Home Is Where The Suitcase Is: Asia

Thus far, I have recounted my adventures throughout Antarctica, South America and Africa. This week, I will be taking you on a journey through Asia to Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos and China.



Being blonde in China

I went to China when I was 7 years old. My family and I were a part of a tour group that went to various tourist attractions such as The Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and the Terracotta Army. Our guide’s name was Daisy, and I remember her as a good friend - I still have a doll she bought me that I named Daisy. It was an odd experience because my family usually doesn’t go on tour groups with other people - or really on tour groups at all - so it was odd to be surrounded by other doting adults. The most memorable experience in China for me was being blonde. I know it sounds odd, but in China, being blonde is considered to be good luck. I would have people pinching me for good luck, which was rather traumatizing.

People would come up to my parents and ask for photos with me. I swear, I must’ve taken more than 100 photos with strangers while I was there. I practically thought I was a celebrity. When we went to the Great Wall of China, I tried on a traditional dress for an Empress (I didn’t know about cultural appropriation back then), and people were lining up to take pictures of me. My parents always said that we could’ve paid for our entire trip if they had charged people to take pictures with me. More than anything though, the experience was kind of overwhelming. I didn’t really understand what was going on, and I had bruises from being pinched.

We also went on a Yangtze river cruise while we were in China, and it was very fascinating. Again, I was the only child on the boat, so I felt special. I was also bored. I distinctly remember one point of the cruise, I was talking to a man and lied and told him I had a twin sister named Kate. He asked where she was, and I said I would go get her. I went into the curtains, put my hair up, and came out with a convincing British accent and said I was Kate. He then asked where Hunter was, so I proceeded to go back to the curtain and put my hair down. This went on for several minutes until my mom came to rescue the poor man. When we went to port, we would explore the various towns and eat. The food was good, but now, the only Chinese food I can eat is chow mein - one time, when we were eating out, a man told me that at his kitchen, they fry everything with four legs except for a table. Traumatizing. 

Elephants in Thailand

Let me preface this by saying that I now know how cruel the riding of elephants is, but my family and I didn't know at the time because animal cruelty campaigns were not as prevalent. That said, riding elephants was an interesting experience, albeit uncomfortable. However, just meeting elephants was much more fascinating to me. At one point in Thailand, my dad and I went for a walk in the jungle across from our hotel, and we ran into a juvenile elephant that was tied to the tree. We stopped to say hi to it and then went on our way. Well, the elephant wanted to stay with us and actually broke free and followed us. At first, it was cute, but then it started to get pushy and my dad worried about getting injured. We ended up running away from the elephant back to the hotel, and I lost my shoe to a pile of elephant dung and had to limp the rest of the way.

My week in Malaysia

We went to Malaysia for a conference my mom had to attend. We got free access to everything in the conference center, including an aquarium. In fact, I think my dad and I spent every day at the aquarium before going outside to wander. In the aquarium, my dad got to actually go scuba dive in the exhibits for a cheap price, which typically isn’t allowed in America. I remember chasing him throughout the exhibits on the moving walkway, sometimes running backwards to stay with him. At the end of his dive, he brought me some shark teeth that he collected at the bottom of the tank, which I still have somewhere in my room. Now that I’m a certified scuba diver, I would love to go back and scuba dive in the aquarium with all the sharks because a) I love sharks and b) I’m a broke college student who likes traveling and discounted adventure options.

Monkeying around in Cambodia

On the same Thailand and Malaysia trip, my family and I stopped by Cambodia. We visited Angkor-Wat, an abandoned temple in the jungle, and we were hiking around when I felt something hit my back - hard. I turned around, and there was no one there. It kept happening, and it turned out that there were monkeys in the trees throwing down their discarded fruit! While we were picnicking, I got to get up close and personal with a monkey who was interested in our meal. Really, the highlight of our time in Cambodia was seeing all the monkeys and the culture they are surrounded by. And, of course, our day-long detour in Laos…

Couldn’t 'bear' to leave Laos

While we were in Cambodia, my parents decided to take a boat over to Laos for the day. We went to a very small village; it was basically just a few vendors and food options. However, in the very back, there was a sun bear cub in a dog crate. I went back there with my dad, and we looked at it for a while and talked about how sad it was that it was cooped up in a cage. Eventually, my dad wanted to look at the shopping and left me. While he was gone, I quickly undid the two latches on the cage and then ran off to my dad. About 10 minutes later, we heard a scream that the sun bear had escaped! I, of course, ran over to see the little guy. They got him to stay still with milk, and while he was drinking the milk, I got to pet him. I felt very proud of my devious self--I gave the bear a little time to explore, and I even got to pet it! I didn’t tell my parents that I was the one who let the sun bear out until about two years ago, but they think it’s hilarious and honestly, I would definitely go back and free him again.