Check out my latest video about Southeast Asia – Travel Life…
We finished up our greasy KFC and headed upstairs for the movie theater. It took up a whole floor in the mall! We were watching Zootopia. The movie was really good! Even my parents, who had not been looking forward to it, liked it. It taught some crucial life lessons, from the evil of people who attempted to gain power by spreading fear to the importance of stealth. It also had some jokes, from simply having a carrot on the back of a cell phone, to “What… do you call… a… three-humped… camel?”.
The next day we went to the Grand Palace. Our time there felt perpetual, but we only spent about an hour and a half. There were a countless number of European style buildings with Thai style roofs where access was prohibited. It was a huge complex of multiple buildings that were each unique. Some were temples, others were museums, and others still were mysterious.
Later, we had some ice cream, and at night, we saw Muay Thai, without mom. The fighters were tiny, ranging 100 to 131 pounds! Despite their minute size, the fighters put up a good fight, always ending up with pinkish stomach areas waiting burst with blood. The fighters kicked and punched and even kneed each other, and occasionally someone got thrown on the ground.
On our last day, we saw the royal barges, and then took a tour through the canals, stopping by a temple dedicated to… scaffolding. Just kidding! It was covered in scaffolding, though. We also got some epic pictures to end our awesomeness in Bangkok. Awesome Man!
All of the monkeys distracted us from the fairly obvious snake coiled up on the branch. It was black, with yellow spots. Good thing it was nocturnal! Since it was day, the snake was asleep. Whew! We saw another snake just like the other. Then we saw a baby python, and the man rowing our raft went right under it.
We had more fun in the lake nearby. One night, we went to find nocturnal animals. All we found was a civet and a kind of jungle deer. Still, we had a great time listening to music while gazing at the countless stars, talking, and letting our boat float with some young adults we made friends with.
Also, one day we went into a cave. It was full of bats, and in some places I had to swim! My bulky shoes and soaked socks were so heavy I was basically treading water. It was freezing cold, too. Brrr! We found spiders left and right! Some as big as your hand! Talk about breaking your face!
At the floating hostel, I jumped off the diving board. Once, I fell so long that I stopped holding my nose! I sure did regret that!
Lastly, we went to a hill on a faraway island. We swung from the rope and plunged into the water. It was so fun! It could have been one of my highlights of Southeast Asia!
The upside-down museum wasn’t what we’d expected. It wasn’t even a museum. Every room was upside-down, though, except two, which were sideways. We took a lot of pictures, and had fun doing silly things.
One night, we had lots of fun in the park. It was Saturday night, so it was packed with kids and their families. While the adults hang around, me and my new friend, Lily, ran around the park and had lots of fun. Lily was an eight-year-old who was traveling the world for 6 months with her parents. She was doing road school, too. Lily was very convivial. Just like me! My favorite part of the island was the fire show. The fire dancers swung the fire around so quickly that it was snuffed out by its own wind. They even blew on the fire, and it looked as if they were breathing fire. When spinning the flames, they got so close to you that you had to step back, in fear of being set on fire. It was the most magical thing ever.
The lagoon was very shallow, and I could touch in some places. To our left, there was a cave with a submerged bottom, but the top was high above. Hanging from one of the stalactites was a rope with knots in some places, and an underwater loop at the end. Later we would realize that there was a big rock a couple feet below the loop, which was almost at the surface. We figured out how to climb up. I put my left heel in the loop, which acted as a stirrup. Then my right foot stepped on the first knot. Slowly, I lifted my left foot onto the first knot, and my right hand grabbed hold of the second knot. Then I fell right on my but and started sitting on the knot, both hands holding onto the rope. Then I fell backwards and splashed into the water, as if in slow motion. That was one of the best parts of our boat trip.
