Have you ever found yourself broke abroad because your bank card stopped working or was stolen? I’ve just survived a week abroad with no money, here’s how.Read More
Have you ever found yourself with a lost or damaged bank card abroad with no money? I have, plenty of times, and it has happened again. What do I do now?Read More
Budget travel allows you to see the world on the cheap, but sometimes that extreme low budget travel breaks you. This is one of those times.Read More
There are times when traveling challenges you, and other times when experiences break you and make you want to quit traveling. Here’s my hellish experience.Read More
I can handle a hangover, but flying hungover? That’s a different terrible beast that led to debacles and delays, and paying tons of airline fees.Read More
Lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my! When I think of deadly animals, my mind conjures up images of big bad beasties like these. But I recently encountered on of the world’s deadliest animals, and it looked like it should be in a Finding Nemo movie and not the harbinger of death.
I have a secret to reveal. When I first started to travel, New Zealand wasn’t going to be the first country I traveled to. No, when deciding where to go for my first trip abroad, I was going to choose Australia for my first a working holiday.
Why didn’t I go to Australia?
Right as I was about to book my package through BUNAC, I saw a show on the travel channel that was “Top 10 World’s Deadliest Animals” of course narrated in an ominous voice. When I saw that 8 out of the 10 deadly animals were in Australia, I decided my first trip better be to a country where nocturnal fluffy kiwi birds were the biggest threat.
There is a line that I’ve heard often repeated about Australia, “Everything here can kill you“. A laugh about it will follow after someone says that, but that laugh is half-joking and half serious. It’s more of a nervous chuckle. Why? Because it is true, that Australia is home to some of the world’s deadliest creatures from snakes to spiders to sharks.
Most Australians will tell me there isn’t anything to worry about with the deadly creatures of Oz, and majority have never seen any of them in their entire lives. Farther north is where some of the more wicked creatures dwell like snakes and spiders, but on bush walks and camping, you just have to be careful and check your boots.
Snakes will scurry off if you make enough noise along a path or use a stick to swat the grass ahead. I’ve been told that Victoria, or in the Melbourne area at least, don’t have many deadly creepy crawly things. There’s one spider that has a wicked bite but isn’t deadly. So I thought I was quite safe coming here.
And then there is the animal we stumbled upon while at the beach that is probably the worst of them all.
Up until that point, the craziest thing I’ve come across was a giant shiny blue and green wasp that looked frightening enough, and an ant the size of my thumb that tried to attack me. Not too bad. I’ve been on hikes and gone off the trails around parts of Victoria and haven’t seen anything too threatening. Just some Echidna hiding their heads from me.
These are the only creatures I’ve come across so far.
Yeah, he had some attitude issues. As this hell-spawn fire demon was carrying away a meal, he turned on my and tried to take my life. Or at least a finger.
Cute echidna eh? Though I wouldn’t want to pet the little guy. As I inched closer, head dig fiercely to hide his head in the ground for protection.
Another insect demon. Though they can sting repeatedly, this wingless wasp is pretty harmless and usually travels solo so you don’t have to worry about running into an army of them.
Those aren’t so bad are they?
My luck avoiding creatures that could kill me was bound to run out, and last week it did.
It was just another beautiful summer day in Australia, and my roommate and I decided to head to the beach for the day to explore and relax. We went down to Torquay (Tour-key) which is about an hour southwest of Melbourne and is one of the more well-known beaches in the area for the slew of surf companies founded there. Though I still have a deep fear of swimming in Australia because of, ya’ know, gnarly sharks and all, I really didn’t expect to run into anything that day.
As we walked along the beach at low tide, we all decided to run over to some rocks and check to see if we could find any crabs or cool fish trapped in the small pools. “Hey, come check out this little octopus!” my roommate called out, and we all ran over to see. She was pointing in a pool of water and it was hiding behind some algae, so I tried to lean in and splash the water a bit to make it come out. That was very stupid of me. The tiny octopus popped out, and as it swam about facing us, suddenly it’s small brown body began to light up with electric blue rings.
Yes, we has stumbled upon a blue-ringed octopus, one of the world’s deadliest animals.
As it lit up and swam about, it now seemed to have no problem coming towards us and my camera that was held close to the water. It didn’t hit me at first, but then I realized I had seen this octopus somewhere before. Turns out, I had seen it on that TV show in 2011 and was one of the reasons I didn’t come to Australia at first.
Any Google search of top deadly animals on the planet and this little guy will be in the top 5. So why is this adorable octopus death incarnate and not a beloved Disney character?
The blue ringed octopus, if it were to sting you, is certain death. The sting causes paralysis and respiratory failure until the organs shut down slowly. Yes, it’d be an incredibly painful death and there is no known antidote for the sting either. Pretty wicked huh? Another fun fact — the blue-ringed octopus carries enough venom to kill 26 full-grown adults within minutes. Glad I didn’t decide to walk in too many shallow puddles! Given how populated this beach was and just knowing how children like to play in rocks I’m surprised this little sucker doesn’t claim more lives than it does.
It’s pretty fascinating and frightening that our planet has such vibrant and beautiful creatures around, and usually the brighter the color the more venomous they are.
Advice to keep in mind for myself and for you when in Australia — watch your step!
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When you first start to travel, so many fears can pop into your head from getting robbed to missing flights to running out of money. And thanks to Hollywood horror films, hostels have been added to a list of things encouraged to fear, and for some, evoke images of kidnapping and torture.
In general, most news you see on TV around the world is bad news, and most western governments use scare tactics to keep people at home. The world is a dangerous place. That’s a silly generalization, and after hitting my 4 year travel anniversary it’s one that’s become even more laughable. But what of hostels? Those sketchy and dank places run by Slovakian mobsters? Sometimes I have conversations with friends or co-workers when I return to the United States and the topic comes up with a statement like “hostels aren’t safe, I don’t know how you do it” or “people get killed or robbed in hostels“.
I chuckle at them and shake my head.
Whatever you want to call them, hostels or guesthouses go hand in hand as a part of the travel experience for me over the past four years. They are the meeting place for new best friends. They are starting places for exciting and unexpected adventures. They can be a place where solo travelers find another solo traveler to connect with and sometimes canoodle with (take that however you want). They smell a little funky. They are places to perfect the art of cheap pasta recipes. And you will miss out on a huge part of the travel experience if you never stay in a hostel.
The debate will forever rage on whether or not to stay in hostels if you don’t have to which depends on what type of traveler and what tastes you have. But to argue if they are safe or not I will share the tale of my first time in a hostel to make my point.
All month I am revisiting many of my travel firsts from my first trip abroad to New Zealand. For my first experience of a hostel everything began quite normal, but just like something out of a movie — shit got weird. So this is one story had to be told again.
It seemed like a normal day in Auckland. I went on a birthday binge drink the night before with a new friend. Jaegermeister breath in the morning. Hangover. Rushed downstairs 5 minutes before checkout to book another night. But when I returned my room, I discovered a naked body in my bed. Lifeless.
What do you do when you find a mysterious body in your bed?
At the time I didn’t know if the person was lifeless or not. But the body wasn’t moving and didn’t seem to be breathing from what I could see. In some instances, one might panic thinking it’s a dead body. In others, one might also fist pump in silence thinking they got lucky or high five themselves. I knew for a fact that I didn’t get lucky the night before and come home with a girl
I knew for a fact that I didn’t get lucky the night before and had come home with a girl. My “it’s my birthday” line that worked so well in Vegas for smooches, failed that night on the ladies of Auckland. And the second reason was the bare ass staring back at me belonged to a dude.
I wasn’t that drunk.
Sure, one of the thoughts that raced through my head among hundreds of others was wondering if the person was dead, but I’m not a hobbyist of recreating Hollywood horror movies, and I can’t imagine someone being able to drag a body into the hostel room unnoticed.
I was simply confused.
Planking was a big fad around that time, yet I don’t think naked planking had caught on in 2011. Maybe it was a prank?
Then the other hostel mates saw the body.
Slowly bunk bed by bunk bed began to squeak with the other backpackers coming to life. As some stretched out and rubbed their eyes or announced their own hangover with a moan, they began to notice the situation in my bed.
I was standing in the doorway with the definition of befuddled on my face. There was a naked body slumped in my bed, half twisted and half hanging off the edge. One Irishman looked back and forth from my bed to me about 10 times before whispering, “Woot da heel is dat?”
The only reply I gave at first was an extended “uuuuuuhhhhhhh…”
As the rest of the room came to life and sat up to gawk, I looked around at them and whispered the only thing I could, “What the fuck is going on?”
The Irishman replied the only way I’d expect, “Oim nawt drunk enoof for dis shite in da mornin“.
I wasn’t either.
Where did the body come from?
As I stood there, I tried to trace back over the whole morning to figure it out and hundreds of scenarios popped in and out of my head within seconds.
Flashback sequence commence…
That morning when I woke up to the scream of my alarm and saw it was just 5 minute before I had to check out. I know for a fact I rolled around in a Jaegermeister induced agony at first. After finding the energy to get out of bed, I discovered my half-full water bottle near the edge of the bed. Elixir of life.
And nobody else in my bed. I rolled off the bed still wearing the outfit from the night before and waddled out of the room, squinting through one eye as I made my way downstairs. The front desk was swarming with last-minute check outs, so I shuffled outside and into the searing sunlight. The hangover was too intense to do anything that day let alone think, so I listened to my belly instead and bought the last shriveled up meat-pies in the 7-11 nearby.
