In my last post I told you about the 10 best experiences of my round the world solo trip, but in life there are good and bad moments and traveling is no exception. I didn’t suffer any major mishap, but I did have some bad moments. Nothing too serious and today I laugh about them. Ready to laugh with me?
In my last post I told you about the 10 best experiences of my round the world solo trip, but in life there are good and bad moments and traveling is no exception.
I was about to title this post “worst moments” but then I realized that it sounded very dramatic. I didn’t suffer any major mishap, I wasn’t stolen nor raped nor very sick nor any of these dangers that are often associated with female solo travel (you see, traveling alone is not so dangerous!).
There were only some moments when I thought “what I’m doing here? why did I leave home sweet hoooome…?”. Nothing too serious though, and today I laugh about them.
Ready to laugh with me? 10 not-so-glorious moments of my trip, in chronological order.
Uncomfortable in India: I was the only woman around
After two days in idyllic Munroe island I arrived to Allepey. To a half empty guesthouse. To a windowless room with a cockroach.
There was a barbecue party in the garden. Cool, I wouldn’t have to go out for dinner. So I joined.
I met a guy from New Zealand and we had dinner together. He was drinking whisky from a hidden bottle. He told me he had just arrived from Sri Lanka, where he saved three women from being raped.
“They were drank”, he said. And right after that “Do you want some whisky?”
“Definitely not!” I said. Not after that story!
He made me notice that we were the only foreigners there, and I was the only woman. Suddenly I realized that all men were looking at us.
“They’re wondering if we’ll sleep together” the guy from New Zealand said. “You know the idea they have from westerners”.
Yes, I knew.
“But don’t worry, if anyone tries to approach you I’m here to protect you”.
By then he had finished the bottle of whisky by himself. He tried to stand up and fell down. I helped him walk to the nearest bench.
“Uh, thanks”, I said. Good that he was there to protect me.
Almost scammed in Bangkok
I was very wary of scams since I had heard a lot about them. However, I was quite new in traveling alone and it was my very first day in South East Asia, so I didn’t suspect.
There was this well dressed man who spoke perfect English and wanted to help me. He told me the Grand Palace was closed in the morning and would open at 1:00 pm. He suggested that I could visit another temple which was free, and go to the tourist office which would help me buy my train ticket.
I believed him. He stopped a tuk tuk and negotiated a “good price” for me. The tuk tuk driver took me to the temple and after that to the “tourist office”. Only that it wasn’t a tourist office, it was an agency, and the girl wasn’t friendly at all and insisted that I buy the tickets right there and then or they would sold out.
I didn’t like her attitude so I didn’t buy anything and asked the tuk tuk driver to take me to the Grand Palace.
When I arrived, it was 11:30 am. And it was open.
And when I went to the train station, there were tickets available for all the trains.
It had been a trap to take me to that agency. Good that I didn’t buy any tickets!
Transport in Laos, an adventure by itself
I thought that after surviving the buses in India I had seen everything, but the transport in Laos ended up being even more “fun”.
One bus suffered a puncture on the tyre and took 8 hours to cover 200km. While traveling by boat the driver abandoned us on the shore in the middle of nowhere, and reappeared 20 minutes later with a bottle of fuel.
The most epic journey was, however, the night bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.
I couldn’t book the VIP bed nor the VIP seat buses because they were fully booked, so I got a ticket on the normal local bus, which left one or two hours earlier than the others. It wasn’t very comfortable but it would make it.
Only, it didn’t.
At about 9:00 pm the bus broke down and couldn’t be fixed.
I thought the company would send another empty bus. So innocent!
About two hours later the VIP seat and the VIP bed buses arrived (the ones I couldn’t book because they were full) and we were told to get in.
In? But… aren’t they full?
No problem, the corridors were empty! So we did the rest of the trip (7 hours) on the corridor of the bus, half lying half sitting all over each other.
Cambodia, why did I always end up in the wrong place?
I had some small “incidents” in Cambodia. Why did I always end up in the wrong place?
In Koh Trong, a small island in the Mekong, I entered the wrong house when I was going back to the homestay in the dark. When I realized my mistake, I wanted to disappear!
In Kampot I got lost when I was visiting the salt flats by bicycle. At some point I arrived to a small house and a dog jumped at me. I’m really scared of dogs, please help!! The owner of the house came to my rescue and called someone who spoke English to translate for me. After that he came with me to the main road to show me the way.