Another was when we went to a beach on the other side of the lagoon. It was white sand, and empty. It was short, but getting longer by the minute as the tide went out. Down a path that was overgrown on the sides, was a little cave, where the floor was perfect, powdery white sand. At the beach, the water was so clear that there was no need to snorkel. I saw a spiky arm, like an octopus’s, near a rock, but soon realized that it was a baby moray eel! We tried to get the goggles and told the driver what it was, but he didn’t speak much English, and he wanted to get a move on. We found two great places to snorkel that had fewer than five boats each. Through a piece of bread or pineapple in, and the fish, which we saw perfectly from the boat, attacked it like mad. We found that rice was the key. It was like their dessert. They went everywhere, and I tried to grab one. That action had a deleterious effect. My right thumb hit the spiky fins on its back, it seemed as if my thumb had been paralyzed. However, by the end of the day, my injuries were so minor that they seemed not to have happened. Lucky me!
We got out of the bus, and stepped into the greenhouse. Butterflies hung to the sides everywhere! I must reiterate: everywhere! Their cocoons were hanging on a vertical block of wood. On the other side, there were cages with other creatures. They had massive walking sticks the size of your head! They also had rhinoceros beetles (or stags), which were about the size of my palm. Then there were lizards, having a tasty breakfast of crickets. So were the scorpions. The crickets would try to climb up to the leaves of the bushes, so that they could eat. Also, there were big bullfrogs the size of my face.
Then we visited an insect that uses nectar and pollen from flowers to make honey. We had a buzz with the bees as they went inside their hives and back out. One lucky bee even managed to escape a spider’s web. Amazing!
Afterwards, we got some great pictures of tea. We did all this at Cameron Highlands, a place known for tea, bees, and butterflies. Don’t forget the strawberries, which you can pick yourself, and have a delicious smoothie made out of! We had a great time! Honestly, I keep vacillating between the bees or strawberries. I don’t know which one is my favorite! They were both great. Who says you can’t have two favorites.
It felt pleasant to sit there and enjoy the nature. Pretty soon, though, I wanted to get out of there. I felt something wriggling across my fingers. It looked like a tiny purple worm, but it wasn’t. It was a baby leech! My family and I freaked out, but mom eventually banished the little vampire from my body for good. I had only gotten lucky. When we got back into our hotel room, dad found another baby leech, fat from his blood, stuck to his leg! Then there were two in his sock! How frightening! After minutes of screaming, we got them off. Woo, that was close!
We also went to a village. We learned a little bit about the local culture, Orang Asli, which means Original People, and practiced the local method of hunting. We blew darts from inside long sticks of bamboo. It was almost as silent as air. Normally, the darts were poisoned, but for demonstrations, they were not. The local people are very peaceful; they never had a single war in their 4,000 years of living in harmony. The tribe that we saw were descendants of local people from Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Indonesia. To me, the most interesting thing about them is that the women fished, but not with lines or nets. They fished with their hands! We said goodbye to the villagers in their language, climbed down to the riverbank, and boarded the boat. Then, without expecting it, our boat surfed up some rapids, and we got soaking wet. We were laughing and screaming joyfully with our companions, and it was really quite splendid.
Later that night, I was about to go back to our room to watch TV and eat pizza by myself, when we came out of the restaurant, and there, in the middle of the path, was a tapir. It seemed majestic. Its black hair, which covered the body, was white in the middle, such a white that it looked like powder. Its hair was short, and spiky. It had a very peculiar trunk, which was short and black, similar to an elephant’s. In the darkness of night, its eyes shined faintly, with big, round pupils. They appeared to have belonged to a puppy. It seemed to have jumped right out of a fairy tail, just like a peacock. Its ears and feet were very similar to the ears and feet of hippos. Weighing 550 – 660 pounds, you might think it was very big. Surprisingly, it only reached up to my chest, and was about 1 1/2 times as long as I am tall. Its outward appearance belied its true self. I was very surprised when I learned its true weight. I thought it was a baby! I found that its size had duped me, and that it was actually an adult male! I guess that what they say about books and covers is true!