I rolled off the bed still wearing the outfit from the night before and waddled out of the room, squinting through one eye as I made my way downstairs. The front desk was swarming with last-minute check outs, so I shuffled outside and into the searing sunlight. The hangover was too intense to do anything that day let alone think, so I listened to my belly instead and bought the last shriveled up meat-pies in the 7-11 nearby.
When I returned to the hostel, the front desk commented on my glorious appearance with a “looks like you had an epic night mate” as they booked me for another night. Before going back to my room, I slumped down on the bottom step, lacking the energy to focus on juggling meat pies and water bottles while climbing stairs.
With the pies destroyed, I trudged upstairs and entered my room. No naked body in the bed. It was already 10am and I didn’t want to waste the day so I grabbed my toothbrush and went into the bathroom. Nothing out of the ordinary except that I found the remnants of meat pie in my beard. Yum.
Then I returned to the room.
And BAM. Naked ninja in my bed.
Cut to the Irishman waking and we’re back to “What the fuck is going on?”
Either way, I knew through my brief flashback sequence that there was no way this naked-planking-ninja-dead-body was there minutes before.
That was the only time I put my Lonely Planet guide to use.
It was time to investigate. And when I say investigate, I mean use my Lonely Planet Guide Book for the first and only time ever during my trip in New Zealand. The guidebook was the closest thing to grab so I used that to poke his leg. No response. The butt cheeks stared back unmoving.
The rest of the room watched in silence (though there was a bit of giggling from one girl) as I walked around to the side of the bed and reached out to prod the dude in the shoulder. No response. I looked back at the rest of the room and held up my hands not knowing what to do. The Irishman nodded his head forward, and I took that as the sign to wallop the guy upside the head. If he was dead it wouldn’t matter, right?
So I walloped him in the back of the head.
Lonely Planet proved useful and the moment I walloped him, he sprung upright. How he sprung upright from he twisted position he was in still baffles me (naked ninja skills I guess) but the sudden life of him scared the hell out of all of us. IT’S ALIVE!
I think I even yelled “Oh shit!”
There wasn’t much life to the guy. As he sat on my bed, his eyes twirled around in his skull. Then he flopped back down.
“Hey dude” I said, and proceeded to nudge him again with the guide-book. This time he did one of those moves where he tried to blindly swat me away. My hangover took hold, and now that I knew this naked dude was alive, I was furious he was in my bed. I hit him in the back of the head again, and again he popped upright. Eyes still twirling, but this time he mumbled something I couldn’t understand.
At that moment he came back to life.
Half-life at least. His eyes stopped twirling and he looked down at himself, realizing he was naked. He looked around the room but straight through all of us as though we didn’t exist.
“You need to get the hell out of my bed man” I said, beginning to grit my teeth.
Instead of just wandering out naked after deflowering my clean-ish hostel bed, he reached down and began to grab my clothes from my backpack.
Great, now he was trying to steal my clothes!
He had two of my shirts and a pair of my pants and I yanked them from his hands. He still didn’t seem to realize anybody else was there, but he wrapped the blanket around himself and stood up.
“Yes, take the blanket because I was going to burn it anyway” I called out, and he waddled out of the room and into the hall. Everyone in the room began to laugh, and even though I was pissed off, I could help myself either. By the time I poked my head into the hall to see if he was sleeping in it, he was gone like some naked phantom.
And that was the last I saw of him. But not the last I heard of him.
Later in the day word had spread of the naked guy in the bed, and while making some instant noodles and instant coffee in the kitchen, one of the backpackers in another room gave us his origin story.
He literally pissed off everyone in his room.
The “bloke” as they called him couldn’t hold his liquor or drugs apparently. The night before he had gone out by himself and re-appeared around 7am. At one point, close to when I was downstairs booking another night, he woke up everyone when one roommate caught him standing in the center of the room peeing all over everyone’s luggage. They did what anyone sensible would do in that situation and physically tossed him outside and locked the door.
When we compared stories, we figured out that somehow when I went to use the bathroom after booking another night, he managed to wander into the room and flop onto my bed before the door closed.
Looking back on it, it was a hilarious situation. For someone already battling hundreds of emotions as a first time traveler, I created tons of bad scenarios in my head that were usually based off of horror films. And that will make any experience seem dangerous. Go camping? Killed. Eastern Europe? Killed. Unless Liam Neeson can save me with his certain set of skills. Relaxing by a lake? Killed. Own a cat and bury it when it dies? Killed by zombie cats. Go to sleep at night and dream? Killed. Tomatoes? Killer tomatoes, you’re dead. Clowns? Killer alien clowns. Get the point? Well, I believe that last one. I hate clowns!
Get the point? Well, I believe that last one. I hate clowns!
Well, I believe that last one. I hate clowns!
Don’t let fear of the unknown or TV/movies delegate where you can travel to and not. Even when I traveled to Haiti, most warned me that I’d be killed or kidnapped because they saw it on TV and the news. Haiti is my favorite country to travel to.
Hostels can be weird, but they’ve never felt dangerous.
It’s true that my first ever hostel experience involved finding a lifeless body in my bed only for it to come back to life and waddle off. Freaking weird huh? Since then, I’ve heard stories of times when people have had drunk or drugged up idiots do things similar to that. I’ve experienced a fight in my hostel in Thailand that threatened to spiral out of control. I’ve also heard of stories where people have had their things stolen as well, but usually that’s because they decided not to take proper precautions.
Almost 99% of hostel stories I hear though are funny like my first experience, or about best friends being made.
Are hostels safe? After 4 years of travel and hundreds of hostels that I’ve stayed in, I can tell you that hostels aren’t dangerous or secret cults that will kidnap you or anything close to that.
My hostel experiences, though peppered with some weird shit like this one, has been pretty great. I’ve met friends that I’ve traveled with afterward and still keep in touch with. I’ve met hostel staff that I’m friends with to this date. I’ve even worked in a hostel, and it turned out to be a great way to save on budget. But I’ve never felt one was dangerous.
I’ve been to hostels that are incredibly dirty. I’ve been to some that outdo hotels in style. I’ve stayed at one run by an obsessive Christian who made us watch movies about Jesus. I’ve stayed at others that are run as a circus where you can learn to fire dance and juggle and tight-rope walk. Even some hold an incredibly high standard for eco-sustainability and environmental consciousness that outmatch most companies around the world. You can have a great experience or a horrible experience in some, but that is the same for most travel experiences.
You have to be responsible about staying in hostels.
Even though I’ve befriended plenty of people in hostels, there are always bad apples that you meet abroad. I’m not trying to tell you to distrust anyone, but to be blunt I’m telling you don’t be stupid. Most of it is common sense people.
- Don’t leave your passports and electronics out in the open.
- Don’t come home so wasted you don’t know where you are.
- Always lock up any valuables in the lockers most hostels have.
- If there is no locker, take a day-pack of your valuables with you.
- Going out? Ask the front desk to hold it for you.
- Read reviews about hostels before you go to make sure they are clean, in a good area, that they have locks on doors and lockers for your stuff, and that the staff isn’t sketchy.
Overall, don’t be scared to stay in a hostel. They are pretty fun places made for budget backpackers to meet and make friends. And who knows, maybe you’ll have a funny story to tell like the case of the naked planker.
SIDE NOTE: When I originally told this story on my old blog, the hostel that this happened at thought it was so funny that they sent me on a tour around New Zealand to write for them. Bless that naked ninja.
What was your first experience in a hostel like? Have a funny hostel story as well?
An easy day on the water relaxing and scuba diving they said. And it was, until that part I nearly died. Maybe that is a little overblown for the sake of drama, but when you are meters deep below the surface with lead weights strapped to you starting to fall unconscious, you might freak out as well. Everything began and ended fine, because I wouldn’t be writing to you today and showing you this gnarly video if I was dead, but there was an in between bit that I thought I was doomed.Read More
Travel dudes and dudettes, I have done some crazy things in the course of my adventures, and driven in some crazy places as well. But I may not have done something even close to the 2,700km Rickshaw Run. In a 3-wheeled tin can. This takes things to a whole new level.Read More
There is still a bad taste in my mouth. No, it isn’t from the beef on a stick which turned out to be liver that I had eaten for lunch in the market in Mae Sai this day. That bad taste in my mouth was from an experience that happened on my recent visa run in Thailand. An experience that may have very well tainted the country for me and my desire to return to teach English.
Confusion spun in my head, which eventually began to boil into anger. I was standing inside the passport control office in the great blue building — the exit gate of Thailand into Myanmar — and I was being yelled at for no reason obvious to me. The small Thai lady behind the counter had taken my passport, given a quick glance at it, and returned it to me with a stern “No”.
I had no clue why she was barring me from exiting into Myanmar which I had done numerous times before, so of course I asked why.
“Because you no leave. Go!”and she shooed me away with her hand.
So again I pressed for information, politely of course, stating that I had done this previously with no issues.
“New regulations, you no leave. Speak with my boss” she said, while waving over the next person in line. But I wasn’t going to just turn away and retreat without some clear answer as to why I couldn’t do the visa run.
“Okay, where is your boss?” I asked.
“Bangkok. You go speak to him.” she said without even looking up at me.
“What is his phone number?” I asked.
And that is when I got pissed off. After asking for the phone number to her supervisor, a different officer behind her laughed at me. The woman I had been speaking to shook head and said, “No, leave.”
I took a deep breath and a step back so I could see if there would be an issue with anyone else in the line. The next person to approach was a girl from Canada come to find out later. After she handed the same border guard her passport and the woman looked at it, she said the same thing as she did to me.
