September / October 2018 - Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam
Every Day is a School Day
Our recent trip to Southeast Asia
By Gary Anderson
A group of 14 ASURA members and their friends recently traveled to four nations in southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Talk about a school day! Our heads are still hurting!
We traveled with OAT – Overseas Adventure Travel – a travel company first established by a retired teacher. Her belief was that travel should be educational, interactive with the people of the host country, have small groups, have a meal with a local family, and visit a school classroom. We did all of these. Hope we got an A!
We visited small villages in forests in Cambodia, watched and learned as the men and women did their daily chores. We walked into the jungle to watch as a woman prodded tarantulas out of their holes in the jungle floor with a stick, then remove their ‘stingers’ with tweezers. She washed them, deep fried them and sold them in the market for food. 50 cents each. Some of us ate them. We also ate fried crickets, stuffed frogs and duck tongues. All this eating was optional. The real food was very, very good.
We also saw many bomb craters in the jungles from the Vietnam war, learned that there are still many mines – bombs – buried in the jungle floor, still killing people if they don’t stay on the trail. We leraned that the VietCong dug 130 miles of tunnels to hide from our bombing and to hide in wait to spring out and attack our troops. We walked, hunkered down, uncomfortably, through a tiny section of the tunnels. Unbelievable.
But, we also toured many incredible temples, mosques, and museums, especially, Angkor Wat, built in the jungle as a Hindu temple in the 12th century. It is about one mile around the outside wall, with every inch of the wall, several stories tall, covered in thousands of bas-reliefs representing important dieties and figures in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Talk about a school day! Wow!
We also got up very early one morning to go out to the streets and feed the passing monks. We each held a small bucket of sticky rice as we stood along the curb. As the monks walked by, some as young as 10-12, in their long orange outfits, holdiing a small pail, we would roll up a ball of sticky rice and put it in. They nodded a ‘thank you’ and kept walking. Many native people came out every morning to present food to the slowly walking monks, their only source of food.
Do you remember when Saigon was being evacuated by the US forces? The TV shots showed many, many people – ambassadors, military commanders, regular citizens – climbing a long ladder to get to the top of a tall building. US helicopters were flying back and forth, trying to evacuate as many people as possible. We stood there and looked at the building, recalling the scenes on TV.
Every day’s a school day. What an incredible trip. Thank you ASURA Travel Committee.
ASU Retirees Association
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