Guest Writer: My Traveling Experience in Asia

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Guest Writer: My Traveling Experience in Asia

David Vu, Guest Writer

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This past year, my family had a surge of international travels. We traveled to many interesting and exotic  places, ranging from seeing the architectural structures of Paris to exploring the massive temples of Vietnam. The two biggest trips that we’ve went on this year was my Asia trip in the winter and my Europe trip in the spring. I’ve seen and experienced some incredible things on both trips but I would like to share my travelling experiences of my Asia trip due to the fact I’ve done many cool and interesting things on this one. So, let’s dive into the first of my overseas expeditions of this year.

Hong Kong:

We start off our journey with a 18-hour flight to Hong Kong, accompanied with a 12-hour layover in Beijing. When we finally landed in the city, we had two-days before our cruise embarks on its way, so we spent the time sightseeing the wonders of the incredible city. We utilized the first day by walking around the city and observing a light show the city projected on at night. The second day, we visited the famously known Giant Buddha (which, by the way, had a ton of stairs to climb but also a magnificent view at the top), a fishing village on the river, and went on a cable car that overlooked the flourishing landscapes and forests. After our adventures in the city, we boarded our cruise ship and set off to our first destination, my parents’ home country of Vietnam

Hanoi:

After sailing for a day overseas, we arrived in the city of Hanoi, which lies in the northern area of Vietnam. During our limited time there, we spent the first day on a day-tour cruising around the city–visiting interesting places. We first visited the Old Quarters (a neighborhood in Hanoi that was built during the French Colonial times), which had specified streets for different items and merchandise, such as a street for clothes and a street for toys. After exploring the Old Quarters, we went across the street of it (which was insane to cross due to the fact that there was literally no pedestrian crossing walkways) to visit the famous Hoan Kiem Lake whose legend tells of  a Golden Turtle God rising from the lake that asked for his magic sword–much similar to the story of King Arthur. After taking loads of pictures of the lake and observing shop markets, we had lunch at a fancy hotel-restaurant (the food was pretty good, wished that they served us pho but whatever) and then we visited the massive layout of Hanoi’s Temple of Literature, where the Vietnamese took tests to gain high positions in the government during the ancient times of Vietnam. Afterwards, we went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which serves as the resting place for Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, and saw the One-Pillar Pagoda, which had a small shrine for respect and prayer to the Buddhist god . On our half-day, we went on a smaller boat out to Halong Bay (translated to “Descending Dragons” bay), where we passed through the many isles of the bay (the isles form a dragon’s back, hence giving the bay its name). Afterwards, we landed on one of the isles and explored a cool limestone cavern inside the mountains (Vietnamese refugees used to hide out here during the Vietnam War). After exploring the cavern, we boarded back onto our cruise ship and embarked off to our next destination, Hoi An.

Hoi An:

We sailed overnight from Hanoi and in the morning ended up at the docks of Hoi An, the middle region of Vietnam that acted as a trading post for commerce in Vietnam. We had about one day there and we had a lot to do. We first went on a bike ride throughout the countryside; We rode past farmer’s rice fields and throughout local neighborhoods, even passing by an water buffalo. After the bike ride, we went into the city portion of the region and had lunch at restaurant. We then met up with family that was also visiting Vietnam and we free-walked throughout the city, which is known for its artistry and fashion. We observed many things in the city, such as boats on the river selling lanterns and mini shrines on some of the ancient bridges that were there. After spending hours walking around and shopping in stores (I got a comedic shirt at a clothing store), we ended up at a cafe and had some coffee and ice cream there. Since it was about time for us to get back on our cruise ship, we said goodbye to our family and boarded back on the ship. Our cruise then set sail to our next destination, Mekong Delta.

Mekong Delta:

It took us only two hours to get to our last destination in Vietnam, the Mekong Delta ( in the southern region of Vietnam).  It was a day trip once again, so we wanted to make the most of our time there. We first went on a boat ride that traversed the Mekong river, where we ended up at a coconut candy factory–a hut that has people grinding coconut shells and mixing them into candy. After observing the process of how they make the candy and buying some of their candy, we traveled along the pathway and came across a fruit farm where we enjoyed some tropical fruits, like pineapple and dragon fruit. We got to listen to some traditional Vietnamese music from local musicians and I even got to hold a giant Python around my shoulders (the creature was very heavy, nearly crushed my body down). Afterwards, we got to go on a mini-rowboat ride down one of the small creeks that feeds out to the Mekong river (the rowers offered us traditional straw hats to wear as we traversed the river). After the boat ride down the creek, we had a traditional fish wrap dinner at a fancy restaurant near Saigon (the restaurant had a nice garden that we walked around and took pictures in). After dinner, we boarded back onto our cruise ship and we disembarked to our next country, Thailand, and our next destination–Bangkok.

