Apr 27, 2011

Why You Must Visit Egypt & South East Asia

Mail from my Uncle, Brigadier Vijay Kumar, my father's elder brother.

I happened to tour Egypt just before the recent upheaval & some SE Asian countries last month & I found some interesting & at times amusing observations which we normally do not read in the books. Some of you may travel to these Regions, so here are my observations.


Egypt has the top of the list of the wonders of the World, the Pyramids. They are Wonders not because of the Massive Rock structures but the ingenuity which the Pharaohs used in transporting huge Rock slabs from quarries in upper regions to Pyramid sites when The Nile was in spate & reached the foot of the sites, using massive boats to ferry them. That is the time when farmers had no work & the entire population was diverted towards construction of the Pyramids. They were not the whip lashed slaves we see in some Hollywood Movies.

The Sound & Light shows in Luxor or Giza are unique with Laser Technology used liberally which depicts their History in convincing details. Our parallel shows in the Red Fort or Cellular Jail in Port Blair are no match; you have to struggle to keep off yawning.

War Museum in El Elamin is interesting, constructed on the site of what is considered as the Turning point of the 2nd WW, but they have not preserved the remnants of the Defence Lines on ground which we as soldiers would have appreciated.

6 Oct is their Victory Day & they have 6 Oct Towns & Roads signifying their victory over Israel. Well, the World knows what really happened!

Aam Aadmi of Egypt is wary of the misrule of Husn e Mubarik & family for decades but turns away when questioned as to why they did not opt for a change. There are no jobs & living is expensive, a KG of meat costs an equivalent of Rs 700/-. Tips are mandatory as most of those in tourism industry including Govt employees survive on tips offered by foreigners. We hope the present Revolution & change in Govt will usher in better life for their people. A Nation which gave birth to Muslim Brotherhood that ultimately evolved into Al Qaida ironically could not displace its own ruler till now.


Angkor Vat known to be the largest Hindu Temple in the World is large because of the Area it occupies. Their Idols have also been destroyed by marauders (from Thailand) like many temples in India. Some say it is a Wonder of the World but I find that many Temples in India , say Belur & Halebidu temples which are less known, have better & finer sculptures that too made from Black Granite which is harder substance than Sandstone which fills the Angkor Vat Temples. Cambodia, a small & poor country can sell their heritage more effectively than India. There is no mention of Indian Rulers who spread Hinduism to these Regions or Budhism by Emperor Ashoka . Ramayana & Mahabharata are proudly depicted though Cambodia is wary of talking about their origin

Here again the people of Cambodia who suffered Genocide from Pol Pot Regime helplessly watched themselves being killed till they realized that they were helping Pol pot by providing him with Rice by which he bought weapons from China. They united ultimately to stop supplying rice which resulted in the collapse of the Regime. US recovering from the wounds of Vietnam were helpless bystanders.


A great country that fought the might of America & its allies in 60s & early 70s , comparable to Japan in the WW 2. It is over 30 years since their Inception but the country continues to reel in poverty unlike Japan which in 2 decades of the War rose to be an Economic Super power. This can be attributed to the form of communism that prevails in the Region, highly corrupt Govt, disorganized spending & a foreign policy that keeps the Western world away. Their War Museum in Ho chi Minh City depicts the highly exaggerated atrocities committed by the Americans during the War but say little of their own. Land & sites are not owned by the people but are given as long lease by the Govt which serves as a disincentive for any good development or construction. South Vietnamese were happy till the North took over & cancelled all their ownerships.

Two wheelers are a great sight on the roads. They have separate lanes & move in a constant speed like an Army of Ants.

Tunnels dug by the Vietcong during the war are not just tunnels but underground Townships. Our Field Engineering in the Infantry does not go beyond 3 Man Trenches & Fox holes. I would vote for their tunnels to be chosen as a wonder of the world.


A Hindu Kingdom which strangely became a Muslim country surrounded by Buddhist countries. Go back to the times of 11th to 16th centuries when Malacca was the main trading route for the Arab vessels trading with China. In order to establish a better rapport with the Arabs , the Hindu ruler in the 11th century converted to Islam, so by the natural order of things, the people too converted. Rule of Tunku Abdul Rahman , though Autocratic was secular & brought the country on Western lines with beautiful Roads & buildings ( Twin Tower for Example ), but his followers have been fundamentalists, thus preference is given to Muslim population, so the Hindu & Chinese feel rather neglected bur they have their own organs for development such as schools & Hospitals. Notably it is the Chinese & Indians who are the Elite society.

A lot of Indian Agencies are working in Malaysia such as IRCON building their Railway network but they too are not devoid of scandals & scams.


Bali strangely is an Island with 90 % Hindus amidst a country with 90 % Muslims. Though Al Qaida has its influence in Indonesia, there has been only one bombing incident in Bali which killed 55 Australian tourists, since then the Al Qaida seems to have disintegrated as the Govt has come down hard on them. Al Qaida tried to enhance their net work to Malaysia too but the ring was trapped in Indonesia with cooperation of both the Govts.

Some of the temples in Bali particularly the ones on sea cliffs are awesome for their panoramic profiles, though the quality of sculptures here too is not worth talking about. Don’t give much to their Dances which have been hyped out of proportion.


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