Photographer's Note

Maymyo! A dusky mist is creeping in. Perhaps this is set in the Botanic Gardens, but I can't be sure.

Once a sleepy colonial outpost of the British Empire but now apparently the HQ of the military junta's burgeoning technology/nuclear power complex - and renamed as Pyin U Lwin -Maymyo started its life as a British military outpost in the 1890s. About 65km from Mandalay and about 1000m above sea level, it later became a hill station, to which the establishment - including working public servants - would retire from Rangoon and Mandalay during the intensely hot summer months. Its name in Burmese means 'May's town', named after the first British commander in the area, Colonel May.

I visited Burma as it was then called in 1977, although among TE members I was beaten to it by Gert Holmertz, who has already posted a couple of scanned pictures of Maymyo from his 1973 slides! I think Gert's slides might be in better condition than mine; I found this one to be covered in large specks of dirt, possibly left there many years ago when I had a print made. In the end I washed the slide in soapy water and finished off the job with some spirit-based glass cleaning fluid! The scan still looked pretty faded, although less speckled, and I spent nearly an hour on the image just to get it to this rather mediocre state. But I liked it when I took it and still like it. I thought at first that there was a strange light on the girl's face or that there was a defect in the image, but I remembered that it was very common, almost universal, for girls to have a white or yellowish substance rubbed on to the cheeks.

In those days you were permitted to spend a week in Burma and, having made a compulsory money exchange at Rangoon airport at a terrible official exchange rate, you could live for a week on a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label and a carton of 555 cigarettes, bought duty free in Bangkok or Calcutta airport. I don't mean 'live' literally, of course - you had to take them to Rangoon market where a crowd of potential buyers descended on you in moments, offering far in excess of the official rate! Perhaps Gert had the same experience.

The chief feature of Maymyo is its delightful colonial-English architecture and customs, at least it was in the 1970s. This article from Radio Free Asia - if you are interested - paints a different and less charming picture of Maymyo today. But I can still remember the many cups of tea, the very English hotel, the cinema where we watched a Burmese James Bond-style film translated for us as it unfolded by our 'guide' Silvester Dawson (don't ask me how he came by the name or how he attached himself to us - I don't remember that); I remember upsetting the locals as we passed Silvester's hilarious translations along the row of about 6 European travellers who were in the town that night. It was a good time and Maymyo still had charm, some elegance and happy people in it.

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Additional Photos by Andrew McRae (macondo) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2997 W: 101 N: 5253] (20449)
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