues inside the church were very old and looked so European, what I was used to. As the children stopped singing I walked over to the nun and told her what a beautiful church she had. She told me that the church was built years ago by an Italian Missionary by the name of Father Bordin. I told the nun what a small world, I knew this priest very well. I met Father Bordin several times in Washington at a friend's house. Father Bordin had worked in Burma as a missionary for more that 30 years. Unfortunately the Burmese Government changed some of their laws several years earlier and required that all foreign religious teachers had to leave the country. Father Bordin was a priest with the order of the Salesian Fathers.

Perhaps because of the British influence before, there are many Christians in the Taunggyi area. I noticed many people from India lived in the Taunggyi area. This must still have been some remnants of the British colonial time. Sally told me a major attraction of Taunggyi is its market. Colorfully dressed members of the region's various hill tribes flock here in pageantry. Most Pa-o and Palaungs women sell all kinds of varieties of fresh vegetables. Other domestic goods sold on the market are smuggled from Thailand. Everything looked so colorful on the market that it was not easy for me to decide which picture to take first.

From the Taunggyi market we drove around the Shan Plateau. The scenery is just incredibly beautiful. At one mountain road we were stopped by Burmese soldiers who told us that we had to turn around. The area we were in was still troubled with rebel troops fighting the Burmese army.

On our way back to the hotel I noticed well organized orchards all over the Shan Plateau. This was one of the Burmese Government's new projects.

For the night we stayed at what was called the Taungyyi Strand Hotel. It houses a Burmese Government tourist office at which we arranged our trip for the next day to Inle Lake in the Northern part of the Shan State.

CONTINUED: Sleeping under mosquito nets
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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