“No, cannot, new regulations.”
Obviously the girl was just as confused as I was, so she began questioning the reasoning behind this refusal as well. And she had the same luck I did. At this point, a crowd of failed attempts from foreigners trying to either cross into Myanmar or to do a visa run was gathering outside the gate. I was the only United States dude; there were also two Germans, one French, two Dominican Republic, and someone from the United Kingdom. And that Canadian girl now.
“They denied me as well” seemed to be the tune of the morning for everyone, and nobody had any information on why we couldn’t cross the border.
So with a dying phone I began scouring forums and Thailand groups on Facebook with a desperate message of something around the lines of “What the fuck is going on?!” In one group, comments began flooding in about some sort of sudden visa regulation changes that had dropped that very morning without notice.
Apparently the only information was in the form of an article posted in the newspaper, but otherwise there was no prior warning. Rumor and speculation flooded the forums, but it seemed as though visa runs (crossing the border and coming back in for an extension of time) were being axed for people with three previous Thailand stamps in their passport.
As I was giving updates to the group outside the gate, it caused even more confusion. Granted I had done 5 visa runs already, the girl who had approached after me had just flown into Thailand and had never received an exit stamp so that wouldn’t apply. Others were on their first or second stamp as well and were being denied.
Knowing that my bus was going to be leaving in the next hour and that my visa was expiring that very day, I was desperate to figure out the issue. I approached the window again behind an older Quebecois woman who was just being denied through as well. The Thai woman in the window gave her as much explanation as me, so when the woman started complaining about them not telling us more information, a male Thai guard came to the window and with a raised voice said, “No! Go! No visa runs, no visas for you!”
The Quebecois woman was pissed, and responded by saying, “I don’t want to stay anymore, I just want to leave Thailand now because of you, you are being very rude!”
Then the guard got aggressive and got within inches of her face.
“Ok. Thailand not your country. You go back to your country!” he shouted at her. I was shocked, never seeing Thai people be so adamantly rude and unhelpful.
“You wont let me leave!” she retorted, and stormed of after flashing a middle finger.
Knowing that things were getting heated and becoming angry would help nothing, I approached the window sincerely apologizing for the woman’s reaction (though slightly warranted I feel) and pleaded for them to help or explain the situation.
And they ignored me. They wouldn’t even look up at me. Most of the guards in the office were now chatting amongst each other, snickering, and occasionally glancing our way with a smirk.
“Fuck this shit” I said to myself and pushed my way back through the line and out into the gate. Everyone was still gathered outside venting about the whole situation, but it was clear this visa run wasn’t happening for anyone today.
Frustrated beyond belief, I gave up and decided to return to the bus station.
What was the reasoning for this? Why were the border guards, who are normally friendly, being so rude? What the fuck do I do about my visa expiring today?!
Even more so I was pissed at myself for not going with my friend on his border run the day prior — right before this random regulation was placed. But there was no way I could have known these shenanigans were going to take place.
The fact that I had taken the bus 5 hours there, sat at the gate for 2 hours confused, and had to return 5 hours back to Chiang Mai empty-handed added to the frustration of the day as well. I messaged my friend who was living in Thailand with me and told him everything that had happened that day.
“I’m leaving Thailand now. As soon as possible.” I told him.
“Don’t blame ya’ after that, I figured you would.”
My phone died, so I sat for the next 5 hours trying to figure out a plan of execution while fuming with anger.
I had planned on crossing over that day for an extension just until the end of the month, and then I had to leave Thailand to attend a friend’s wedding in Slovakia. I just needed of. And I wouldn’t get it.
What really did it in for me was that since they unexpectedly dropped this new regulation on a Saturday morning, the immigration office was closed until Monday. So even if I was to go get an extension, paying 1,900 baht at the immigration office, I would already owe another 1,000 baht in fines for an overstay.
It seemed to me like it was a planned slight.
Imagine hundreds of people needing to cross for their visa extension that day, just doing something that had been normal to do each month for the past few years, and then being denied. That is at least 1,000 baht per person before they can scramble over to a neighboring country to apply for a visa or apply for an extension at the immigrations office.
All that passed through my head was that, “those fuckers did this on purpose for a quick dollar.”
I can’t personally come up with any justifiable reason why they would drop a swift new regulation without warning on a weekend.
As more information surfaced later that night, it seemed as though the regulations would get even stricter. Soon, starting later that August, they would be barring flying out of the country and back in without acquiring a visa for Thailand in another country preemptively. Making it harder to stay long-term in a country many love.
I spoke to many, many travelers later that night about the slight at hand — about being screwed over last-minute. Some were in the same situation as I was. A small amount of others objected to or dismay, mostly uppity ones on forums who combated everyone’s panic and complaining with thanks and praises for a regulation that would “force out the teachers and freelancers exploiting Thailand’s loopholes“.
Older expats who had Thai wives and had been living there for 10+ years were ridiculing would-be teachers and freelancers for “living off Thailand’s easily avoided immigrant laws” — as if they didn’t fucking come to the country to exploit loopholes. How old was your wife when you found “love” for one another? How many times had you done visa runs?
I didn’t come to exploit anything, but clearly much of the older crowd making this argument had.
A country should accommodate my needs?
Some spoke of tightening regulations for entering the country as just enforcement for long-standing laws. Sure, the standard was that after 3 visa entries you would have to acquire a different type of visa. But what about those forced away while I was there that only had one? And though these regulations, in some form, may have been in place — the norm embraced by Thailand, travelers, Thai merchants, Thai companies, expats, teachers, and the like was the visa run.
Most people living in Thailand and doing visa runs are, from my experience, people who want to stay in Thailand because they love the culture and people. And they spend their money in the country. Freelancers being paid by other countries spend their money IN THAILAND. English teachers, who aren’t talking jobs from Thai people, are spending their paychecks IN THAILAND.
Sure, you might just say, “stop complaining and go the proper route to get a visa” but that isn’t why everyone was pissed. Or why I was pissed. I don’t think for one moment that a country should bend rules or accommodate rules just so I am comfortable. But when I arrived, the regular thing to do was to take visa runs until you got your work permit from a school you are teaching at, or do visa runs while exploring the country until you find a place you would like to settle. Then you can head on over to Laos and try to get a 90 day visa which takes a few days at least.
The reason everyone was pissed was because they established this new regulation without warning, without information, without explanation, and on a weekend while immigration offices were close.
It’s not only foreigners complaining…
Think travelers were the only ones complaining? The Thai apartment building owner my friend rented from saw a mass exodus of travelers who had been renting a room the following day.
“I don’t know what I’ll do…everyone is leaving. I won’t have a business.”
Sure, Thailand businesses may do okay during busy season, but we were entering the slow rainy season, one where most of these businesses are helped by spending from expats, teachers, freelancers or slow travelers staying longer.
How about all of those businesses that relied on the daily flow of packed buses full of travelers on visa runs? Those companies specifically offering visa runs are done for. Also, the shops those vans force you to stop at on visa runs rely on daily flow of backpackers for business.
I even heard about new protests in Bangkok solely about this new regulation. Whether that is true or not, I heard it from a Thai person.
Trust me, it isn’t just “freeloading” backpackers complaining if you decided to call it that, it was a vast majority of Thai people I spoke with confused and angry as well.
Again, I have no worry ever about going through the proper methods to enter and stay in a country, but the way this was executed without warning was something that will leave a mark on me, many travelers in Thailand, and Thai businesses as well.
So, was I really forced out of Thailand?
Yes and no. I was forced to make a quick decision that in no way made it plausible to stay in Thailand. I’m sure whoever “they” are would have loved for me to stay longer and pay more in fines.
I had just over two weeks left in the country before I had to leave. For me to jump over to another country like Laos and apply for a visa would take a few days in addition to costs of the application, transportation, and accommodation. I would have already been at a loss of 1,000 baht ($30 which is a lot for a backpacker) and I would be paying for a 90 day visa only to return to the country for a couple of weeks. It didn’t make sense to me.
I know that the gate I was attempting to cross through was a trading post and not actually a border crossing. From there, without being able to re-enter Thailand, you would be stuck. It is basically for good and Visa runs. But I had heard this was the story at most borders around Thailand, be it one for visa runs or not.
And the longer I stayed, the more money I’d be fined.
Why not move on to another Southeast Asian country?
According to the border guards, I had to fly out since my visa expires and the regulation restricted me from crossing by land. So, to spend $50-$100 on a last-minute flight to another country close by, then to spend $700-$800 last minute to fly to Slovakia, would be a waste of money on flights.
Instead, I decided it was just my time to leave Thailand and Southeast Asia (for now) and just take an earlier flight into Europe. My accommodation and daily living costs may be more expensive, but at this point I just wanted to get away from Thailand unfortunately. And though I had been planning to go to Slovakia, the plans changed again.
Knowing each day I stayed in Thailand would be another $15 tacked on to my fine, I took the next bus down to Bangkok to fly out the following day. I switched my plan to fly to Slovakia because I found a cheaper flight last-minute to Italy ($500) and I also had a voucher worth $250 with a flight booking company that I could use. Taking that cheaper flight to Italy, I could finally live out a childhood dream as well, and then take a budget flight for $50 to Slovakia for the wedding at a later date.
Expenses wise, it would obviously be more expensive in Italy than it would be to stay in Southeast Asia, but with the turn of events and how it played out with flights, it seemed as though the travel Gods were telling me it was finally time to visit the country I always yearned to see. Fernweh was pulling me — that longing for a place you have never been — and it was pulling me to Italy.
