SeA means Southeast Asia. The book is a blend of travel experiences, historical revisits, personal stories, and imbibes a few more themes. It is a clubbed up book with a lot of information and historical data. Three men: The author Ashok and his two friends Terry and Gerald travel through five Southeast Asian countries namely Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.
However the prominent theme of the book may lure readers for its title and traveling in five countries, but I found stories in museums, memorials, streets, palaces and beaches visited by these persons. In a startling surprise, I found that the cultural and religious history of these countries have connection with India.
Nearly all these nations follow Buddhism and some form of Christianity, but vestiges of Hinduism lurked everywhere. Once there rulers were Hindus, Hindu gods were worshiped, had Tamil roots, though it is another matter that now they follow Buddhism.
I have never been to any of these countries, however, I experienced an armchair experience through this book. The facts and stats of these countries are not only amusing but may also nudge you for sympathy. Most of these countries recovered from wars or invasion or colonization.
Tales of Thailand are common everywhere by travel bloggers and magazines but the coverage on Cambodia is way brilliant to absorb in one go. I loved Cambodia for its ancient cultural roots and monuments that have connection with Tamil roots. And the next country that moved me is Vietnam. It went into war with the USA.
Khmer architectural genesis and dynasty was a thing to read and note over and again. And in Vietnam, I was fazed by Saigon, and Ho Chi Minh’s influence. These countries are indeed a destination for slow travel, so that one could gape at the richness of their cultural points. For instance, Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world.
The relics and similarities of these countries temples and shrines can be found in South India mainly Tamil Nadu. It was people and kings of South India that expanded and traveled to these countries. The author beautifully explores Tamil connection where they go, except Thailand, which was more about fun, pleasure, enjoyment, night life buzz.
However, I personally felt that the book went heavy. Five counties, too much information, many pictures, personal tales to relate, and there is a whole lot of information on a variety of topics after the travel part is over. As a matter of fact, the author should have converted the content into many books, I mean one for each country. And for history of India and other kings, he should have dedicated a new short book. The pictures were black and white, blurring the pages, had they been coloured, it could have been a different rich experience.
One strong aspect of the book is its historical moot point. The language of the book is lucid and legible. Even it is well-indexed before the start of a chapter. Overall, it is a book for different sets of audiences, it cannot be tied to a particular set of audiences, as it is such a diversified book of its own essence.
You may order the book directly from publisher (Masi Publications) or Amazon India.