People & Places: Southeast Asia

In Ryan Quinn and the Rebel’s Escape, Ryan travels to the country of Andakar. But before you go trying to find it on a map, let me save you the effort – I made it up. Although Andakar is not a real country, it’s not all fake. Most of the exotic sights, sounds, and customs in the book were inspired by real places and cultures in Southeast Asia – countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia.

If you travel to Southeast Asia, the first thing you’ll notice when you get off the plane is the weather. The region is hot year-round and often very humid. Even when it rains, it’s warm. The coldest month of the year in Bangkok, Thailand, averages a balmy 79° Fahrenheit (or 26° Celsius, as they’d say there).

The big cities are full of contrasts. Modern skyscrapers made of glass and steel sit right next door to wooden temples built hundreds of years ago. Businessmen in grey suits ride the bus beside bald monks in bright orange robes. It’s a fascinating combination of old world and new.

Once you leave the city, Southeast Asia becomes even more diverse and interesting. Although each country has an official language (like Malaysian in Malaysia or Cambodian in Cambodia), rural areas are often home to tribes of people who speak their own unique dialects. In the book, Ryan’s friend Danny’s family is originally from the Philippines. While they can speak Tagalog, the official Filipino language, there are actually 18 other local languages spoken in the Philippines alone.

The Buddhist tradition in Southeast Asia goes back over one thousand years. There are ancient ruins of Buddhist holy sites scattered throughout the region. The fictional Mae Wong Temples I wrote into the book were inspired by Bagan, an ancient city located in Myanmar. Founded in the 9th century, Bagan grew to include ten thousand temples, pagodas, and monasteries. Today, the ruins of over two thousand of those original buildings still remain and are a sight to behold.

So in the same way that the real Southeast Asia inspired me as I wrote the book, I hope Ryan’s adventures in Andakar inspire readers like you to learn more about that part of the world. Maybe one day, you’ll even travel there yourself like Ryan Quinn – although I’d recommend you use your real passport.

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© 2016 by Ron McGee

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