I had spent 6 months in Thailand setting up roots for myself to teach English after the wedding…roots that would have given me the proper visa to stay long-term, but the experience at the border and the way the new regulations were handled really pushed me away. And it is a shame. I really love Thailand. But seriously, from my local friends, Thai merchants and business owners I know, and backpackers around the Land of Smiles — someone fucked up with this.
Will I ever return?
I think there is a good possibility that I could return. After all, I never did explore much of the southern islands. But to live long-term and teach English there after this experience? Before flying out I had to pay 2,000 baht ($60) in fines to someone at the airport that had a quick chuckle after saying, “oooh, overstayed? Not good”. I can’t say for sure, but it Thailand isn’t on my radar anymore to live in.
*UPDATE* I have heard whisperings that Thailand has returned the policy back to the way it was. Still hasn’t changed how I feel about the experience.
Something felt off. Well, I felt off. But I could have never guessed what would come later, possibly in connection with the way I had felt the entire day after arriving in Chiang Mai.
And then I looked up from my sandwich in a Subway in Chiang Mai to see the glass before me shaking violently and the concrete walls of the building I was in shift back and forth.
“What the fuck?” I said with a mouthful of chicken teriyaki.
I looked up and it seemed as though the world was warping, as if I was staring into a funhouse mirror as the events played out around me.
Everyone from the top floor and base floor scurried out of the building quickly, snatching up all of their belonging in a mad panic and fleeing into the streets.
Me? I just sat there completely confused and feeling on the verge of vomiting. And once the shaking stopped, it dawned on me that I had just idiotically sat inside a building while an earthquake rattled the city.
I think the reason I hadn’t gotten up to run outside like everyone else was because of that exact feeling that I had bothering me all day. And right before the earthquake it, I felt faint and near collapse — thinking I hadn’t eaten enough that day. Thinking at the beginning it was just me.
Earlier that morning I had driven back 3 hours from the northern town of Pai, through the 762+ turns up and down the mountains without stopping. I just wanted to make it back to Chiang Mai as soon as possible.
Right as I got back I started feeling a little off. I figured I had slight jitters because I only ate a small breakfast and chugged a coffee to get the blood flowing before hitting the road. But I made sure to drink plenty of water on the return route, and even after going to the café and eating an entire sandwich…nothing changed.
All day I stood or sat slamming down keys for a post on the blog, and gradually throughout the day I felt worse. It began with just a slight drowsiness or lightheadedness. and then my arms began to tingle. I felt weak. My head slowly began to give me the feeling of the spins, and my forehead felt hot.
Eventually, it got too much to bear. I packed up all of my belongings and decided to head home for the day and lay down, hoping that feeling would subside. But it didn’t.
It was about 5 minutes before the earthquake hit that I felt on the verge of vomiting. I thought I might collapse and so I hobbled down the stairs and decided that I’d try to down some more food just to see if it helped. Then, right before everything began shaking, I felt like I’d faint. My vision became a little blurry, my dizziness took hold, and I was preparing to run to the bathroom in case I had to hurl.
And then it hit. At first I thought it was me. My shoulders tingled down to my arms and into my fingertips. I thought, “Yep, stay seated Ryan, you are going to faint”
Things started slow. The windows vibrated and the walls moved and I grabbed my head with both hands to steady myself. That’s when everybody began running outside. It worsened. The glass wobbled and bent as though it’s explode and I could literally see the building dancing before me. Yet I couldn’t get up. I was disoriented and still couldn’t get my legs under me to work. I watched as the lights shook and pictures slide.
I’m sure if I began seeing things breaking or cracking I’d be able to get the energy to run outside.
After it stopped, I could see the hundreds of Thai people massing in the streets on their phone, seemingly tweeting or lining or snapping freak outs about what just happened.
And I sat there and finished my sandwich.
Not more than 5-10 minutes after the earthquake, that intense ill feeling seemed to wash out of my body. I was still a tad bit off, but I didn’t feel nearly as bad as I did hours before.
The earthquake registered a 6.3 at its epicenter near Chiang Rai north of Chiang Mai, and seemed to crawl all across Thailand down to Bangkok and into neighboring Myanmar. As I checked Twitter, immediately the social network was flooded with tweets about it. Luckily, everyone I knew weren’t injured. Just really freaked out or confused.
Throughout the night and into the next morning, my house vibrated with aftershocks. I spoke to my roommate the next morning about how ill I felt and she mentioned the exact same symptoms, telling me that she thought it was a large thunderstorm coming that caused her to feel that way.
Maybe I have “Spidey senses” one of my close friends quipped after telling her about the incident since it seemed to dissipate after the earthquake came and went.
I’ve now been through my share of earthquakes; plenty of aftershocks in Christchurch that made it feel like I slept on a water bed, and the annual occurrences in California. Hell, I was even giving an iPad class in Washington DC at my Apple Store when one hit — of course I stood there as everyone else crawled under tables.
Even though none compared to ones that have rocked Asia before, or Christchurch in New Zealand, or caused the destruction in Haiti that I observed even 2 years after, it is still pretty nerve wrecking.
I do not like the ground feeling like Jell-O beneath me.
Have you ever been through an earthquake? Ever have symptoms like mine hours before?
Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the fear of something bad happening when you travel, especially for first time travelers. And quite often, one of those fears is being robbed, and something you are always warned about when you first start traveling.
Here’s an experience of my own in Thailand that stuck in my head for weeks, and an experience that should teach everyone a lesson.
The gears of the rusted motorbike clanked as he up-shifted and changed lanes, cruising down the canal loop that rings the outside of Chiang Mai’s old town. I was clinging on to the back, jolting every time the gear changed and the bike had a seizure. Besides the fact that my ass was close to slipping off the back of the bike, I had a pit in my stomach from offending the man earlier and mentally on edge as to where he was taking me now.
I did not know this Thai man; white discolored tank-top, torn and stained jean shorts, and faded tattoos etched into his leather colored skin. For some reason his appearance is another element that had made me hesitant. Which is a very rare thing. I pride myself in not judging people by the way they looked. And it is actually quite stupid I made that judgement because here I was, wearing a tank top and shorts, and covered in tattoos myself.
Hell, we even had the same hat on, though his had clearly seen rougher days than mine.
Yet, I still didn’t trust him as we pulled off the freeway and into back alleys of Chiang Mai that I was unfamiliar with. Though I was tempted to pull out my iPhone and check my whereabouts, instead I clipped the chest strap of my tech bag, securing it tightly and readied myself for escape if I needed to.
Fear is quite an odd emotion. Fear can electrify your body with adrenaline to accomplish feats that you never thought possible and make the reward for doing so feel astronomical. Fear can also prevent you from doing things you want to do or wish to do — turning your stomach into knots and squeezing the courage out of you. Fear can heighten your senses. Fear can also obscure your judgement.
Either way, I did not know where we were going and what the outcome would be, so I made ready for whatever would happen. The alleys became a labyrinth; left turn, right turn, left turn, past closed shops. Deeper and deeper away from main streets.
And then on a secluded side street we stopped.
Before I had gotten on that motorbike, I was strolling through my village north of the Chiang Mai airport headed toward the freeway to hunt down a Songthaew (truck taxi). The bag on my back was chock full of the standard stuff needed for a days work, which is pretty much my whole life. Macbook Pro, iPad, chargers, harddrives, cameras, lenses, and all of my other doohickeys that make the bag weigh more than my big pack full of clothes. Needless to say, if I lost this bag, I’d be destroyed, and always hold it close.
And I am very cautious when carrying it around any town.
As I walked down the long road leading to the freeway a man on a motorbike pulls over beside me.
“Where you go?” he said.
I hesitated immediately as a flood of thoughts went through my head. What does he want? Why is he stopping to give me a ride? How much will it cost me?
I’ve been to a few countries where a motorbike is the taxi and when somebody waves you down to offer a ride, it’s not a favor. Jakarta and Bangkok, for example, have the overpriced motor bikers who ask you every time if you want a ride for an atrocious price compared to other modes of transport. Though Chiang Mai is known more for the 20 baht truck taxis, I assumed this was a freelancer seeing an opportunity to take advantage of a foreigner.
“Um…I’m going to Kad Suan Kaew” I said, a local mall I go to for the gym.
“Okay, get on. I go into town.”
“How much?” I asked him, thinking he was a motor bike taxi of some sort.
And then I immediately felt stupid.
The look on his face when I asked for a price was pure offense. He gave me a look as to say, “what the fuck man” and suddenly I felt ashamed.
“I’m sorry, so sorry” I said to him, approaching him with a wai, a sign of respect with a slight bow. I reached out my hand and introduced myself, and though I felt terrible for making that assumption after he just wanted to do me a favor, he brushed it off immediately with a care-free smile.
“My name is Tawan. I go to town now. I take you”
“Kad Suan Kaew?” I asked. He nodded.
Tawan motioned for me to get on, so I did, and we sped off down the road. I still felt shame for asking him the price, but now I was wondering what would happen next. Many times in other countries I’ve been to, favors have turned out to be requests for money afterward, or agreed upon prices changed in a “lost in translation moment” even after verifying three times.
But I also know that we were suddenly passing by all of the streets that would lead to the mall I was trying to go to, and instead snaking through those unfamiliar back alleys.
The whole time we were driving through, I was attempting to remember the way we came. I tried to remember landmarks and ways to get out, and noting where people were walking around.
Until we stopped and there was nobody around in sight.
I hopped off of the motorbike quickly and glanced around to make sure I was safe.
