Hey guys! I hope everyone had a great holiday and a happy new year!!!!!! I spent the month with family traveling around Asia, first to India, then Cambodia, and finally Vietnam. It was an amazing experience altogether, but I'm going to talk about some of the highlights and a few interesting things I noticed about each place.
We started our adventure in Kerala, a state in the south-west region of India, where the most common languages spoken are Malayalam and Tamil. We stayed at an Ayurvediv Resort in the city of Chowara Beach called Ideal. I loved it there, everybody was absolutely lovely! We spent the morning doing yoga with an instructor, then went to breakfast, and then would each get ayurvedic treatments, consisting of massages with different powders, oils, and other treatments depending on what we had discussed with the doctor our first day. We went on quite a few day trips as well and saw a many different, beautiful parts of Kerala. Kovalom beach was very nearby and we explored it whenever we would go there to eat. It was a lot like Venice beach in California. It had a very laid back vibe, lots of friendly people, lots of stray dogs, and not too clean but also not super filthy. We were taken on a speedboat one afternoon. I love boats, especially fast ones, so I had a blast. I made the mistake of sticking my hand out of the boat and got soaked when water would splash against my hand and into the boat. I also managed to get some pictures and video without having my phone fly into the water. The driver of the boat was insane as well, he took pictures of us on our phones and cameras while driving the boat in a small circle very quickly. We met a driver who took us around and introduced us to people who lived in the small cities. It was appalling and incredible at the same time to see how some of these people lived. We brought new notebooks to pens to two lovely children who had nearly nothing and were so happy and grateful. Some of these families lives in houses with nothing. No furniture, no couches, not even fully built walls, but for what they did have, they were more than grateful. It was a really beautiful thing to see. We also got to see a Kalari show. Kalari is an Indian martial art that originated in the state of Kerala. It was amazing. There were boys from the age of 7 to the age of 30 or 40 fighting with all sorts of weapons, knives, sticks, fire, etc. Just one of the little boys has more physical strength than me and my family have altogether! My favorite part of India was visiting the elephant rehabilitation center at Neyyar Dam. Elephants are some of the most sublime, stunning creatures to walk this earth in my opinion. We saw all sorts of elephants from babies, to full grown ones. We got to see the babies bathe and help the men bathe them. There was one baby in particular that caught my attention and that I will never forget. He was so loving and sweet. When I went in the water to help bathe him, all he wanted to do was play. He putting his trunk on me and at some point, wrapped his trunk around my ankle which was underwater while laying on his side. I, stupidly, took my iphone in to take pictures while this was going on. I'm shocked I didn't drop it into the water. This was the sweetest elephant I had come across, and the energy and light I obtained from this beautiful animal is something I will always carry with me. I also miss the food a ton!
The next place we visited was a little city in Cambodia called Siem Reap. It is basically a city which was built for tourists nearby their amazing temples, the main one being Angkor Wat. We visited many of the temples and spent a good amount of time in the town as well. Cambodia is a very poor, war torn country. It was so sad to see little children selling things on the sides of the roads, not going to school and just begging for people to buy something, even if it's just for one dollar. We visited a fisherman's village by boat, where many families had their houses on the water, and would have to move them during the year when the rain would make the river rise. Most people used hammocks to lay down, sit and sleep. While on the boat, we also visited an orphanage on the water. It was Christmas Eve. We brought them soup and noodles to eat. It was really sad. There was music playing and while many of the smaller children danced and enjoyed themselves like nothing was wrong, many of the children, especially the older ones, just sat in the corners looking extremely sad. They looked lost and like they didn't know what they would do with the rest of their lives. The most disturbing thing about it, was the 12 and 13 year old girls already had makeup caked on their faces and were dressed in ways you would see girls in their 20s dressing. Who knows how they are being brought up... It put me in a very melancholy state. The town of Siem Reap itself was a very cool, fun place. There was a river running down the main street which was lit up at night with colorful Christmas lights. When you got into town, everything was basically walking distance. Everyone was so friendly and nice. On Christmas day, we went to the night market and explored pub street. I ended up making friends with some locals and danced with them the entire night. They look me to another nightclub a bit out of town which was awesome. It was packed, dimly lit with insane lights, and the music was fantastic for dancing! I then rode around outside of town on a motorcycle with one of the friends I met until around three in the morning. It's crazy how dark and empty it gets at night. The temples were a whole other thing. They were just incredible. We saw the sunrise at Angkor Wat, which is something everyone who visits Cambodia must do at least once! We visited Angkor Tom, a temple made up of giant engraved stone faces. It was creepy, haunting and stunning all at once! My personal favorite was Banteay Srei, a temple built purely by women. Every piece grand piece of stone had gorgeous pieces of art carved into them, everything from women, to gods, to goddesses, to elephants, to fighting men. What was really incredible was how fallen apart some of these temples were and had been in the past, yet they managed to savor them and keep them standing. Cambodia was a really beautiful place. The food though, for all my foodie friends, wasn't too good at all!
