Have I ever mentioned that traipsing around Southeast Asia with my No. 1 son was an all-around awesome adventure (ah! – and, additionally, alliteratively auspicious!)? Well, I’m ready to stop reminiscing about it and start paying attention to my real day-to-day life again. Except for one more thing...
In Siem Reap, Cambodia, there’s a Royal Residence available to the King and his family whenever they visit the city. Compared to other resorts and hotels in the area, it’s pretty drab. However, it does face a pleasant green space called the Royal Gardens. Here you can stroll walkways flanked by majestic trees, the canopies of which, during the daytime, are chock full of great big bats. As in Fruit Bats, the flying mammals, not oversized Louisville sluggers.
No. 1 and I observed the bats around mid-day, as they slept, quibbled with one another over the best places to sleep, and occasionally swooped about. We wished we could’ve been there at dusk, when the whole colony begins moving out to feed. I’ve heard that watching this commotion is a pleasant way to end the day. As long as you have no fear of bats.
Oh, and here’s just one last thing: In Hanoi, Vietnam, at the Temple of Literature, we were able to walk up to the second floor of one of the temple structures. Looking out across the temple grounds from that vantage point, we noticed the rooftop of this building was littered with a whale of a lot of money. Yeah, cold hard cash. Just tossed atop the roof, as if it was some sort of wishing well.
Turns out that’s what it is. Well at least to students. Even though the Temple of Literature is no longer a university, like it used to be, modern-day scholars still visit and toss their lucre onto the roof – they’re hoping it will bestow luck upon them as they prepare for their exams. But it only works if the dough lands and stays on the roof. Which it unfortunately didn’t for this one tourist, who wafted a U.S. bill of some kind toward the roof, and watched it glide on the gentle breeze to the courtyard below. Where a random kid picked it up and ran off with it.
Wait, one last thing: In all the countries we visited, our eyes, in any given place or moment, could readily drink in something – art, architecture, signs, and so on and so forth – sporting fantastical ornamentation and symmetry. This applied even to the tickets we purchased for many attractions. At Vietnam’s Mỹ Sơn temple-ruins complex near Hoi An, our guide – the best English-speaking, and yes, most manly and very sexy Mỹ Sơn guide of them all! – took our money but wouldn’t give us the tickets. Because it was such a pretty little work of printed art, he would only hand them out at the end of the tour, so we didn’t desecrate them in our grubby pockets and backpacks.
I shouldn’t forget to mention one other thing: The guide on our cruise of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay tried awfully hard to teach us a little about the Vietnamese language, which nonetheless I continued to abuse awfully. However, in my defense, it’s kinda hard! For example, the word “ma” can mean six different things, depending on your inflection, the diacritical marks, your intonation, your facial expression, and whether you’re talking with your mouth full.
The ma-ny meanings of ma are: “ghost”; “mother”; “but” or “however”; “horse”; “seedling”; “tomb.” I practiced all of these assiduously. A couple months after the trip, we got together with the wife’s parents, and I decided to show off my mastery of ma, using it in a sentence while addressing my mother-in-law. My father-in-law, who belongs to a Tai Chi club and must have learned some Asian-speak there, gave me a highly diacritical look and asked why in the heck would I call his wife a tomb. I said, “Oy!” and explained I was trying to call her a seedling.
Oh, you’ve got hear these two last things: A note that should make all Hoosier farmers proud – An eatery in Hong Kong promotes one of its dishes by boasting that it contains “Diced Fish with Indiana Lettuce.”
Our final meal in Hong Kong was at a Korean restaurant, which served, among other things, my No. 2 son’s dog. Wait, wait – not actual dog meat, but a Korean barbecue dish called SoonDae. Which is the name of No. 2’s dog.