I was completely safe.
“This is my tattoo shop” Tawan said with a smile. He lifted the metal rolling gate and turned around to me.
“This is your shop?”
“Yes, mine” Tawan said.
“How long have you been tattooing for?”
“Three years. But I am artist. Painter. My love” he said proudly.
“Thank you so much Tawan, I will come back for a tattoo sometime.”
“Yes, please, have a good day!” He said excitedly, and I turned and walked away.
I was still unfamiliar where I was, but it seems like there was nobody around because the street I was on ran on Chiang Mai time and simply didn’t open until noon.
I emerged from the alley and to my surprise I was on the Sunday walking street, a place I frequented often. The rest of the afternoon my encounter with Tawan was on my head, and I still felt ashamed for thinking that way about him.
Fear of some ulterior motive from a person who was trying to be nice caused me to make an immediate judgement of his character.
Should I have been ashamed? I’ve heard on occasion from other travelers stories where they, or someone they know, were taken to a place and robbed at knife point by a person who had a kind smile. Or had their bag snatched. Or others things. Not specifically in Thailand, but all around the world.
After going about it through my head I ended up at a couple of conclusions. I have always tried to assume the best intentions of people until they prove me right or wrong, and that day I didn’t even give Tawan a chance. Also, I know as a traveler it can be wise to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Being raised in Washington D.C. and spending most of my life there, I’ve always knocked the city for being a robotic and automated place where people are too busy to be nice. I left that city to search for a place where people acknowledged and interacted with others, people who smiled at another just to brighten their day, and a place where there wasn’t a “how much do you make? What do you drive?” standard.
In the land of smiles where I’ve come to know many local Thai people who are the sweetest people I’ve had the privilege to call friends, I gave Tawan no chance from the beginning. I distrusted him the moment he pulled over. I cannot explain why I did, it just happened on that day.
I am not ashamed to be cautious while traveling, we always need to be aware in an unfamiliar place. Or even aware in places you’ve grown comfortable in. There are some cities where you just don’t fuck around with being careless.
Bad people are anywhere in the world, but so are good people.
The one thing that bugged me most was that I allowed myself to fall back into that state of mind while in Washington DC; sunglasses on, headphones in, and “what do you want? Don’t talk to me” vibe. Don’t trust anyone.
I can be cautious, but I don’t need to be cold, and to be open to believing in random acts of kindness again.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
>> Have you ever had a moment on the road like this?
READ MORE OF THAILAND:
Have you ever heard of Songkran? If not, you’re missing out. Songkran is the biggest water gun battle in the world — imagine World War III but with squirt guns and ice-cold buckets of H2O.
If you have partaken in this end-all-be-all New Year celebration or have seen evidence of this epicness, you know exactly what it entails.
If it was so damn awesome, how could one grow annoyed by Songkran in the country of smiles under the 100° heat of the sun? Depends solely on the outcome of the battle, and your patience after the first day or two of it.
For me, Songkran in Chiang Mai began as a childlike love. In the end, I was more keen to loathe it. And I couldn’t stand going outside to sneak around the streets for food.
Just to make it clear; I did not, at all, dislike the underlying celebration of Thailand’s New Year.
The beauty of Songkran is the massive celebration of the end of Thailand’s dry season where water flies wild and Thai people bless the entire population by splashing water on you. Also, obviously, it has become a freakin’ massive party with throngs of foreigners running amuck. Myself included.
Where did I decide to take part in this water battle to end all water battles? Chiang Mai, the epicenter of Thailand’s Songkran celebration.
So how is it that I, someone who had been giddy at the prospect of living a childhood delight of water gun fights in summer, except on a city-wide scale, actually dislike it in the end?
Well, there are aspects of both sides I liked and didn’t like, but it was a cumulation of misfortunes in the end that brought down my battle morale.
Let’s start from the beginning…
My good pal Zach and I knew that we wanted to be in Chiang Mai for the Songkran festival, but last-minute took off to Bangkok for a Thirty Seconds to Mars concert an faced an approaching visa run.
To keep a grueling mis-adventure short, we took a bus to Cambodia to get stamped, checked out Angkor Wat, and then came back. What we didn’t know was that flying from Siem Reap would be about 10 times the price than to cross overland, so we were forced to take a bus back to Bangkok, and a late night bus from there to Chiang Mai.
Within that three-day span, the total time spent on buses would be over 36 hours, with a combined 6 vans and 4 buses in the mix.
By the time we reached Chiang Mai on the day before the Songkran festival began, we were well beyond exhaustion. But alas, we were still stoked to prepare for battle and jump right in.
Even though some splashing had already taken place on the 12th (rumblings that it was mainly farangatangs or douche foreigners) the real celebration is held from the 13th-15th. So we basically slipped into a coma the night before to get our energy back for the next day.
And so the madness began.
Songkran Day 1: Arm Up!
Zach and I took to the streets as the battle cries were already ringing through the hot stagnate air, the sound of dubstep pounding loud in the distance were the war drums of the day. We were unarmed in the beginning, searching for a way to make it to a stand to purchase a worthy weapon of water, but as we made it to the moat near Chiang Mai Gate, we could already see chaos had engulfed the city.
Quite obviously, there was a slaughter of water everywhere. People running and shooting at others. Trucks filled with water barrels and manned by feindish Thai bucket-chuckers hurled water with insane accuracy. Whether you were on foot, or in a car, or on a motorbike, you were targets.
Especially if you were dry…
And being that we had come into the fray unscathed and unarmed, we were now in the crosshairs of everyone. Drenched in 2.5 seconds flat to the smiles from those who walked up and casually dumped a bucket of ice-cold water on our heads — inducting us into the battle.
With now rocket-like nipples from the shock of the cold and an eagerness to join in, we snagged our weapons; The Super Shooter 5000, and began our own mercenary-esque water gun mission.
We winded our way through the street wrought with H20 destruction and every step along the way engaged in skirmishes with foreigner and Thai alike. Though, warning to would be future Songkraners, watch those cute little Thai kids — their fun smiles are evil smirks as the lure you in close just to shoot ice water colder than the arctic in your face.
Finally we arrived at the main battleground — Thapae Gate at the east end of Old Town and a place that was now a sea of saturated, drunk, foamy, raving madmen and madwomen.
The shock of how absurdly wild the gate was had yet taken hold before we rushed in to join the battle, spraying everyone along the way who crossed our paths.
This — this was my childhood dream!
That was when I encountered my first annoyance.
As Zach and I squeezed our way though the raving crowd beneath a high stage spewing foam and the fire hoses showing down on us, some Thai people began rubbing my face and arms with this white paste. This paste come to find out, is normally talc powder mixed in buckets and wiped on people as a blessing, but this white paste was no blessing at all.
They touched my face out of nowhere with this paste, completely throwing me off in a “what the fuck?” kind of way, but I figured it was something of a ritual for this celebration and Buddhist holiday. As we made our way into the open street battling along the way, I began suddenly wondering why my back, arms, and forehead were burning. And since nearly everyone targets faces with super shooters like mine, the white paste began dripping near my eyes.
It felt like sulfuric acid.
My eyes were on fire and it burned worse than accidentally brushing your manhood with icy-hot after pulling a groin. Been there, done that. Okay, maybe not THAT painful, but up there. I was rushing to wash off my face, and at the same time my arms and back felt as though I had searing sunburn.
(just a random example, maybe hers was talc?)
Turns out, instead of the normal talc powder, some company was trucking around throwing out bottles of “cooling shock” menthol powder that people were smearing on everyone. And also began sneaking it into the barrels of water to shoot.
It felt like a big practical joke. Why not stick to the classic non-burning talc powder?!
Though it was annoyance, it was just a small one. After that I made sure to avoid that shit every time a smiling Thai with a bucket came to rub me down with that white molten lava.
Now that my eyes were working again, it was back to the gnarly water battle and cause some ruckus.
Shortly after arriving, we met up with Hannah and Adam of Getting Stamped and Amy of Throwing the Bowlines blogs and formed our A-team. One side of this street faced off against the other side of the street in skirmishes, and trucks crept through hurling gallons upon us.
Oh, and the swat team showed up with guns.
We had battled all morning, so we all agreed it was beer O’clock and we all deserved an ice-cold Chang. We went over to one of the few places selling beer nearby and that is when we ran into another annoyance.
Before I knew it I was under the soaked and dirty arm of a great big Maori dude who was raving about some drunk nonsense. While I had been buying my beers, it seems the rest of the group had been drawn into a conversation with the rowdy herd of rugby players. A few Maori, a few Aussie, and a few Samoan. Even though I was excited to blurt out I everything I loved about New Zealand, I was also weary of the big raging bro type as well. Seriously, all they talked about was Wrestling and insulted each other.
Soon we found ourselves in a fierce and sloppy game of flip cup with everyone, pouring pitchers and slamming cups. Funny thing is, it wasn’t the people from the U.S.A. that were pumping fists and yelling “Murica!” but the group of rugby players strange enough. Actually not strange.
Since we were playing flip cup amongst the chaos of Songkran, it was an often occurrence that someone would be spraying water at us, which inevitably ended up in the beers we were drinking. And drinking. And drinking.
After a few games and a few pitchers of Chang spiked with moat water, the “bros” were getting quite rowdy, a tad pushy, and a bit confrontational, so we decided it was time to exit the scene.
The sun had begun setting and clouds gobbled up the last bit of daylight, and since we were still in sopping wet clothes, the shivers took hold. It got freezing. At one point I glanced to Hannah and she had blue lips and looked as if she would freeze solid in her place.
