A Summer in Southeast Asia
For many, summer vacation consists of a trip out of town, or a few consecutive days spent achieving a luxurious tan (or sunburn, as the case may be) on the beach. Maybe you’ll enroll in sports, or if you’re feeling adventurous, take a drive across the country. For me, summer has always been a continuation of our life on the road. You could say that our entire life is one long vacation. Of course, being on the road can have its’ moments of being less than enjoyable, but then again, so can staying at home.
We spent this summer traveling around Southeast Asia, where we will be staying for an undetermined amount of time. It’s a very beautiful part of the world, with lush green rice paddies and miles of jungle blanketed mountains. Elephants trundle through the hills, now carrying tourists as often as logs. Muddy men behind even muddier water buffalo plow the rice fields. Tentative green sprouts poke out of the water, carefully planted by wrinkled old grandmothers in pointed sun hats. Tall temples stand proudly in the forests, shining as the sun reflects off of thousands of pieces of colored glass arranged into spectacular mosaics on the walls. It is a land of enchantment.
Of the many adventures I had this summer, these are among my favorite:
The boys and I with an elephant
Riding elephants through the foothills of Northern Thailand.
This was definitely the most incredible experience I’ve ever had! There is nothing as adventurous as riding these great beasts through the fields and forests of Pai, Thailand. The highlight of the day was having one dance to the sound of my mandolin. Apparently elephants like Celtic music!
Me with a professional calligrapher
Learning calligraphy from a traditional calligrapher in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Who would have thought that simply wandering into a hole-in-the-wall museum would win me a free lesson from an experienced Vietnamese calligrapher? He noticed my interest and before long had me painting things on my own sheet of paper. Before the hour was out, he’d given me a Vietnamese name: Long Hao. To my delight, this means “Great Dragon”, as well as “Curious One.”
Sunrise over Angkor Wat
Visiting Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is known worldwide for being some of the best ruins on the face of the earth. Despite its’ age, the majority of the carvings are still in amazing shape.
Tree at Angkor
Tall trees have slowly grown down over the walls of the temples, cradling some stones within their roots, displacing others. Huge stone heads stare down at passerby from their lofty towers, benevolent smiles gracing their faces. Angkor Wat was by far the best complex of ruins I’ve ever visited.
The entrance to the cave
Exploring the Perfume Pagoda
One of Southeast Asia’s most famous religious sites, the Perfume Pagoda gets thousands of visitors each spring. Luckily for us, it is nearly deserted during the summer months. Getting to the temple, which is located inside a cave high in one of the mountains, can be an adventure. It requires an hour’s journey by rowboat up the Perfume River, and then a long hike up the mountain. We had quite an exciting day, and encountered our first monkeys on this side of the world!
Needless to say, my summer proved to be very exciting. But for me, traveling is not something that happens for only a few months each year. As school starts this fall, my family intends to continue traveling Asia, bringing our schoolbooks along! After all, what better form of education is there, if not travel?
Hannah Miller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
All photos courtesy and copyright Hannah Miller