Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, oh my!

Senior takes a trip around the world


Photo courtesy of Aditya Naganna

Aditya Naganna’s dad Naganna, sister Artzi, brother Abhay and mother Sushama, stand in front of the Petronas Towers. The 1,483 foot towers have 33,000 stainless steel walls and 52, 000 glass panels. “When I was standing directly below them, I couldn’t see their spires,” Naganna said. “To go up in them, you have to make a special appointment.”

Emma Baker, Staff reporter

While the start of summer had most of us binging Netflix shows or searching for summer jobs, senior Aditya Naganna was 35,000 feet in the air excitedly awaiting the descent to his family’s vacation destination.

His family didn’t select a typical travel destination. It wasn’t Cancun or the Florida Keys. Instead, they chose to visit three places in the expansive subregion of southeast Asia. After all, they’ve never been a family for “typical.” As an infant, Naganna went to places like France, Scotland, and India with his mom and dad. This time his parents, younger brother, sister and grandma were along for the ride.

And what a ride it was – the flights and travel time amounted to around a whole day. He went from Omaha to New York City, to a port city in China, and finally, Singapore. For the first three days, he toured the bustling island on foot, bus, and metro, enabling him to see many different perspectives of life in Singapore. On the monorail, the glass windows would fog up every time it passed houses, because, as Naganna found out, looking into someone’s residence is illegal there. Additionally, he got to see a 1,300,000 square foot wonder owned by the Las Vegas Sands resort company.

“My favorite architectural masterpiece that I saw was the giant ‘boat’ hotel in Singapore,” Naganna said. “It was called Marina Bay Sands. We saw it on a tour guide bus.” 

 Naganna also went just south of the coast to the island of Sentosa. With the motto “State of Fun,” it’s no wonder this isle is home to an amusement park. His family went on fun tours, rides, and visited exhibits. He even got to lay eyes on the official mascot of Singapore: the Merlion. With a lion’s head and a fish’s body, the mythical creature’s statue towers 37 meters high with an observation deck inside to look out of. But the thing that stood out the most to him in Singapore was the various cultures that come together.

“It’s a melting pot,” Naganna said. “Singapore is probably the most culturally diverse city I’ve ever been to, and that’s saying something since I lived in New York. The cuisine there is an amazing mix of Chinese, Southeast Asian and Java cuisine. Everything I had was delicious from upscale restaurants to food courts.” 

This is partly due to its relatively recent independence where Singapore became both a city and a nation. When Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures started fresh in creating a space where everyone and everything was harmonious, they certainly didn’t forget the flavors. 

The next stop was the capital of Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur.

He went to landmarks like the Petronas Twin Towers which were once the tallest buildings in the world, and that now hold the title of the tallest twin towers. From the ground, Naganna wasn’t even able to see their top. Equally as interesting was Little India, a place he compares to Chinatown. It was full of store fronts, restaurants and his favorite, vibrant culture. Rickshaws, tiny covered two wheel carts pulled by a bike, were plentiful among the streets. When they needed to let loose a little more, they decided to hit the water park. They had a blast, even when it decided to start raining.

On the sixth day, he took off for his final destination: Bangkok, Thailand.

 His time there was primarily spent touring the Buddhist and Hindu temples also known as ‘wats.’ It makes sense considering Bangkok is home to over 400 of them. The most well-known are Wat Pho, Wat Pra Kaew and Wat Arun, all of which Naganna visited. 

Although him and his brother liked visiting the temples, his sister had three simple words to say about her experience: “Too many temples.”

So, to balance out the temple coverage, they also went to a floating market where storefronts sat atop boats. There were many shop owners and customers bargaining to get the best deal. After his long days touring the wats or exploring the markets, Naganna got to stay at a nice hotel in Bangkok. It turned out to be his and his brother’s favorite hotel of the trip.

“We collapsed into our queen size beds at Ma Du Zi,” Naganna said. “It was the best hotel we had on the trip. Four stars if I remember correctly. It was super upscale.”

For Naganna, the trip was all too short. He enjoyed exploring the different cultures the cities had to offer. It allowed him to see what’s outside the cornfields of Nebraska and become a better global citizen.

Naganna, along with his sister Artzi, mother Sushama and brother Abhay, stands before the Merlion on the island of Sentosa. Its body symbolizes the nation’s start as a fishing village called Temasek, which comes from the word ‘lake’ in Malay. The head pays homage to Singapore by using its Malay translation ‘lion city.’ “The biggest [most popular] thing on Sentosa was the Merlion,” Naganna said. “We could go up and look out from the deck.”