Bangkok:

After day out on the sea, we arrived at our next destination of our trip, Bangkok. Since it was New Years Eve, my two older brothers left us for the day to celebrate the New Year with a couple of their friends while the rest of my family did a day tour provided by the cruise. The first stop on our tour was at the famous Royal Palace of Bangkok (fun fact: people can’t wear shorts in the palace because it’s considered rude and disrespectful to the Buddha god), which was particularly crowded that day due to the fact that everyone wanted a blessing from the Buddha  for the new year. We saw many cool and intricately-designed statues and spires, such as gold-encrusted temples and dragon-guards statues. There was the famous Jade Buddha statue, the statue of the Buddha god made entirely out of jade, which was held in a small temple with walls painted with the story of Buddha. After exploring the palace, our next stop was the Wat Arun, nicknamed the Temple of Dawn, which was a Buddhist temple built on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River (named after the Buddhist god, Aruna). We explored every bit of the temple, amazed that it was entirely encrusted with colorful porcelain art. After that, we went to the Thailand boat barges, where we saw examples of Thailand’s traditional ships and boats (the designs and structures of the ships were amazing–with designs like dragons or pagodas). Additionally, we visited a floating village on the river where we shopped and ate street food (I had a fried quail bird and a cooked fish). After spending a couple hours there, we ended our day on a nighttime dinner cruise, going down the river and passing brightly-lit buildings celebrating New Years Eve. We finished the dinner-cruise and went back to our cruise ship where we all passed out of exhaustion from the day.

On our second day in Thailand, we only did a half-day tour, due to the fact that our cruise disembarks in the late afternoon. Our one and only destination we went to was the wooden Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, a religious construction made entirely out of wood panels and wood blocks without the use of nails and screws (the panels and blocks are made to fit and attach to each other perfectly). When we arrived there, we first went through an artisan working area where people doing woodwork, carving complex and intricate statue designs. Right before entering the sanctuary, we were given hard hats to protect our heads from potential falling debris due to the fact that the temple is constantly being reconstructed. We entered the sanctuary and was immediately amazed by the vast and intricately design of the entire building; The walls and pillars had incredible carvings and sculptures representing many gods and goddesses of the elements. We took lots and lots of pictures of each different areas in the sanctuary and learned about which Hindu zodiac sign we are based on a special calendar. After exploring every bit of the sanctuary, we returned to cruise ship and spent the rest of our day on there. As soon as everyone was onboard, including my two older brothers, we set off to our last location on our Asia trip, Singapore.

Singapore:

After travelling for another day out at sea, we arrived at our final destination on our cruise trip, the famous city-state of Singapore. We were there for about two days (we had an extra day due to our flight), so we spent the most of our time there doing a lot of incredible things. We spent our first day travelling around the city on a double-decker tour bus, seeing all of the amazing architecture. We passed by many unusual attractions, such as a double-helix structured bridge and the famous Merlion statue on the water. After getting off the bus, my family and I went to the National Orchid Garden, filled with blooming, colorful orchids and humongous, twisted trees (not to mention the extremely hot climate).  When we finished traversing the beautiful gardens, we went to have lunch at grill restaurant in one of Singapore’s enormous malls. The restaurant provided us with skewers of food which we had to cook it ourselves on a built-in grill at our table. With lunch and exploring the mall over, we walked around the city and ended up at the famous Infinity Pool hotel (the one that appeared at the end of Crazy Rich Asians). We explored inside of the hotel a bit and then went outside to the flourishing Gardens of the Bay, where we watched a breathtakingly colorful light show produced by the Flower Towers. 

On our second (and last) day in Singapore, we left the cruise ship and checked into our hotel, where we set off to enjoy our last day in Asia. First, we went to Singapore’s Chinatown taking in the markets and enjoying traditional breakfast at a Chinese restaurant. After breakfast, we explored the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum–a temple containing many Buddhist-related items and relics. We saw many traditional relics, such as the Yellow Dzambhala statue (the Deity of Wealth) and a magnificent golden dragon statue.  Later in the day, we headed to Little India, where we saw buildings with incredible artistic designs on it and local markets with traditional Indian products being sold. At night, we had dinner at the Lau Pa Sat festival market, an open-market area with a variety of restaurants. We all ate different types of food and had some signature Singaporean gelato and fruit. With full stomachs, we walked around the city at night for one last time, passing by brightly-lit and oddly-designed statues as well as pieces of art around the streets of the city. Feeling accomplished and satisfied with the day, we went back to the hotel and packed up our stuff. The next day, we headed off to the airport and flew the long journey back home to the United States.

The entire trip was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Despite the insane traffic and the excruciatingly hot climate,  I saw beautiful places and learned many things I never thought I would get to take in. Also, I felt like I bonded even more with my family throughout the entire journey of the trip. Our trip to Asia was truly a once in a lifetime journey for me.