As we waddled back to their place to dry off, people were still battling in the darkness and drenching us with buckets. We all tried desperately to dodge it, but inevitably we took more ice-cold buckets to the face adding to our cold misery.
Tired, but all agreeing that it was one of the best festivals we had been to.
Finally in the comfort and protection of an apartment, we all relaxed and dried off a bit, decided that dinner and drinks we in store for the capstone of the first day.
Songkran Day 2: Defeated.
I woke the next morning with what I could only assume was a hangover since the A Team had all gone out for a bit of drinking after drying off that night. Knowing that we had drunk more beer throughout the day before than water, and that I drank some whiskey after said beer (breaking the liquor before beer rule), I figured that could be the only cause.
Well, little did I know that wasn’t why my stomach felt so wretched and painful.
I was reluctant to get out and into the water war again but my buddy Zach dragged me along, even with my abdomen having an uncomfortable pain and slight burning sensation. I had forgotten my gun at the flip cup table the day before, so I zombie walked to a stand to buy another, all the while with a hand on my stomach.
(not feeling well)
Already I could feel my attitude was changing. I was not in the mood to frolic about spraying water and getting soaked, but more-so to stay in bed all day. We went back to Thapae Gate where we fought the day before, and just as then, it was madness.
This time we stayed closer to the refill stations because I wasn’t feeling so mobile. Also so we could have unlimited ammo. But, looking into the refill stations, I realized that all of the water everybody had been spraying around was this brown murky liquid pumped from the moat.
Though it was seriously nasty looking, not many seemed to care, and everyone went on with their battle business full on fury.
Some even were scooping up the stagnant and dirty ankle high water into buckets or sucking it up into their guns and hitting people in the faces with it.
Myself included as victim of a street water bucket.
And though it was hilarious running around and shooting water guns at people, the amount of times I was sprayed full blast with dirty water into my eyes and mouth eventually took its toll.
It didn’t take long for Zach and I to lose each other in the chaos, but it was time for me to raise the white flag and quit for the day.
Except that wouldn’t be easy at all.
I was at the east end of the Old Town, which meant to get to my house behind the airport I would have to walk through the entire Old Town to the west side. That wouldn’t have been bad, but I was cutting straight through more hostile territory, and sure enough I’d get soaked.
And soaked I got. It was cloudy again so I was shivering and my mood had turned to grumpy and my stomach was killing me and every time I was shot or splashed, I wanted to yell. Mainly, I just gave the death stare.
When I finally reached the other side of the square, I saw the road was at a complete standstill in traffic like it was a parking lot. I managed to find a songthaew (truck taxi) nearby going up the street I needed to and hopped in. When I asked him to take me to “Wat Pong Noi” he repeated it and nodded his head to assure me he knew. Which he didn’t.
This happens quite often in fact and isn’t a big problem ever normally, but when we arrived at the completely wrong place and I told him where i actually needed to go, he upped the price 100 baht. Even though we were 75% of the way there and away from the celebration. I thought, “Fuck it” to myself and just wanted to get home.
That’s when the real pain hit.
That entire night at home the pain in my stomach grew from just uncomfortable, to occasional shooting pains. For the rest of the day I dared not move, just sleeping on and off hoping it would be gone by morning.
Songkran Day 3: The End is Near
The pit in my stomach was bottomless, but I had no appetite at all. I hadn’t eaten anything other than a ham and cheese toasty the morning before, but at that moment I didn’t even think I could stomach anything.
The headache was beating in my head. I had body aches and it hurt to move. My eyes hurt if I closed them too tight. I was going to the bathroom every 30 minutes (sorry, but details are details).
That day we were supposed to meet up at Hannah and Adams place for her birthday celebration, and though I struggled to move, I knew I wanted to at least say hi. Getting there would obviously be the most trying part I thought, but luckily my new roommate allowed me to borrow her mountain bike into town.
After biking down the freeway and nearly running into a car door after a guy decided to get out of his vehicle without looking, I made it to their apartment moderately dry. It was cloudy that day luckily which made the bike ride in my weakened state a little better. But I could feel myself internally cursing every time someone attempted to soak me.
We relaxed a bit and I couldn’t help but gobble up the marvelous looking ice cream cake she had at her birthday which caused me even more pain. Soon the A Team was aching to go outside for a fight on the last day of Songkran after a few jello shots.
Me? No desire to at all. But I did tag along because I wanted to help Hannah have a good birthday.
Immediately I regretted going outside. It was still cloudy and now even more people were out in force, guns loaded. We walked down a seemingly small Soi which then became a busy party street and no sooner did I mumble “fuck my life” did I get 3 ice-cold buckets of water on me.
“I should just steal a baby and walk around with it, they wouldn’t splash a baby!”
Along the way to avoid getting sprayed, I faked entering into cafés as a maneuver around the bucketeers along the road. When we came to Maya mall where there was supposed to be a concert going on, it more looked like a scene out of the movie Waterworld. Speakers blaring and thumping, fire hoses spraying, and people battling it out in close quarters.
Looked like one helluva party, and I didn’t want any part of it.
“I’ve gotta’ get some food in me” I told the group, and parted ways to find something to eat. Even eating white rice pained me, so I decided to go grab my bike and retreat back to my house.
I avoided everyone at all costs. Down back alleys and small streets I walked down, often hitting dead ends. When a group of people armed to the teeth would be marching down a side alley that I was on, I’d retreat and pretend to be looking for something in my bag around the corner.
I managed to make it to the bike dry and hurried on my way, dipping, diving, and dodging crowds and taking back roads all the way home. And I only managed to get a splash on the leg.
Feeling weak and having cutting pains across my stomach, I decided I’d go to the hospital and get checked out the next day.
The Songkran Sickness
The way to the hospital the next day was completely dry which I was so very happy about. After seeing the doctor and her doing a standard tickle the tummy procedure, she deemed that I had an intestinal infection.
“Oooh, Songkran water very dirty. Moat water bad. Very bad.”
“Ahh” I said.
After the stomach problems had lasted a couple of days I figured it was from chugging the water being tossed around since we were hit in the face so much. I had even heard rumors from other Thais that there were articles written about how bad the moat water was this year. But all the while it was used, and it made me terribly sick.
2000 baht later, I’m on three types of pills and I cannot eat solid foods for 3-5 days. Numerous people on my Facebook commented on their own experiences getting sick or knowing others that had — from stomach issues, pink eye, fevers, etc.
From Love to Loathe?
I can say a few things that are true. Yes, I was utterly annoyed by the festival by day three. I had gotten very sick from the water battle. Some things that were small annoyances were amplified by me being ill.
But did I actually get sick and tired of Songkran?
While I wrote about this epic festival and looking back on it, I realize that I didn’t really dislike it, I just had a bad personal misfortunes that compiled and one BIG one which caused me to not enjoy the rest of it.
More likely, I got sick and tired from it, not of it, and that made me hate everything at that point. But there is no way I could hate a water gun battle. Especially celebrating with people like Thai people who love to have a damn good time! I can truly say it was one of the craziest New Year celebrations I’ve ever been a part of, and that it was one wild party. Everyone should experience this unique cultural celebration in Thailand.
I know full well that if I was 100% healthy, the small annoyances mentioned that piled up wouldn’t have bugged me one bit.
But this water warrior went down early in the fight, and being sick did not allow me to truly love it.
I really don’t know how some survive the 3-5 days of celebration really. This was the biggest party I had ever seen and I was out by day 1. It’s like Thais have a super human Songkran gene.
Or just a lot of M150.
Some things to remember for Songkran
- Being prepared with goggles or glasses to prevent water getting in my eyes.
- Not drinking beer that had water accidentally gunned into it.
- Not viking roaring when I shoot so I don’t get water in my mouth.
- Avoid the moat.
- Get much more proper rest before and during.
[x_alert heading=”SIDE NOTE:” type=”warning”]Songkran isn’t solely a water gun battle and party. There is a lot of cultural importance to the festival; parading important Monks images to be blessed by all, washing away the “dirt” from the past year and praying for good fortune, inviting the rainy season and fresh crops, and more. Unfortunately, it has become in the larger cities just one big Spring Break like party (with partial clothes on) and I’m bummed I didn’t get a chance to see the calmer and more culture based side.[/x_alert]
HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED SONGKRAN? Would you Want to if Not?
There I was…staring at the gray lint from the inside of my pocket with a peppering of beach sand, a beer bottle cap, and twenty New Zealand dollars in my palm — my bank account had a dismal twenty-six U.S. dollars in it. Reality came over me like a mule hind-kicking me in the gonads, I had completely run out of money in a foreign country and my travel noob ass was just realizing it.
Or that time I came back into my hostel room to find the bare bottom of a man grinning vertically at me from my own bed like a cheeky peekaboo from beneath the blankets.
Or that time I time I found myself unknowingly sleeping in a run-down whorehouse on the east coast of the United States that was owned by a one-legged, one-eyed, toothless prostitute pirate ironically named lefty (he was missing he left arm, cruel nickname…)
Or singing karaoke, Living on a Prayer obviously, in a whorehouse in Maui Hawaii naively thinking it was an actual karaoke bar.
Or when I found myself and the film crew on the cusp of a knife fight at a Haitian whorehouse in Cap-Haitian when all we wanted was a hotel room.
Or selling my pride to become a freelance camel jockey.
Or my first run in with police in Thailand. Oh yeah, and the second run in with the police in Thailand.
