"Visit lovely Hell. Warm year-round, exclusive meetings with famous historical persons. Breathtaking views of Burning Lakes of Fire. Special excursions to the fabulous Ninth Circle available for a nominal charge."
Meet Master Kek Eng Seng, of Georgetown, Malaysia's Tze Bei Guan Yin Dharma Centre. Master Kek recently offered fifty paying participants the opportunity to visit hell, heaven, and other special travel destinations. Amazingly enough, the fifty lucky celestial tourists paid mucho buckos (not sure what that comes to in Malaysian currency, given current exchange rates) to be part of this trip. Even more amazingly, the fifty were selected from over two hundred who applied.
"Some were taken off the list through a screening process, based on the birth dates that were unfavorable with the timing of the tour," said Beh Yuen Hui, a Malaysian reporter who was chosen to be part of the tour. "Pregnant women and those having their period were also turned down."
Me, I didn't think Satan was that picky. I thought he was sort of a come-one, come-all kinda guy. Shows you what I know.
In any case, Master Kek assembled the fifty lucky travelers at the Dharma Centre last Saturday. He pointed out that it had rained Thursday and Friday, but the weather Saturday was sunny, because he had "prayed to the deity Guan Yin" to stop the rain. Guan Yin kindly complied, which was nice, because you know how irritating it is to go on a tour in the rain. Besides, the rain might have put a damper on the fire and brimstone, and all.
The participants participated in prayers and rituals, and at a little after ten PM, the tour was ready to begin. Master Kek blindfolded the fifty travelers, and then began a chant.
Reporter Beh Yuen Hui commented afterwards, "As I listened to the chants by Master Kek, my head became very hot, as though there was a stream of warm air trying to get out of my body through the top. Master Kek later explained this by saying that my soul was trying to get out of my body." His soul never did escape, however, because he was "distracted by the sounds of a nearby Chinese opera."
Myself, I wonder if he wasn't actually hearing hell. If Chinese opera sounds anything like western opera, it could well be hell's soundtrack.
Beh, however, got a little frustrated, even though later in the experience he did do some traveling.
"About 45 minutes after the 'tour' began, I saw lights and followed their direction but I soon fell into darkness again with some circles flying towards me," he said. "It was like watching a science fiction movie with a spacecraft traveling through a stream of meteoroids."
Unfortunately, the opera once again distracted him, and he found himself back at the Dharma Centre. Master Kek later told him that the circles he'd seen were "whirlpools" that you pass through on your way to hell.
After an hour and a half, Master Kek called the participants back, and questioned them about what they'd seen. It turned out that only one, a Chinese reporter named Chiang Kee Chuan, actually visited anywhere interesting -- and it turned out to be heaven, not hell.
"I saw a rainbow hanging on a beautiful sky," Chiang said, afterwards, "and a monk advised me to become a vegetarian."
Another woman, who declined to be named, saw herself in a night market. Master Kek asked her if it was a market in Ba Jiao Jie (Octagon Street), and the woman said yes.
"How did I know?" he asked the amazed crowd. "Because I have been there before."
Wow. Okay. I'm convinced.
The tour participants, however, were pretty disappointed by the fact that they'd wasted a bunch of money and time, and most of them had spent an hour and a half watching the inside of a blindfold. Master Kek was quick to allay his clients' grumbling.
"Come back again," Master Kek told them, after leading them in prayers to get rid of the bad luck that had caused the tour to fail. "And I will take you on another trip."
Oh, sure, Master Kek, sign me right up. Here's lots more money. Can we visit Purgatory, this time? Or Xanadu? Or the Lost City of Cibola? Or Oz? Or Wonderland? I think a dinner with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare could be entertaining.
So many fictional places to visit, so many gullible people in the world to fleece...