I moved my hand over the screen. The screen automatically picked a different section of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. I learned about many different buildings in Kuala Lumpur. Then we all flocked to the elevator, and rode to the top of the tower in only a few seconds. From that height, people, even cars, were invisible. The KL tower was lit up around the corner from the opposite twin tower. It was so fun being up there.
We did more fun stuff in Kuala Lumpur, like going to the aquarium. One part that I liked was the conveyor belt that went through a massive tube underwater, and it had to be at least three times longer than the tube in Atlanta. I also liked the part were you were filmed on a beach backdrop, and the producers did a special thing with the film, so that dinosaurs appeared to walk on stage. To make sure it wouldn’t look weird, they showed you the video while they filmed it, so that you could see what was going on.
Another very fun thing we did is an escape room. This escape room was not like the escape room in Budapest. As the story went, we tracked down a dangerous magician to his lair, but he disappeared right in front of us. We had forty-five minutes to find him, but because he was a magician, he laid out puzzles for us to solve. After a while, we had some help from a friend, but when we escaped, we found out that Hocus was too fast for us, and had disappeared! We were disappointed, but we still had a great time.
Another very fun thing we did is we went to the KL bird park. In one part, some birds were free range, and we watched male peacocks with complete plumage try to convince some females to mate with them. The bird show was amazing, too. We watched as a macaw did the shell game, and won! It was quite splendid. Kuala Lumpur may be one of my favorite places in the entire world!
The night market in china town, downtown Melaka, Malaysia. What delicious wonders lie there! Grilled duck on a stick, sautéed quail eggs with mayonnaise, fried squid with crispy skin, octopus with dark, runny sauce! These were all items that could have been found in our stomachs not too long ago! How tasty, extremely enjoyable, hard-to-ignore, strips of flavor! It was certainly an ideal place for an eating tour. Many things we came across, we loved. Most things! It became our daily routine… or nightly routine!
As you can see, we had no trouble finding good food in Melaka. It wasn’t just the night market that I liked. I also loved a restaurant called Capitol Satay, where you can pick your raw food, and cook the satay in a Chinese-style hot pot, full of a boiling hot spicy sauce. I thought that cooking it was very fun. The food was good, too. I washed off my food, because the sauce was much too spicy for me. It was delicious! I could understand people driving for two hours just eat there. People will often wait up to two hours just to eat there – and I can’t blame them. It is supposedly one of the best restaurants in Malaysia – a country known for food. Now that’s a title!
One pagoda, two pagodas. Old pagoda, new pagoda. This one is right under a star. This one is right next to a car. From here to there, from there to here, pagodas are everywhere. That’s what you would say when you approach Bagan, the City of Two Thousand Pagodas. You could try counting them, but after a while, you will give up.
Dad took us to a lot of temples, but we breaked in a couple of villages and a lacquerware shop. In one of the villages, I helped spin cotton into thread, like Gandhi. In the lacquerware shop, we learned a lot about lacquer. We learned that it’s made from tree sap, which is white inside the tree. Then they take it out of the tree, and paint it onto the shaped material, but it turns black when oxidized! Lacquer doesn’t harden in the sunshine, though. Sunlight makes lacquer runny! For lacquer to dry, it must be kept in a humid environment, protected from direct sunlight. When I saw the lacquer getting mixed, I noticed that its consistency is very similar to the consistency of liquid chocolate, but it is so black that the color reminded me of tires.
One day, we went to a show. It was so amazing. The play was filled with local, traditional dances, and singing went along with some. I really liked a part with comedic dancers. That was funny!
On our last day, we saw a sunset on a pagoda. How glorious! It was so colorful, and the silhouettes of the incalculable pagodas were absolutely stunning. It looked like it could have been an alien world, dotted out, pagoda after pagoda. In no logical order whatsoever, it was a wonder how people knew where to build their own pagoda, or simply make their own mark on the land, two equivalent actions. Whichever you prefer to call it, after centuries and centuries of the practice, Bagan earns its name as the City of Two Thousand Pagodas, destined to join Casco Veijo, Melaka, and many, many other places a UNESCO world heritage site.