How about the epic (failed) attempt to last-minute hitchhike from the north island of New Zealand to Christchurch on the south island…
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention…how about that time I was a stripper on a cruise ship? Is that an eye-brow I saw perk up?
These my friends are just the tip of the nipple when it comes to the mis-adventures I’ve found myself in while traveling — sometimes these epic fail-tales have evolved from poor planning, being a once amateur travel, careless frolicking and meandering without checking my budget or surroundings, or just the three haggard bitch-fates wanting to take a piss on my string of fate for a good cackle.
Whatever the reason for ending up in these situations or the end result, I have survived to re-tell these absolutely whacky and 100% true stories with you for the sole purpose to laugh at my misfortunes. And hopefully learn from them.
Ah, forget learning a lesson, just come have a laugh with my as I recount the stories and laugh with you — even though at the time I may have been fearing for my life or cursing myself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Since the month of April begins with a day dedicated to fools, this entire month I will be re-visiting all of my past or recent mis-adventures where I was the fool.
Are you ready for this? These stories will be no-holds barred — no titillating, tantalizing, or terrifying details held back.
So make sure to stay tuned to this blog. Grab a coffee or beer or…if you must…a health shake, make sure to grab a diaper as well because you may tinkle a bit from laughter , and prepare the cold shower for after. Maybe even a smoke.
It’s gonna’ get dicey this month…
There was a fight at my hostel tonight in Pai, Thailand.
An older Scotsman (45ish) who has been staying at the hostel for the past 6 months has grown a kind of “I run this place” ego over every other traveler and backpacker, as well as grown a disdain for humankind — which usually seeps out after a few glasses of whiskey. He always loftily tells tales, true or tall tales, about such things as being let off by police for having the highest ranking shaman of a country come to his rescue, or sleeping in caves for weeks in the wild when he feels such immense hatred for people, or other things like being so well-known that even the FBI questioned him because they thought he was an agent of some sort.
Well, the past couple of nights his disdain for people who are “utterly disrespectful of the universe and disgraces to humankind” has been oozing out each time he stumbled about the great campfire — once usually made for communal seating and sharing stories and drinks, but of late empty and quieter than the crickets in the bush.
One night, a chap walked up behind him and slung an arm over his shoulder in a friendly gesture and the guy proceeds to shove him off, tell him to “fuck off and leave the hostel” lest he “fuck him up” and slapped him in the face. The other guy seemed to be quite the pacifist and apologized for what I observed to be no wrong. And if it was me in his shoes getting slapped, well, I don’t go looking for trouble, but if it slaps me in the face you can be damn sure there will be trouble.
Either way, later that night the higher than human kind man with the whiskey dragon breath stumbled about at 4:00am shouting out into the night sky, “I’ll fucking kill all you mother fuckers. You are disgusting. A disgrace! All of you!”
In the morning, my friend who is traveling with him saw the whiskey breathed hollering higher than human man who came and sat with him at the coffee table. Both ordered coffee and my friend made small talk as he was completely unknowing of the latest events. My friend had asked, “Did you hear that crazy person screaming and shouting outside last night? Something about killing people and stuff”
The man sipped his coffee and grumble, “If I would have heard some ignorant piece of shit shouting that late at night outside, I would have walked out and kicked his ass. People have no respect.”
Seems as though the man had no clue it was him. Ironic how he became the piece of shit in his own mind and never even knew it…
Well, tonight as the lot of us watched Game of Thrones season 1 on the upstairs balcony (season 4 is coming, we HAVE to recap…) everything seemed to be a chill night.
Until the shouting began.
All we heard was commotion — some ruckus of shouting we couldn’t understand. but as we ran over the opposite railing to peer down to the origin, we saw higher than human kind whiskey breathed hollering ironic man with his dukes up toward a much younger and larger backpacker.
Other backpackers scattered away from the fire, and another guy who had probably almost fought him in that instance as well, was dragged away from the scene.
Though I couldn’t hear, it seemed that words and threats were made by the older guy, while the backpacker who probably did nothing to rightfully offend him, stood his ground. It was on the cusp of a fireside brawl until the owner of the hostel, one who has allowed this man the courtesy to stay long-term, forced him back to his bungalow.
“Saw that coming…it was just a matter of time…” A girl said out loud to the group as we walked back to watch Game of Thrones.
It was just a matter of time. Not a matter of time that some young backpacker would purposely pick a fight, because nobody has, but a matter of time until this guy who perpetually gulped down bottles of whiskey per night and spoke about how everyone is driving the world to shit, picked a fight with someone.
And if he is allowed to stay, he will no doubt pick many more fights and may have the brawl he’s been itching for…but it probably won’t end up good for him.
All in all, this man who holds the world to blame for destroying it, who complains about the lack of respect, and who states just how disgusting we are through whiskey breath and wobbly steps — is a perfect picture of the monsters that he sees through blurry eyes.
There was a point somewhere between hour 8 and hour 10 that a small insanity took hold of me. Or at least it seemed so.
A fourteen hour bus from Bangkok to Phuket would normally be manageable. If surviving a 99 hour train journey across the United States was possible, surely this would be a walk in some metaphorical park.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai had already been done, a trip about 12 hours, except there were factors that kept my already zany brain from falling down the rabbit hole.
Somebody to talk to. A book to read. Technology to scour.
All of these which I did not have this time when I disembarked Bangkok on a packed bus.
The journey would begin with one misadventure, but it wouldn’t be the end of it.
Because I am still a noob when it comes to 24 hour time, I received a ticket that read 18:00 and idiotically thought that meant 8:00pm. I was tired, that is my excuse. In a panic I rushed to the counter and stated that I had asked for an 8:00pm ticket and was given the wrong one (which is actually what I asked for) and after some talking, they kindle issued me a new ticket.
After boarding and claiming my seat, I decided to just close my eyes and sleep through the night since I had no other entertainment at hand, and my leather journal was not inspiring me to write since they turned off the lights.
At dawns annoying light my eyes peeled open like a bandaid tearing off skin. Though contortionist might seem like a talent or hobby given how many unconventional places I’ve discovered I can sleep, the body never gets used to unfolding itself from pretzel-like state.
The sunrise ignited the rolling hills and small mountain tops. Morning mist hung over the thin pencil like trees had tufts of leaves at their tops like truffula trees out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Finally out of the concrete jungle and into a real jungle. And it was clear I had no clue where the hell we were.
The bus bumbled and barreled like a drunk Brit down rocky roads that snaked through the lush pencil trees and palms.
With my American ignorance ruling the thought process, I half expected to see thatched roofs and bamboo houses abound. Maybe it was hope and not expectation.
Instead, the buildings that did spring up in breaks of the greenery were still very much city like. All concrete and steel besides the occasional wooden structures darkened by time, rot, and moss.
Even those were luxurious mansions compared to what you might come across in West Virginia.
And though I was winding through thick jungle, there was still advertising everywhere.
We were halted at one of the numerous military checkpoints along the journey and a soldier was standing at attention beneath one such advertisement. It was a billboard of a sexy Thai woman (but you never know here) which seemed to be selling feminine products.
At one point during the brief inspection, the soldier glanced over his shoulder and seemed to give her a one over as if checking her out. Or maybe checking to see if she was impressed by his soldier-like stature.
Partnering with the military for advertising? Someone somewhere is something of a genius. Why doesn’t the United States do this to fund our own? Viagra ads slapped on war ships with the slogan, “Get that cannon firing again!” or Trojan ads on tanks with, “Sorry Clint, sometimes a magnum isn’t big enough. Pull out the Abrams tank condom”
Payment to me for these ideas is fully expected if used.
After the scenery became repetitively beautiful I turned my search for amusement to the inside of the bus were sunlight danced off the bobbing heads of other passengers.
The seats were numbered like a prison transport. I was number 19, though I plopped my bag in number 20 so I would have it all to myself.
Number 24, dressed head to toe in military garb, blasted Celine Dion aloud on his phone. I wondered if he would give up his man card If I were to ask, or would it be lost in translation?
Number 17 was boring. Directly in front of me. Never changed position of his or her head. I was aching for something like a nose pick from ’em. Nothing. Just that fine black Asian hair bobbing to the jolts of the bus.
I wondered if number 6 would ever stop snoring, and if I licked a gummy bear and tossed it, maybe I could get it stuck to their face. That’ll stop the snoring for sure.
A stench of fart crept up my nose and I wondered if it could be number 14 in front or perhaps number 30 in the back. Maybe it was even number 17! Sneaky.
It seems as though number 21 and 22 were choco-haulics with chocolaty treats strewn over both of their seats. The thing is, I never saw number 22 there. Number 21, watch out for the diabetes! I bet his favorite movie is “Chocolat“. Such a good movie!
Pen break for tinkle time.
Damn, every word in my journal should probably not be translated onto the blog. Number 24 can have his man card back for my use of the word “tinkle”.
We pulled into another depot with just a long building made of wood and clad with rusted corrugated metal to establish any presence of life there.
A Thai kid in a yellow jersey stood outside with a flat soccer ball held in his teeth stared at the bus like a lost pup. Kids do the darnedest things these days — I blame it on television. Probably Scooby Doo.
For hours after we did that meander word that writers use when they don’t know how to describe the act of passing through an area. We meandered along as the sun-baked my face through the window. Of course I had to pick the seat with no curtain. Palm leaves slapped against the bus while meandering along and I thought to myself, “someone oughta’ trim those. Who’s in charge of park and maintenance out here — we need to have a chat.”
A truck crept by us and to my utter childish delight, a giant marshmallow man, like the one from Ghost Busters, adorned the roof. Oh how amusing little things are on a long bus journey.
