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AQ's Solo Writing

Short Story 5

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Mexico, India

[Part 2] 20 Memorable Countries for Solo Traveling Adventures

September 2023

Contents

Traveling abroad

Introduction

It’s good to have you for Part 2 of this short story. As a reminder from Part 1 (Short Story 4), in Part 2, you’ll get a rundown of seven different countries (8-14), focusing on one memorable experience from my lens. Let’s get on with the action!

8. Thailand
8. Thailand

Fight night is about to kick off at Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok, and I have a ringside (front row) seat. The third (top) section of the small stadium is where Thai locals are eagerly putting bets for tonight’s fights. The few bookies on hand, who are frantically jotting down numbers on small notepads, have their work cut out for the next three hours.

The live band begins playing slow Sarama music as each Thai fighter (blue and red trunks) does a traditional Thai boxing dance around the ring before for the first match. The hours go by; my eyes remain wide open from the extreme fighting, Sarama music, and noisy crowd. The Thai fighters take serious blows to the body, using kicks and knees as their main arsenal.

This last championship fight is intense. The audience yells, “KNEE! KNEE! KNEE!” as both fighters go back and forth with knees to each other’s torso. The Sarama music ignites the audience while the top section stays on their feet. The corner men and women are screaming for their fighter to pull through, as if their livelihood depends on it. The crowd shouts, “OOH!” as a fighter goes down to the ground from a knee to the body. I’ve watched live combat fighting events before, but Muay Thai at Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok is amazing.

Traveling abroad
9. Cambodia
9. Cambodia

I’m shocked at where I’m standing in Phenom Penh. It’s one of the killing fields in Cambodia where innocent and helpless men, women, and children were slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge Regime. The audio tour discusses how the ruthless communist party used knives instead of guns to execute Cambodians because they believed that the cost of one bullet wasn’t worth a human life. The Khmer Rouge’s main weapon and killing method in this field was slitting people’s throats with a knife and dumping their bodies in massive human graveyard pits.

A tree next to another graveyard pit colorful handmade bracelets around the wide trunk. The audio tour says that it’s where children and babies were executed. Babies were held upside down by their ankles, violently slammed against the tree, and thrown into this horrifying graveyard pit with many infants and kids. It didn’t matter if they were still conscious. This field was hell on Earth.

At the front entrance of the killing field is a tall glass statue holding hundreds of skulls from bodies dug up from the graveyard pits after the Cambodian genocide ended in January 1979. There’s also an area of rusted knives by the Khmer Rouge next to a clear box with children’s clothing. As of today, in 2018, I no longer support socialism ideology, not after what I’ve just learned and saw in this killing field. 

Traveling to another country
10. Vietnam
10. Vietnam 

The main roads in Hanoi's city center are closed off for some reason. I hear music and crowds from a distance and walk that way while eating yummy Vietnamese food. The closer I get, the more people I see scattered like ants. 

The vibe is electrifying. Older folks are happily dancing with their partner, children are running playing games, teenagers are hanging out in groups, people are walking around eating, having heart-to-heart conversations, or relaxing anywhere they can sit. Mini talent shows are happening in different areas. It’s a huge Saturday night block party in Hanoi. Everyone seems to be in harmony, despite the congestion and humidity. Not a single confrontation, dispute, or violent act has occurred.

Two Vietnamese males politely ask me to take a picture with them, and they complement my simple clothing style. According to one of the guys, the city get-together happens every Saturday night and ends around eleven o’clock, sometimes midnight. He also shares that not everyone who comes out has a plan. Some locals sit around to feel like they are a part of the community. I don’t feel alone either. There ain’t no block party like a Hanoi party!

Countries to visit
11. Indonesia
11. Indonesia

It’s my first time staying in a hut. This is different for me. I feel like I’m off the grid in Bali but staying in a public villa. It’s not booked with occupants, and my hut is an isolated area in front of a long and wide rice patty field. There are no cars or infrastructure insight. The solidarity and quietness don’t feel strange. The harmless geckos, who randomly crawl up and down the walls inside the hut, are keeping me company.