Siem Reap was my last stop in Cambodia and I was running out of money. I spent two hours looking for a room or bed I could afford, and I finally found a crappy room for 4 dollars.
After I had paid for 6 nights, I discovered that it wasn’t a guesthouse but a bar who rented two rooms, and three times a week they organized a mega party with 100 people and loud music until 2:00 am. And I had to get up at 5:00 am to visit the temples.
Sick and surrounded by poisonous snakes in Penang
In Penang I stayed a few days with a friend I had met in couchsurfing. He took me to visit the Snake Temple by motorbike. I wasn’t feeling well and the motorbike ride had left me a bit dizzy, but I insisted I was fine and we went into the temple.
And I saw the snakes. Poisonous snakes. Vipers, in case you know them.
And a huge, long python on a table.
And then I felt dizzy, very dizzy, and had to lie down. On a bench. Surrounded by snakes. Alone, because my friend went to catch some food and medicines.
What a glorious moment.
Half an hour later he came back and we left the temple. Only then I learned that the snakes were de-venomed!
Seriously questioned at the airport in Sydney
I wasn’t lucky at the airport in Sidney. When I arrived to immigration I was asked for how long I would stay and where.
“I’m staying with a friend for 12 days“.
“Which is her address?”. Good point. I realized the night before I didn’t have her address and asked her by e-mail, but didn’t get an answer before boarding.
“I don’t know, but she’s coming to pick me up”. Good start (!).
“Do you have more luggage?”.
“No, only this”. I was traveling with hand luggage only.
“Come this way”.
They took my passport and I saw it move from person to person until I couldn’t follow who had my passport. They were also making a lot of phone calls and questioning me.
“How long will you stay in Australia? How will you finance your stay? How much money do you have in the bank?”.
At the end they let me go. My friend told me that due to the economical crisis a lot of Spanish are moving to Australia so maybe that’s why I got questioned.
Final note: I had the exact same experience two weeks later when I arrived to New Zealand.
How I learned that I shouldn’t believe in postcards
Have you seen gorgeous photos of New Zealand? I had seen plenty, and dreamt to see the glaciers, fjords and mirror lakes in the West side of the South Island.
Nobody told me that this is one of the rainiest regions on the planet.
When I got soaked riding a bicycle to the Franz Josef glacier I felt miserable. The day after I went by walk and was caught up again by the heavy rain. When I was already wet I found a shelter: the toilets. And I had to wait there for two hours.
In Fox I managed to see the glacier but missed completely the mirror lakes due to the clouds and the wind. No mountain peaks, no mirror reflection. And the cherry on top: I got stung by a bee. Ouch!
My breakdown, though, was in Milford Sound Fjord. I hesitated a lot about going there because it was very expensive for my backpacker budget, but I really wanted to go and the forecast had been sunny all week. No need to tell you, right? It rained and it was so foggy that I did not see half of it. I wanted to cry.
A ghost and a resentful dog
In Bariloche, Argentina, I did couchsurfing again and I stayed with a couple who lived in a house with two big dogs (did I tell you that I’m scared of dogs?).
One night I woke up because I heard strange noises. It sounded like someone digging with a shovel (yes, I do have a lot of imagination!). At 4 am???
I left my room and went to the dinning room to look through the window. Next to my wall there was another building! It couldn’t be. I came back to bed but I couldn’t sleep. Unknown noises make me nervous, and that one was unsettling.
One of the dogs came in the room and I was so scared that I allowed him to jump on my bed. But still I couldn’t sleep. The dog moved and crashed my feet. The dog smelled. The dog snored!
Two hours later I was exhausted and I really needed to sleep, so I asked him to please go back to the dinning room. He didn’t listen. So pulled him. Try to visualize it: he was holding on the bed with the front paws while I pulled him out!
I finally managed.
After that night, he never looked at me nor moved his tail at me again.
Alone in a freezing bus
I almost missed that bus in San Martin de los Andes to go back to Chile. It was 5:30 am in the morning and everybody was still sleeping in the hostel. I had a magnetic key to open the fence and the reception door to leave the keys there.
I opened the fence, but the reception door did not open.
I called but nobody answered.
I run back to my room to leave the keys there, but without the key I couldn’t go out through the fence!
So I run out of the room, blocked the fence with my bag, run to the room to leave the key, run out, got my bag, closed the fence, and run to the station.
