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Neal Patel - India, Singapore, and Thailand

Sri Mariammam Temple, SingaporeChikhodra, Gujarat India

With another year of college flying by, I took advantage of this summer to travel around various parts of Southeast Asia. My first destination was traveling back to my roots, India. From northern India to southern India, I was given the opportunity to explore all the distinct cultures. For such a small country, it’s surprising to find such vast differences from one side of the country to the other. Despite the differences found in language, customs, and culture, there was one thing in common all across: love. The hospitality offered in India was second to none; everyone was accepting and welcoming. The atmosphere created by the people in India made it as if I were at home, and as if they were all part of my family. However, there also was much pain given India’s poverty. I could only feel blessed for having the life I do. Not only did my time in India teach me humility, it also taught me to live life and have a positive effect on others. Everyone I met in India put aside their hardships and struggles and offered me the highest regard, care, and love that they could offer.   
In addition to traveling across India to view historic sites, I spent much of my time in the small city of Chikhodra, where my father grew up. During my time there I went to the local public school (K-12) each day with my uncle, who was in charge of admissions. The schooling situation was unlike any I had seen before; the school was run down with minimal electricity, running water, and limited sanitation. Even though the school lacked basic accommodations, it was amazing how the school community worked together to do their best for their students. It was even more heartwarming to see the instructors teach the students as if they were their own; the extra time they put

Tiger Kingdom: Phuket, Thailand

 in was amazing. Seeing how little they have made me aware of the many blessings I have in life, and I will not take anything for granted again. This trip made me truly appreciate the opportunities and resources schools in America offer.
My next destination was Singapore, where I spent most of my time sightseeing. I had the opportunity to visit Universal Studios Singapore, Night Safari (exotic animals found around the world), Singapore Flyer (165m-tall public observation wheel), and the beautiful Sri Mariamman Temple. The best part of Singapore was finding Little India, a small area within the city of Singapore where it literally feels like India. The aroma of spices, Hindi dialect, and colorful souvenirs flooded the streets of Little India. The city of Singapore flourishes with a diverse population of people, giving Singapore its unique traditions and customs. 
My final destination was Phuket, Thailand, where I relaxed at a resort and went sightseeing. I had the opportunity to go visit Tiger Kingdom, Phi Phi Islands, James Bond Island, Old Phuket Town (historic building), Bangla Road Nightlife (mini Las Vegas), Big Buddha (45m high statue), and the beautiful Wat Chalong Temples. My time in Phuket flew by and left me mesmerized by the beautiful islands and historic attractions. Thailand was the perfect ending to an eventful summer break that not only served as a vacation, but also a period of self-reflection.