“Listen to your heart”, said Keenan, our guide in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. We were visiting an echo chamber in the Ta Prohm Temple. The small square room had a towering ceiling open to the sky. If you stood against the stone wall and beat your chest the sound was amplified and resonated loudly in your ears. You could imagine you were actually “listening to your heart.” Keenan guided us through many unique experiences in Cambodia. He took us to visit his home and meet his family. He stopped our van so we could go out in the fields to harvest rice with local workers and arranged a boat tour of the water villages on Lake Tonle Sap. Keenan also told us a harrowing story how as a teenager he survived the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.
Last week a couple came to visit us who are planning a trip to Asia this summer. They wanted some advice. We started telling them about a few of the guides who had made our Asian travels memorable.
26 year old Sunlini was my guide and caddy as I golfed the Nirwana course in Tanalot, Bali. She spoke four languages fluently even though her family could only afford to send her to school for a few years. She had a great sense of humor shouting “COBRA” to my husband Dave when he insisted on hunting for his own golf balls in the bush instead of letting her do it. She taught me about Balinese spirituality as she explained what happened in the various temples we could view from the golf course. She told me shyly about her boyfriend, a local artist and how the bombings in Bali had impacted everyone’s income by damaging the tourist industry. Sunlini was also a golfing expert and had many tips to help me play a good game.
Max our tour guide in Beijing was an ambitious and intelligent university graduate who supplemented his guiding income by building computers out of spare parts and giving English lessons. He told us we were in the new free and open China and could question him about anything we wanted. However when we walked into Tiananmen Square and I asked him to show me where the tanks had entered on that fateful day in 1989 he responded in an urgent whisper not to ask that question again till we were back on the bus. Max arranged for us to walk the Great Wall and ride in a rickshaw through a houtong.
30 year old Dee Dee, mother of seven, was our snorkeling guide on the island of Boracay in the Philippines. She took us to see her home made of bamboo. The floor was concrete and the roof tin. There was no running water. She cared not only for her children, but also her Dad who had a stroke when she was four years old, the same year her Mom died. Dee Dee’s always had to be self sufficient. She loves tourists because they help feed her family. Dee Dee is hard working. She organizes snorkeling trips, provides massage services, gives guided tours and runs a business selling jewelry and T- shirts on the beach.
Our tour guides in Asia helped us see so many interesting things but also helped us learn what life was like for people in their country. What next? I am going to do a future blog post about more of our guides.