Once upon a time, two princes were children. These children dreamed of becoming monks. When they grew up, the princes did become monks. They walked into a forest with a lake in the middle, found a cave, and started meditating. One day, their chemist went to go get some herbs. At the same time, a female dragon was flying around that forest. The dragon saw the chemist and fell in love. The dragon turned into her human form, and got married to the alchemist. They lived in a cave.
One night, the chemist saw his pregnant wife turn into a dragon. The next day, the chemist left to go gather medicinal plants. His wife, noticing that he didn’t come back, laid her eggs, and flew back to her native land. The two monks found the cave, picked up two eggs, and returned to their cave. About two or three months later, the eggs hatched. Two baby people crawled out of the egg. One baby was Pa-oh, and the other was Kayin, both tribes descendants of dragons!
For the first day of our three-day hike, we chose the long way, through the forest, because it was our only chance to see a forest on the hike, which was 60km (37mi) long. Our guide, Nwenwe (whose name is pronounced like Noi-Noi), who had just given me peanuts, started moving. We followed. She had to be the smallest adult I had ever met – and ever would meet. Weighing 98 lbs, and reaching a height of 4’11”, it was amazing that she could put me on her back. She was wearing Thanaka, a traditional kind of makeup worn by women and young boys, that prevents pimples and acts as a natural substitute for sunscreen. It is made by rubbing the bark of a Thanaka tree with a very smooth stone. Boys my age can wear it, too, but I didn’t see any men with Thanaka.
We walked all day through the forest, even crossing some dangerous, thrown-together bridges across marshes. That evening, we reached the tiny village of Setkyar Gone, with only three roads. It was so small that you could walk from one end to the other in less than ten minutes. I liked how small it was, because it was easy to find all the village kids.
The village for the next night, Pattu Pauk, was much bigger, though. When we found it, we were exhausted, after our hardest day of walking. 500 people lived the village, and I wished it was smaller. I did have some fun working at construction sites, though. On the first site, I helped move dry cement from the pit to the pile, where it was to be collected. In the other construction site, I helped shave wood, with a manual tool.
On the third day, it was very steep, and half of the day, we were walking downhill. When we finally reached Inle Lake, though, I felt like saying “Glory Alleluia”. We felt so glad when our motorboat sped across the narrow canals, which were to be flooded in wet season. We got to our hotel, Shwe Inn Tha, and we felt as if it was at the peak of luxury, because we were all gross and sweaty and “dirt-tanned”, when dirt cakes your body and you appear to have a tan. It felt so nice to have a pedestal toilet, after three days of hiking! We also felt so good to have thick mattresses again, because while sleeping the the villages, we had mattresses not much bigger than two inches thick. We slept very well in the hotel, too, because we didn’t have to worry about freezing our butts off. The hotel was a relief after the three hard days on the trek!
I stepped into the glorious Pindaya caves. Golden Buddhas of all sizes, everywhere, everywhere. From the highest place in ceiling to the lowest place on the floor, the Buddha dominated the scene. In front of me was a pagoda. We walked halfway around this and explored the larger cave through the narrow passageway.
I saw a maze, and immediately walked inside, before my parents. I had to backtrack, because I had entered the wrong way! We went to the top of the “hill”, and turned left. It was a dead end, but there was a cool little meditation cave that inspired me. I included it in one of my stories, Straight from Bed to Fame. We eventually got out of the maze, but it was tough.
We ventured through the caves, eventually finding Buddhas guarded by dragons, some dragons scary, some not so much. Some dragons where also two-headed, and each neck had a fan, like a cobra’s fan. We eventually found the end. I went back to the maze, because I wanted to see the little room I had chosen for my story. I kept going back to that dead end, but I couldn’t see the entrance to the meditation cave, because of the angle I was looking at. After about three runs of the whole maze, I finally looked in the right place. It wasn’t obvious. I entered, and looked for a place that would be okay for my story. I found a tiny slide in the darkest niche of the room, perfect for my story! We walked out happy, thinking that we might go back there, because it was so amazing.
