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

The Last Day in Burma

As our boat came in the town of Ywama, Sally told me that we were very lucky to see the 'floating market' which, unlike the one in Bangkok, has thus far managed to retain its authentic flavor far from the madness of over-tourism. I was the only foreign tourist in all the boats around. Being noticed by the market women in their narrow boats loaded with all kinds of vegetables and fruits, they tried to sell as much as they could to our boat. I just bought different fruits and vegetables and later gave it all to the owner of our boat.

From there we visited the Phuang Daw U Pagoda, which enshrines five Buddhas. The people have offered so much gold leaf to cover the buddhas over the years, that those Buddha statues look more like balls of gold than Buddha figures.

Phuang Daw U Pagoda 
Phuang Daw U Pagoda

Our last stop was at one of the Intha weaver houses. I watched a girl weave a longyi. Everything was hand made. I bought a few Shan shoulder bags and a longyi for myself, just to remember this wonderful part of my trip through Burma.

As we were heading back to the town of Yaunghwe where our boat had started, I looked at the little villages with their houses on stilts and the surrounding gardens with flourishing crops. The Intha people are everywhere with their shell-like boats, each of them doing their chore of the day. Within their society there is no unemployment. I don't think there is such a word in their vocabulary. Here is a God-given paradise for some beautiful people who appreciate every day what God gives them. But how long can this Intha civilization last, as their lifestyle in the near future will certainly be disturbed by more tourism and other complicated matters. People from the Western industrialized countries will go there and offer their convenient lifestyle. This has happened in so many other parts of the world and it destroyed many happy tribes, just like the Inthas. I am sure this is already happening to the Inthas. We Westerners mean well, but by interfering in many cultural lifestyles we have done more harm than good.

From Heho airport we took a direct flight back to Rangoon. Flying above the mountain peaks I could see villages on top of the mountains and the roads connecting one village to the other. As we got closer to Rangoon we could see the Irrawaddy River. As we got closer to Rangoon we hit some air pockets which made the plane drop very fast. I was told due to the air temperature change from the mountain into the lowlands these air pockets occur. It's not a pleasant feeling when a plane drops suddenly several hundred feet. I was glad when we landed at Rangoon airport.

What was left of the day I spent visiting a friend in his office. We went to a tea house and talked about the good old days in the U.S. At night I was invited to a lively party with all former Syracuse University students. We hadn't seen each other in 23 years. I was treated with the best food and drinks of the house. They all were so surprised that I visited Burma. Over all these years there was so much to talk about.

February 6, 1982... it was my last day in Burma. I got up very early, did all of my packing, and visited a few more friends before I had to leave for the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok. Honey and his family had come all the way to U San Lin's home to say goodbye to me. As I was driving to the airport I thought about all my friends and how generous and hospitable they were to make my trip to Burma unforgettable. For the San Lins who kept me in their home and showed me so much in such a short visit, I didn't know how to thank them. They truly showed their sincerity and friendship, which meant so much to me. They had always told me to visit them in Burma when they lived in Washington. They really went out of their way to show me the beautiful sites of Burma.

The flight from Rangoon to Bangkok is about a 45 minute flight. In Bangkok my flight to Singapore was delayed for more than an hour, so I arrived very late in Singapore. Lu Lu was very happy so see me back again. The week I stayed in Burma she worried so much. Even though I was back in Singapore, Burma was still in my mind, the beautiful countryside, the friendliness of the people and their hospitality.

CONTINUED: Flying back home
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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