Short Story 7
Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia
It’s good to have you for Part 2 of this short story. As a reminder from Part 1 (Short Story 8), in Part 7, you’ll get a rundown of five different countries (6-10), focusing on one memorable experience from my lens. Let’s get on with the action!
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.
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.
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!
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.
I wake up at 5:00 am to the city intercoms. I open the hotel room window to hear what’s going on. A man is passionately singing a verse from the Koran that’s being played on intercoms outside throughout this Muslim neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur. I listen to the holy prayer knowing that every Muslim in Kuala Lumpur is on their knees praying right now and embracing the passages from the Koran. The singing stops within five minutes. I didn’t understand what was said, but subconsciously, I know the chants were uplifting and healthy for the soul. It’s as if my heart wanted to open up to do some internal healing from unresolved past issues. I’m not Muslim and I don’t practice a religion, but I believe each can teach me something valuable. My last morning in Kuala Lumpur begins at 5:00 am. I haven’t had to set my alarm in Malaysia to get up due to the first daily prayer played on the outdoor neighborhood intercoms. I’m trying to wrap my heard around why I feel at peace whenever I hear the man singing holy passages from the Koran. The vibrational frequency at 5:00 am gives me hope for the future, despite the bad things that happen worldwide and life’s adversities.
Give yourself a pat on the back for exploring five more countries. If you haven’t had the chance to discover Part 1 (Short Story 8) of the 15 Memorable Countries That You Won’t Regret Traveling, 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.