When I entered the bus I was still catching my breath. I was in, yes! But… I was the only one in the bus. And it was freezing, well below zero degrees celsius.
When the bus left the station I wondered if that was the right bus, if that was a real bus. Where were they taking me??
5 minutes later we stopped somewhere and 4 passengers entered the bus. Thanks god!
The challenges of Bolivia
I didn’t expect that Bolivia would be one of the more challenging countries I visited. It was interesting, yes, and beautiful beyond words, but also challenging.
First challenge: the altitude. 4000 meters. Another one: cold showers. And internet was even more intermittent than hot water!
Transport was also quite challenging, and the worst was the night bus from Uyuni to La Paz. There was no heating and the outside temperature was below zero. It was the coldest night of my life. In addition, we arrived at 5:30 am when the schedule said 8:00, and I had to wait for my friend.
And finally… I got food poison. I didn’t get it in Asia and I got it in Bolivia. Was it the water? The salads? The food from the market? It’s true that in Bolivia I relaxed and didn’t pay a lot of attention, that was probably my fault. Fortunately it happened in La Paz when I was at my friend’s place. My body is clever!
Did you have any not-so-glorious moment in your travels? I’d like to hear from you!
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CMTravelAnd - Calogero Mira says
I also use my bycicle when I travel.
Yes, a bicycle is a great way to move around while traveling.
Laia! I think you are brave and I envy you because you had lived all these experiencies.
These moments are very especials (I am scared of dogs too ^_^), and now you can laugh of them and it is good.
Your experience motivate to me a lot.
Hi Tere! I’m happy my (funny) experiences have motivated you! I think it’s good to laugh at these not-so-glorious moments and specially learn something from them.
Great post, I really enjoyed your stories. You know what? Its sucky when they happen but these are the things we remember and laugh about a few years later. And they make the best stories 🙂
Sounds like a different version of the Bangkok gem scam, the Bangkok ‘agency’ scam. I lost $3000 getting scammed buying gems back in 2002….just totally stupid but I hadn’t travelled by myself much to that point.
You’re like Spanky when it comes to dogs and unfortunately backpacking through the 3rd world you meet lots of dogs. Most are very friendly though 😉
I enjoy your blog Laia 🙂
Oh my…! $3000 lost on a gem scam. So sorry to hear that. It’s so easy to get scammed when you have never heard about them… who would imagine?
On a more positive side, I agree that the not-so-glorious moments make the best stories. I’m still laughing about some of them 🙂
It’s true that I met a lot of friendly dogs, it’s just when I met a scary one that I forget all about the others.
I’m happy you enjoyed my blog Frank, I also enjoyed yours! Thanks for passing by 🙂
Laia I can imagine the difficulties for that you encountered, nevertheless you could confront them with courage.
I repeat that you are a brave woman! to make it alone and to be able to work out victorious of these particular experiences. !!!
I admire you as a person !
Thanks so much Carolina!
Difficulties make us stronger 🙂
I love your stories and pictures 😉
I felt the same situation and I have practically the same memories about my trip to Egypt: Uncomfortable in Cairo: I was the only woman around.
Your described the same feelings.
Many thanks for sharing 😉
Happy that you liked the photos and stories 🙂
It’s sad but I think all female solo travelers have been uncomfortable one moment or another… Egypt must be a great destination to visit though 🙂
Diana Garcés says
Guapa, vaya aventuras, yo la verdad no sé si hubiese tomado ese bus que tomaste en Laos, soy muy comodilla y para un viaje tan largo seguro hubiese esperado viajar otro día para no pasar esa incomodidad, aunque claro, todo es cosa del destino, a veces es una putada jajaja
Me encanta este recopilatorio de cosas “malas” que te pueden pasar y viéndolo en retrospectiva son solamente experiencias que nos hacen más fuetes y eso siempre es genial.
Si, por eso quise recopilar las cosas malas, para mostrar que un viaje no es un camino de rosas pero que la mayoría de cosas “malas” tampoco son tan malas, sino experiencias que te hacen más fuerte – e incluso algunas que te hacen reir después! 🙂
Gerard ChanKin says
Thanks for the sharing Laia. We have two things in common: I like travelling and riding bicycle…:-)
Keep following your dreams
Thanks for your message! Glad to hear that you’re also following your dreams 🙂