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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Malaysian Exploration

Historical Melaka, situated close to the Port of Malacca, is among the most beautiful tourist attractions I have visited in Malaysia. This photograph is taken in front of the Victoria Regina, a fountain built in 1904 in memory of a great Queen. The fountain is adjacent to one of the oldest churches in the country, built in 1753 and the Malai Gallery Seni Lukis built in 1931. The Muzium Umno Melaka (1935) and the Kites Museum of Enduring Beauty house a collection of bewitching traditional curios. This place is also remarkable for numerous well-maintained gardens, and a great variety of fruit trees planted on sidewalks. These gardens and trees are brilliantly lit at night, which gives Melaka a round-the-year festive look. The Eye of Melaka is also home to the King’s Palace and the original building from which the independence of Malaysia was declared. On another note, I discovered that the delicacies of Malaysian cuisine have a really strong smell, and the seafood dishes include everything from cuttlefish to octopuses. I also came across some interesting fruits like the ‘dragon fruit’ that is indigenous to this land. My internship at the JVMC Corporation is interesting and enjoyable, especially as the staff is very friendly. Since I work at the office from 8 to 5 on all weekdays, my trips around Malaysia are mainly limited to the weekends.
On 27th June, I visited Medan, Indonesia on a weekend trip. Medan has a much higher population than Melaka, and has a strikingly different culture when compared to Malaysia. The picture below was taken inside the Maimoon Palace in Medan.
However, the most notable memory of my Indonesian trip are the numerous shops displaying intricate Batik work, wood carvings and unique items like key chains with preserved animals- scorpions, flying lizard, goldfish and ladybugs. My summer is far from over as I have scheduled trips to Cambodia this month, and to China in the next. Please look forward to my next blog for report on the latest news from my South-East Asia travels!

Machu Picchu!!!

You know how there are those places that have become little more than tourist traps? (Certain beaches in México come to mind). Of course, this is not to say, necessarily, that any of those locations are overrated. In fact, the opposite is often true, which would make sense, as thousands of tourists continue to visit those specific locations for a reason. However, time, capitalism, and globalism have opened the door to welcome the entrance of a tourist industry that, over the years, has effectively commercialized and sold those destinations in something akin to mass production. In essence, there are locations, I believe, that have become so entangled with the tourist industry that they seem to lose some of their original appeal—that is, in some way, they are less real than they once were.

Machu Picchu is not one of those places. Of course, like any other location having once been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the town and site itself are constantly swamped with tourists, travelers, and foreigners who are all too easily streamlined through a nearly seamless process that the tourist industry of the nearby town of Cusco (as well as the whole country of Peru) has perfected in the century since the ruins were “discovered” in 1911. Numerous tours are available, expensive train tickets are sold, and plenty of luxurious services are extended to any party willing to pay a hefty sum of money for the heavily-advertised Incan experience—it´s all there for English- and Spanish-speakers alike.

However, in spite of all that (in spite of the tourist services that would make the trip to the ruins seem typical or cliche), Machu Picchu was unbelievably AMAZING! Truly, no words exist to adequately describe the beauty I beheld on that day. In many ways, the site (with its trapezoidal structure that was perfectly engineered to withstand the earthquakes that shook the mountains over time) was nothing like the pictures I had so often seen—it was so much more beautiful, mystical, enthralling, intriguing, and peaceful all at once! Even though I took a ridiculous number of photographs, it was not enough to capture the wonder that was Machu Picchu. To think that my trip to this place was a last-minute addition (thanks to Sherry´s encouragement)!

Fortunately, the tour lasted nearly three hours and covered all of the site. Afterward, thankfully, everyone was given free time to explore alone. I simply found a secluded area and lay in peace, surrounded by 500-year old ruins, freely grazing llamas, and lush, green mountains as far as the eye could see. I don´t think I´ve ever found a more peaceful spot on this earth. It was over all too soon, but it was certainly an experience that I will never be able to forget. And even though tourists (like myself) will likely continue to invade this area for many years to come, this is one place that will never lose its authenticity, its natural beauty, or its quintessential ability to astonish all who are fortunate enough to lay eyes on it.