Wanderlust: Indochina

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”

Five hundred years ago a genius spoke of travelling. If Leonardo DaVinci was alive today, he would have been wandering the earth mercilessly. We, on the other hand, have the means to fly. We fly to distant lands within hours. Something that Leonardo envisioned but have never experienced. Descendents of wanderers like DaVinci are emerging in every street, districts, and cities of the world. Each wanderer carries along tales of adventure, beauty, and wisdom. Some are escaping their mundane lives, while others are on search for a meaning of life. In Phạm Ngũ Lão- Sai gon, your identity does not matter, as who steps in are but lovers of wander. Vietnam was the first stop in my “Shoestring” journey. With twists and turns due to lack of English speakers, I achieved to arrive to the backpacker’s hub: “Quận 1–Phạm Ngũ Lão”.  Sai gon was lively, its people were hard working, the smell of the delicious of Pho bo was immersing the streets. It couldn’t be better, so I thought. On the streets, there are mobs of motor-riders everywhere. Like all the cities in Vietnam, motorcycles outnumber cars and pedestrians alike. Infected by the travel bug, I was longing for the unknown- the raw life of the Vietnamese. The only way to realize this was to get out of the city and head to the highlands. Đà Lạt, therefore, was my next destination. This town was situated 1.5 km above sea level, thus, explaining the cold weather in the region. During the French colonization, this was their sweet refuge from the heat soaring in Sai gon city, as the temperature drops to 10 degrees Celsius at night, giving it a name of “little Paris”. Dalat was submerged in seven lakes and numerous waterfalls. It was a secret escape for the nature lovers; surely the power of nature spoke authority here. But what happens when power is spoiled? Phnom Penh, Cambodia has a story to tell. In 1975, Khmer rouge overtook the kingdom of Cambodia and imposed a new type of communism. They massacred all professionals and intellectuals without trials. Ignorance was a blessing in this dark period. To their despair for ultimate control, they executed anyone who was wearing eyeglasses, corporate attire, or is related to a professional. Due to this Genocide, millions of civilians are lying in mass graves within 600 identified killing fields across the kingdom. The victims merit sincere prayers of peace and should we make sure that such genocide never happens again.

Due to the lack of professionals, Cambodia was handicapped. There were no engineers, professors, doctors, politicians, or business associates to regain the country’s momentum. It took it a whole new generation of professionals for it to function properly. Without doubt, Phnom Penh is still in its developing period. The dark past of this city was overwhelming; it was time to move away.
Plain land and a hut, a tree near a temple and another hut, the county side of Cambodia is peaceful and spoke of its ancient civilizations’ glory. Indochina is a very old region; and the Khmer people have lived, traded, and formed amazing wonders for thousands of years. The Khmer empire was once the most powerful empire in the whole Southeast Asia; its greatest legacy was Angkor. The modern name for this wonder town is Siem Reap. Surely it is the most sought after city by travelers in Cambodia. Within this town is Angkor Wat, the largest hindu temple complex and also the largest religious monument on earth, thus it is the eighth wonder of the world. Since Angkor temples were deep in the jungle, they have been well preserved by nature. The majesty of the ancient stones projected engineering advancement of the Khmers, yet this 12th century complex was motivated by celestial influences. It was built as a deity for Lord Vishnu of Hinduism. It is almost hard to believe that the engineers of that time were so technically advanced due to their eagerness to please Vishnu. It makes a visitor of Angkor wonder what the human mind could achieve when it is highly determined to please.  It was time to travel to Poipet; the last city within the Cambodian border. Hard to ignore was Siam’s casting its glory from the very first step into Aranyaprathet – Poipet border. There was a clear difference between the advancement of Thailand and Cambodia. Thailand was successful to develop into an industrial-capable nation. Several factories, Industrial plants and corporate trucks were on the imagery of what it supposed to be Thai’s countryside. Travelling to Bangkok was more like stuck in traffic type of experience. Part of me knew what to expect from Bangkok, yet I gave in to the benefit of the doubt, that despite all of the metropolitan cities are jammed with concrete, there ought to be gems yet to discover. Yes, Bangkok was immersed in high rise buildings, billboards, spiral expressways and traffic – It was indeed a déjà vu. But Khaosan Road, the boiling point for bag packers from across the globe, was the merriest place to stay. Thai street food was governing the nightly activities of Khaosan. Foreigners and Thai enjoyed live music and open-air massage- It did felt like an every-day festival. Yet Bangkok was more
than a party place, it was a center of very beautiful Buddhist temples. My last night in Bangkok was dedicated to Temple-hunting. I have discovered several temples that shone gold at night. From the outside of the walls you can hear the monks reciting the original Sanskrit- prayers; their incantations were melodic and peaceful. What a mystical experience! But it was time to go back home. My Indochinese journey was sadly coming to an end, yet I believe that – as Buddha once said “It is better to travel well than to arrive”.

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