The car rolled onto the dirt road in Hlawga National Park. There were lots of monkeys, but our friend, Su, said that the monkeys were nice. We joked that they were Buddhist monkeys. We saw some deer later. The deer were very docile. On one side of the road, the deer were slowly strolling away from us, back into the forest. Then, on the other side of the road, another deer appeared at the edge of the woods. She grabbed a leaf with her long, sticky tongue. She pulled it off, and ate it. Then she did the same with many other leaves. Soon we reached a small clearing on a small hill. Lots of monkeys and a few deer were there. Right next to the hill was a flat ring with only one small tree in the middle. Behind the tree, two bucks, one older and one younger, lined up, as if they were about to fight. They held the poses for a little while, but eventually, the younger one, the challenger, backed off. He walked very slowly into the forest, like he was still making his mind up. One he disappeared into the trees, the older one followed him, at the same pace. Then, in the small ditch between the hill and the ring, a little deer with fuzzy antlers was sighted. My mom immediately went over to photograph it. I strolled over to her and the deer. On the side of my path was an adult monkey. As I started strolling, the monkey charged at me! Full of fear, I dashed back to dad. The monkey didn’t mess with me. Later, I was barely a foot from Dad. The monkey charged down the tree at me, and I got behind dad. The monkey did not attack. That monkey really had a problem with me!
We got in the car and reached a small lake. We walked halfway around it, then rested at the pavilion. Soon, a large group of young women wanted my picture. It was okay with me, but I did not like it. They did different poses and group members, and I was just a rag doll. It was a mess.
Later, we drove to a field. It was behind a chain link fence, so we could still see the wildlife without getting killed. The place was swarming with monkeys! We were about to get out, but then a monkey was threatening to attack Su! Su threw the big bundle of grass in her hands at the monkey, and we drove off.
Later, we came across the hippo enclosure. The hippo immediately ran up to the wall. We took some food, and it opened its mouth. We found this funny. We threw the food in the hippo’s mouth, and when we ran out, the hippo closed its eyes and its mouth, and it appeared to be meditating. Its chin was resting on the wall, and Loring, our other friend, told us that this was because its head was too heavy to lift without support. Then, when the food came, the hippo sprang to life, ready to be fed again and again.
We finally got a taxi, after a long period of waiting. We gave the driver directions to our friends’ house. The driver told us that our friends’ house was very close to the Shwedagon Pagoda. We were almost at our friends’ house and BOOM: the Shwedagon poked through the trees; a massive, cone-like structure coated in gold leaf and gold plates. So massive, it could be a millionaire’s mansion, but it is not; it is a holy Burmese Buddhist site. We immediately decided that we were going there. A few days later, we did. We went with our friends, Loring and Su. Su is Burmese.
We walked around the inner circle, finding our corners to wash the Buddha, for good karma. I washed the Buddha at the Rahu (Wednesday Afternoon) corner, because I was born on a Wednesday, and I was born in the afternoon. In Burmese Buddhism, there are eight days in the week. Wednesday is split into morning and afternoon, but in the Burmese calendar they don’t say “Wednesday Morning” and “Wednesday Afternoon”; they say “Wednesday” and “Rahu”.
The Shwedagon was so amazing that we went back there! It was especially amazing walking up the long staircase. If you ever go to Myanmar, you have to see the Shewdagon. It’s the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) of Myanmar. It’s the oohs and the ahs of the city itself. It’s the sudden feeling of meaningfulness spreading through your body at first sight. It’s the amazingness and wonder of that first sight. It’s been the ancient pride of the locals for twenty-five hundred years. It’s the whole reason that Yangon is on the tourist track, and nothing, nothing can change that.