I sit on a chair outside in front of the hut, zoned in on the rice patty field. What a view! All I hear are various insects communicating by making noises. I feel at peace. The pace in Bali is calmer and different. I’m not used to taking things slow and steady while traveling. My surroundings force me to pump the breaks from my usual on-the-go routines.

I don’t find it weird that the bathroom is outside in a patio. There’s a concrete slab as the fence, so I have privacy to do the three S’s: shit, shower, shave. It feels refreshing to take a shower outdoors. The humidity is around the clock in December. This hut in Bali is what I call a private and lowkey five-star hotel experience.

Traveling abroad
12. Singapore
12. Singapore 

Good is an understatement for the Chinese food in Singapore. The hotel where I’m lodging is next to the Tiong Bahru Market, the bread and butter of a local Chinese community. From where I’m staying to the market is like walking across the street to a neighbor’s house. 

The second floor of the Tiong Bahru Market is foodie central. There’s about 25 street vendor-style food stalls in an outdoor/open-floor cafeteria. My airport driver even said I’ll experience traditional Singaporean food at Tiong Bahru and it won’t hurt my wallet. He was right. The food is delicious, cheap, and has me coming back for more.

It appears I’ve been the only foreigner inside the Tiong Bahru Market the last three days. I don’t feel like an outsider. The Chinese community locals aren’t giving me these get-out-of-here looks or staring at me as if I’m a zoo animal. I did some sightseeing in Singapore’s major tourist hubs in certain upscale districts, but when it comes to eating, I save my appetite and think like a Chinese local by eating at Tiong Bahru. The daily dose of mini pancakes with no syrup are so tasty and addictive that I come back for seconds, sometimes thirds, before leaving the cafeteria.

Traveling abroad
13. Mexico
13. Mexico

It’s been about 20 years since I was on Mexican soil. Merida has an old-school and non-tourist vibe that I’m digging. My parents are also in town, and I’ll meet them downtown at the Palacio Municipal, Merida’s City Hall. There’s supposed to be live music and a neighborhood gathering this Saturday night.

As I walk toward the Palacio Municipal, where loud Mexican music is blasting, I notice my folks from a distance. In front of the building are two car lanes full of people dancing. They remind me of aunts, uncles, and some grandparents grooving to the beats. My mother and father are moving their bodies after 40 years of marriage. 

 

My dad signals me to trade places with him as my mom waves me down to dance with her. I smile and say, “No,” like a middle school guy shy to get on the dance floor. My mom quickly grabs my hand before I can say anything and takes me to the street. Without thinking, my body moves to the upbeat music. It feels like an oven inside the dancing area. My mom and I finish and my dad says, “You didn’t look shy. Some of the locals liked your moves.” I’m sober tonight too.

Traveling to another country
14. India
14. India

It’s a zoo at the Chandni Chowk Market in Delhi. If I were claustrophobic, I would probably have high anxiety or a nervous breakdown right now. Too many moving pieces make it hard for me to process my surroundings. A cow just walked by me. Other cows are roaming as if they are pedestrians, while the locals act as if they belong to the community, similar to innocent stray dogs.

I walk farther to the industrial side, where many goods are carried in creative ways by the locals. It’s hoarder central with no foreigners in sight. I go deeper into Old Delhi, off the beaten path, in this cluttered maze. Rather than feeling worried and anxious from being lost, I view it as an opportunity to try local street food. I don’t know what I’m eating, but if the food catches my eye, it will end up in my mouth. 

I find my way back by foot to where I’m staying about an hour later. I immediately head to the bathroom to puke and go diarrhea. I repeat the double whammy a few times before calling it a night. I guess being open-minded to carelessly eat street food that I never had back fired on me. Still, getting lost in the Chandni Chowk Market and Old Delhi was fun.

Countries to visit

Other Countries

Give yourself a pat on the back for exploring seven more countries. If you haven’t had the chance to discover Part 1 (Short Story 4) of the 20 Memorable Countries for Solo Traveling Adventures, make sure to check it out. Now, if you’re ready to dive into Part 3 (Short Story 6), which breaks down additional countries, I’m with you.

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