The last place we visited was a city in Vietnam called Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam is also a very war torn place, but not as poor as Cambodia. They definitely take pride in winning the war against the US. Everything from the army museum, to the B-52 museum, to all the statues of armies around the city, show Vietnam's pride. A taxi driver took us to a crazy little spot that we never would have found otherwise. In the middle of a bunch of houses, there was a tiny body of water which had a border built around it. In the lake, was a wrecked piece of a plane which was flown by members of the US and was shot down by Vietnamese soldiers. They keep it there as memorabilia from winning the war. Two things I loved about about Vietnam were that they had a museum dedicated to women, and they had a temple dedicated to books. The women's temple covered everything from wives, to mothers, to historical figures, to fighters. Vietnam has many women who sell food items and flowers in the streets. It got a bit annoying after a while, but the museum taught us about the background of many of the women. Most of them come from small villages outside of the main town and have to come to the city and do these jobs just to support their children. Many of them only get to see their families once every 2 or 3 weeks if they are lucky. They work so hard. They get up at 4am to go to the markets and stop selling by 7pm if they are lucky. I felt awful after learning that. Another amazing thing is how many women fighters there were while Vietnam was at war. So many women went to prison and were tortured in awful, unhuman ways. I remember reading about one woman in particular who had a nail hammered through her hand and still didn't give up any information that would help the other party. That made me cringe, but it showed how strong these women were and how much more women there are valued in society than they are in America, India and many other places today, still. The food in Vietnam was phenomenal. We were eating some form of pork, beef, rice and noodles everyday. The best thing we tried in Vietnam was egg coffee. If you ever go to Vietnam for whatever reason, you must try this. I'm not going to explain it or say anymore than that you must try it. If you can, go to a place called Cafe Giang. That is the orinigal egg coffee joint. We spent New Years Eve at their crazy New Years Party near the lake, similar to New Years Eve in Times Square in NYC, but not as crazy. There was a live dj playing outside and people selling beer out of their backpacks. The countdown happend, there was more music and dancing, and then the cops shut it down not even half an hour later. It was fun though! The craziest thing about Vietnam are the people on motorcycles. Almost everyone rides motorcycles out there and they are the WORST and most RECKLESS drivers I have ever come across. They follow NO traffic laws, they don't care where they ride and they are not even a bit nice about it. You can't walk on the sidewalks because that is where all the motorcycles are parked and you can't walk in the street without the fear of being hit by someone driving a motorcycle. They even drive on the sidewalks and into stores sometimes. It's ridiculous! You could be walking down the street and when you least expect it, someone will come out of a shop door riding a motorcycle. I saw a girl hit an older lady on her motorcycle. The girl could not give less of a damn as the woman yelled at her. I would have yelled too. Aside from the motorcycles, Vietnam and the people were awesome!
I hope you enjoy this little overview of my trip to Asia! ;)
Happy January everyone! <3
January 8, 2015