Friday, 27 May 2016

5 Times I Fell in Love with Asia

My last post was filled with disappointment about the struggles people face in Asia. There were rays of hope though. And, I thank you for your words of encouragement in your comments!

As I get ready to leave Asia and move on to my next continent, I can't help but reflect on the times that I truly fell in love with this continent. So, in honour of my ancestral home, my family and friends who I will miss dearly, and the many new countries I have visited and people I have met here:

5 Times I Fell in Love with Asia

1. Travelling by myself in Hong Kong

Feeling like I could travel on my own again, experiencing the self-confidence I had lost a short while before, was empowering.

I chose to step out of my hostel; I chose where I wanted to go and problem solved how to get there; and then I walked, trained, and explored the area by myself!

Of course, I had my airport map, advice from roommates at the hostel, suggestions from close friends in India, and Google. After that, all I needed was initiative.

The few days in Hong Kong during the day were necessary for me. With my self-confidence back during the day I could visit friends at night, and really experience the city for what it had to offer - bright city lights, lush green islands, and beautiful parks with exotic birds!

2. On a private boat on Inle Lake in Myanmar

The one place I really wanted to visit in Myanmar - Inle Lake!

Taking the bus to the Lake was an experience in itself. On a top of the line VIP bus, served by an usher, provided fresh snacks for the night journey, and surrounded by earphones with which we could watch our own private movie on the seat in front of us. And, a reclining chair. Wow!

Once the bus stopped at the village close to the Lake, the next 10 minutes were spent in a private car, and the car (when requested) took us to a local service provider for boat tours.

As I sat in the boat, I covered my head with a scarf, to shield my eyes from the sun.

Soon, I was told I could lay on my back, while the boat drifted on the water. How could I refuse?

As I slept there facing the sky, I could see the clouds. And, each time the boat passed a fenced gateway, the water level would drop, and the boat would take a small nose dive into the water.

The best moments in life are in nature, silent, feeling fresh waves and a beautiful breeze.

3. When I visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India

The Golden Temple in Amritsar was on my bucket list for a few years (because it was on my dad's bucket list for most of my life). I had almost given up hope that I would be able to visit it, because of the social unrest in Northern India at the time.

But, because I fell sick and had to cancel my flight to Australia, and with the help of my close friend and his best friends, I was able to squeeze in a detour to Amritsar before leaving India.

Walking at night on the cool floor, watching the temple light up golden against the night sky, by a man-made pond of bright fishes, hearing the religious hymns praising all religions and humanity - I could not help but feel overwhelmed that I had finally ticked off something from my dad's list.

4. When my friend's mum showed me her ancestral home in Jodhpur

I began my trip through Asia in Jodhpur, India in January, 2016. At the time, my new friend and his family were planning renovations to their home and I was planning my route through Northern and Southern India. I spoke about how I wanted to visit all 7 continents in a year, and about how I needed to shoot videos and take photos that documented my journey.

With a twinkle in her eyes, pride in her voice, and an infectious energy, she suggested her ancestral home in Jodhpur. She hailed a rickshaw on a main street and with all my gear, we set out towards her home. As we passed each street, she pointed out the street where her husband worked, and spoke about how she would walk from her home to her parental house in her younger days.

Reaching her home, she even asked me to take a photo of the nearby well, the doors and windows of her house, and spoke about how close it was to Mehrangarh fort.

As I walked through the gates of that home, I could feel history living in its rooms.

5. Finally, loved by my family in Mumbai and Chennai, India 

As my trip was not pre-planned, I was not sure when I would be able to visit my paternal and maternal uncles, aunts, and cousins in India.

In Mumbai

When I finally arrived in Mumbai, I took off for my cousin's home to see my 2-year old niece. After her brief fascination with my Merrells, and my quick fruity snack, the three of us booked a taxi and set off for my uncle's home. My uncle - who was concerned about my trip and made sure that I had all my needs met; my aunt - who would defend my trip on my behalf to anyone who questioned.

As I met each part of my close family, I noticed how much they wanted to support me. From one of my uncles who traced my entire round-the-world trip on a large map, to my dad's cousins who opened up family albums to show me what he looked like when he was a child.

The love was palpable.

In Chennai

When I arrived in Chennai, at the end of my trip in Asia, I was given a tour of Chennai.

But, not just any tour!

Sitting on the passenger seat of my uncle's scooter - the same scooter I used to stand on as a child - I snapped photos of the college where my mother studied in Chennai, the beach where my mum used to "hang" with her friends, and the home where I was born.

I listened as he spoke about my grandfather's successful export/ import business, our family's ancestral wealth, and how he travelled in his own buggy and car when few others had them.

Despite the struggles we face daily now, to earn an income, to balance household chores, and to take care of ill family members; knowing where my mother grew up, studied, and gave birth to me filled me with a sense of history, a sense of pride about my beginnings.

As I bid adieu to Asia, I know that I will have learnt the most from this vast, largest continent of ours. Antarctica will always have my love; but Asia is home.

Stay tuned for my next post as I visit MY LAST CONTINENT - the land of the outback!

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  1. Interesting n nostalgic. Felt like you were paying a tribute to your parents and your families, and feeling pride in your heritage.
    And yes nature provides the best n peaceful moments of life.
    Loved reading about inle lake n golden Temple and your friends ancestral home in Jodhpur.
    Keep blogging n bringing joy to us through your experiences in the various places you visit

  2. Your blogs give a different perspective of life, travel, relationships, and many more feelings and experiences.
    Looking forward to your blogs as you go along on your trip.

  3. Wishing you all the best on your special day Asma! You may receive this message a day early :-) Hope you've landed on your 7th continent before #31. Best wishes and may your travels bring you joy, peace, love and abundance.

  4. The Golden Temple has been on my bucket list for some time now, and I've visited India. Your post has served as a timely reminder. Can't wait to hear about koala bears, kangaroos, and wallabies. Have fun and enjoy your last frontier :-)

  5. Didn't realize you were born in Chennai - it is another place I call home too! I've enjoyed following your journey :)

  6. Hey Asma, great that you are doing this trip when you are young and can enjoy it. Hope you have fun in Australia!!!