Domans Experience Sultans, Buddhists & Bats
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Domans Experience Sultans, Buddhists & Bats

Dr. Alexander and Laura Doman visited Southeast Asia enjoying temples, ancient ruins, lions and tigers and elephants.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

  • The Domans enjoyed Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, an expansive nature park showcasing horticulture, ecology, and environmentalism.  
    The Domans enjoyed Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, an expansive nature park showcasing horticulture, ecology, and environmentalism.  
  • Khmer dancers of Cambodia are known for their glittering headdresses, graceful movements, and expressive hand gestures. 
    Khmer dancers of Cambodia are known for their glittering headdresses, graceful movements, and expressive hand gestures. 
  • Laura poses with a resident of Thailand’s elephant preserve. Please note that the animals are well-trained, lovingly treated, and extremely well fed, with plenty of space to exercise and drink.
    Laura poses with a resident of Thailand’s elephant preserve. Please note that the animals are well-trained, lovingly treated, and extremely well fed, with plenty of space to exercise and drink.
  • Angkor Wat is a Hindu-Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia and considered the largest religious structure in the world. 
    Angkor Wat is a Hindu-Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia and considered the largest religious structure in the world. 
  • This bodhi tree earned its claim to fame for having grown up and around a decapitated Buddha head.
    This bodhi tree earned its claim to fame for having grown up and around a decapitated Buddha head.
  • Alex snapped this photo of a Thai temple guardian in Bangkok.
    Alex snapped this photo of a Thai temple guardian in Bangkok.
  • The Domans found Buddhist temples that are known for their beauty, inside and out.   
    The Domans found Buddhist temples that are known for their beauty, inside and out.   

Laura Doman and husband, Alex, spent a month touring on land and ship to Singapore, Brunei, Borneo, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Laura said, “We came away with a deep appreciation of history, architecture, traditions, beautiful landscapes, and religious differences. And skirmishes! As we saw many a Buddha statue had lost its head to invaders with different theological views.”

Laura poses with a resident of Thailand’s elephant preserve. Please note that the animals are well-trained, lovingly treated, and extremely well fed, with plenty of space to exercise and drink.

The Domans found Singapore to be an exciting modern city and financial center with a heart in ecology, many strictly enforced rules, and religious tolerance. In contrast, Alex commented, “Muslim Brunei is an absolute sultanate with massive oil wealth concentrated in the hands of the very few. Strict laws prohibit public criticism of the sultan and outlaw adultery, pornography, alcohol, drugs, and anyone living openly as LGTBQ+. Brunei sits at the tip of the island of Borneo, best known for its environmental protections and as the home of fierce headhunters. Safely, we didn’t meet them or see any shrunken heads on display.”

Laura enjoyed the spectacular St. Paul underground river in the Philippines. She said, “A speeding catamaran brought us to this underground cathedral with its extensive network of tunnels and soaring rock ceilings extending hundreds of feet into the air. Fortunately, the hordes of bats clinging to the walls and ceilings were asleep as our boat glided silently along, with our guide illuminating the way via flashlights.”

The Domans hopped to Vietnam and Cambodia with its rice paddies, poverty, grazing cows and water buffalo, and garbage strewn along the roads. They saw “water villages” – ramshackle homes with corrugated roofs on stilts along the sides of rivers and canals.

Khmer dancers of Cambodia are known for their glittering headdresses, graceful movements, and expressive hand gestures.

She continued, “We saw these in Brunei, too, but oil wealth permits families to fill their homes with beautiful furniture and modern electronics, although the sultan required the exteriors to remain traditionally authentic (rundown) and owned only by their original families and other villagers. The Vietnamese and Cambodians, in contrast, were just dirt poor.”

They explored the Cu Chi tunnels outside of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), an extensive network of underground tunnels in which North Vietnamese guerrilla fighters lived, traveled, and attacked enemies during two wars: the French in World War II and the South Vietnamese and U.S. (the American War). Alex said,

Angkor Wat is a Hindu-Buddhist temple complex in Cambodia and considered the largest religious structure in the world.

“Their favorite modus operandi was camouflaged booby traps that impaled enemy soldiers with poison-ladened bamboo spikes. Other devices led their victims to fall into deep pits lined with spikes, plus the occasional deadly snake thrown in for good measure.”

Angkor Wat is a favorite for U.S. tourists — with its corn cob-shaped towers, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Domans found the Bayon temple is known for Buddha faces carved into its towers, while Taprum is famous for trees intertwined in the ruins. One bodhi tree featured the head of a Buddha peering out from amongst its roots.

Laura and Alex visited monks in their monasteries, then heard stories from survivors of the Khmer Rouge, including those who had lost limbs to the land mines. They found Thailand, in contrast, to be “practically resplendent. The lavishly adorned Buddhist temples near the royal palace in Bangkok were a feast for the eyes.”

This bodhi tree earned its claim to fame for having grown up and around a decapitated Buddha head.

Tuk tuks, boats, and motorbikes transported them to Chinatown’s gold shops and night markets, and through floating markets operating alongside busy railroad tracks and on the canals.

To top off the trip, Laura exclaimed, “Most exciting was a visit to the royal Thai elephant preserve, where we rode and fed elephants and learned about their care. Visit elephantstay.com and join the volunteers dedicated to preserving both Asian and African elephants. It’ll open your eyes to a different world. “

For Jewish context, they saw a synagogue in Singapore, locked away under tight security where only Jews can visit. There are Chabads in many of these countries.

Alex stated, “Of all the countries, Singapore was the most welcoming, tolerant, and multi-denominational. Brunei and Borneo, as strict Muslim countries, did not make us feel comfortable, and we were glad to have short visits there. The Philippines is largely Christian; and Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are primarily Buddhist, though Islam is the second most common religion.”

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