By the way — if you were wondering, number 17 with the bobbing head of fine Asian hair turned out to be a man. The great bus mystery solved.
The jungle opened up to reveal a large town ringed by low trees and surrounded by mountains. Mounds of dirt with a freshly dug ditch lined the main road we rolled through on, lined with cobble stone sidewalks, with Thai workers laying into the ground concrete sewage pipes.
The road was actually the nicest I’ve seen in all of Thailand; smooth and newly paved asphalt led us through the dust and dirt that had been kicked up from the enormous amount of construction happening — making it feel as though we passed through an old west town in the United States. The buildings with clay tile rooftops and arched windows cemented this feeling even more of a town that seemed to belong in San Diego.
After leaving that progressive and clean southwest town in the middle of Thailand, we were back and bumbling through the jungle. Pinocchio Restaurant flashed by my window in a clearing of trees followed by a sudden moment of confusion. You think America invades everything? Italy has Pinocchio Restaurants in the heart of the Thai jungle.
Further down the road another moment of confusion slapped me in the face; I spotted a Toys R’ Us at one of the middle-of-nowhere bus stops. It had to be legit because it had the backward “R” and all. The store was nothing more than a half collapsed metal shack, and I thought to myself how far down on hard times they have fallen since beanie babies, razor scooters, and Pokémon.
We pushed further south, now edging closer and closer to the coast. Khao Lak was the next town we passed through, and by the time I realized we were there, we were already left it behind us. From what I saw I liked. Green hills lush with trees climbed high all around the town which was situated between the base and the water. Just one row of buildings; all small and colorful shops or hostels on either side of the street completed it, and there was barely a soul around the clean streets.
The bus slowly crawled up a steep hill, gears grinding on a newly paved road leaving Khao Lak behind. I hoped I would make it back someday before it loses that peace and quite; new roads always bring new noise and nonsense.
Farm land sprung up as the mountains fell to become hills and the trees shrunk in size — and finally those thatched roof houses sprung up to my delight. Buildings made of bamboo with black molded thatch from the moist south. Fields of newly sprouted vegetables in perfectly parallel fields. And bush sculptures? The bush sculptures were freakin’ random.
Massive swaths of farmland were covered in those truffula trees; though now they weren’t popping their tufts of leaves above the palms, but were aligned in to give an illusion of endless corridors of them. Corridors of trees that eventually hypnotized me into a deep sleep.
A small Thai woman poked me in the arm and sprung me from my slumber.
“You leave now”
“This is Phuket?” I said with my slightly grumbly voice.
“Yes yes, hehehe” The woman giggled at my apparent confusion and disorientation.
I had finally made it to Phuket, with my melting mind still somewhat intact. But I still had to make it to the dock in time for my ferry, which would prove to be yet another mis-adventure.
Motorbike and taxi drivers hounded me like rabid dogs with “100 baht to town!” as I finally got of the bus and found the rest of my luggage. I waved them away with a confident “no” in Thai, “Mai krap” because I had done my research preemptively and knew that I could score a local songthaew truck for 20 baht to the ferry.
Yet, sometimes attempting to be clever can come back and bite you in the ass, or lead you the opposite direction. In this case — my destination, the ferry terminal, would elude me.
I turned on my iPhone, and with 4% battery left, looked up directions to the terminal so I could follow along and make sure I didn’t fall off course.
The songthaew, a large pink truck with two benches in the back, pulled up and I approached the driver.
“Does this go to the ferry terminal?” I asked. The driver did not roll down his window, he just waved me back as if to tell me, “Of course you idiot.”
In the back of the truck, a woman sat collecting the fare and asked where I was going. I showed her the name of the ferry terminal, she ripped a small paper ticket, and I handed over 15 baht. When I asked her again for reassurance where we were going, she smiled and nodded. And I figured she would have known a main ferry terminal in town — but turns out she didn’t have a clue.
The songthaew pulled up to a market and the ticket woman turned to me and said, “Here”
“Where is the ferry?” I asked, and she pointed to a street sign. And of course that street sign had the same name as the ferry terminal.
“No no, ferry to Koh Phi Phi” I said.
“No, no songthaew from here, you take taxi”
And I cursed in my head. I thought to be clever and take the local mode of transport, but somehow I had been taken to the opposite end of town to a market with no songthaew.
I hopped out of the truck and looked around, trying to get my bearing and find some way to get there. The ticket woman called out to a gentleman who ran over and said, “Taxi to ferry 100 baht”
Right back where I started.
I shook my head and told him it was too expensive, and began to look around for some other way.
“Okay okay, 60 baht”
“50 baht and I’ll go” I countered, figuring I wasn’t going to get much lower than that, and thankfully he agreed. At that point I just wanted to get to the ferry finally.
I don’t recall the driver’s name, but I do know that he had barely more teeth than a babe, which means that his constant smile as he drove me toward the terminal was bigger than most. We made small talk on the ride. He told me about his six children; four boys and two girls, and commented about his love for Manchester United after I told him I was from Washington D.C.
Though I’ve never known many fans of Manchester United in Washington D.C. I nodded and smiled.
Just a short ride through the busy port town and we pulled up to the terminal. He flashed one last big toothless smile and drove off.
I had survived a fourteen hour bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket with no electronics, no book, and nobody to talk to. And though, as you can tell by reading my observations jotted down in my journal, a bit of sanity was lost — I still arrived on time.
Now, I just had to survive the three-hour ferry ride which turned out to be extremely rocky. That story of passengers hurling their brains out may or may not come another time.
Have you ever had a similar long distance journal with nothing to keep you sane? Or a similar misadventure?
It was just a few weeks prior that I was raving about the freedom felt by escaping the United States. I was to spend a year at least using Thailand as a base to teach English and devise a way to sustain long term vagabonding.
So why am I 30,000 feet in the air over puffy white clouds on a flight to Indonesia?
I was forced out of Thailand, that’s why.
Forced may be a tad bit of a powerful word. Let’s say I was inconvenienced out of Thailand.
When I arrived at LAX airport eager to depart for my indefinite adventure, I figured Visa runs were always going to be happening.
I had asked around for advice on Thai Visas from fellow travelers and whether I should drop the money for a 60 days tourist Visa so I wouldn’t have anything to worry about for a couple months.
After a few opinions, I decided to forgo the 60 day Visa. I figured I would land and feel out Thailand for a month. Maybe after that I would know which area best suits my goal and my personality. Maybe after that I would hopscotch over the border quickly on a cheap bus.
That was the plan.
When I approached the ticket counter and presented the smiling attendant of EVA Air with my passport, she then told me something completely unexpected.
“You must have onward ticket“
Wait, need an onward ticket?
I was pretty sure in my research before the trip that I wasn’t required to have an onward ticket when entering Thailand. I went on travel forum and spoke to backpackers who had recently flown in as United States citizens. I asked expats who had been there for a while. The consensus was the same — there was no onward flight needed.
After a split second of being taken aback by what the attendant said, I quickly and confidently replied.
“Oh, it’s fine, I am taking a bus out of the country“
“I’m sorry, you must have it booked before you board”
“I do have a bus ticket across already for the 10th” I said.
“I’m sorry, you must have onward flight, no bus“
At that point I was confused.
Sure, I was telling a small lie when I assured her I had a bus ticket out of Thailand within the 30 day window, yet it shouldn’t matter what mode of transport I have across the border.
Time was ticking and I knew I had to get through security and have time for lunch since I hadn’t eaten the entire morning. She was repeating her statement and the line behind me was grumbling, so I decided to just book a cheap onward flight.
The attendant lead me into a side room behind the check-in area which was a little strange. It was an office with more employees at desks. Two other American fellows were at a computer I’m guessing being forced to do the same thing that I was.
“I’ve never had this happen before man” one looked up and said to me.
“Just found a flight on Skyscanner for $90, I’ll leave the site up”
Being on a budget mindset and having to book a literal last minute flight made a vein bulge in my forehead because I knew I was going to just have to take a pick of the cheap flight litter without actually meaning to go to that destination yet.
After they were done an older tiny Thai lady walked me to the computer.
“You book now. Fast, fast. Just get confirmation and print“
After browsing for only a few minutes she was back over my shoulder and pointing at the screen.
“Just book any flight, fast, fast.“
I took a deep breath and clenched my jaw. Airports are stressful enough and this was sapping my pre-adventure mojo.
I finally found the cheapest flight which was to Surabaya, Indonesia and I booked it. I printed the form and got through check in.
Something struck me as even more odd though.
When she verified my onward flight confirmation, she was shocked I didn’t book with EVA and even asked me why. Kinda’ fishy.
I waddled through security, and I was finally ready to depart.
Except that wasn’t the end of the unexpected onward flight.
While browsing through and the tiny Thai lady breathing down my neck, I failed to see that Tiger Airways pre-checks pretty much every freakin’ add-on and display them small enough to miss if you are rushing…
…which is exactly what happened.
Oh, thank you for being psychic and pre-checking that I had hockey or sports equipment to bring onboard! Except I don’t.
And thank you for making me order a meal on a 3 hour flight that will most likely taste like rubbish!
Aha, I did need to check my backpack when I preemptively knew I could carry it on instead!
Lastly, you are amazing that you knew I wanted to pay extra to board first! When I don’t give a damn when I board.
All tallied up, those pre-checked add ons added nearly 25% of my ticket cost or close to 1,000 baht.
I noticed this in my confirmation email once I had a moment to collect myself.
Of course it is ultimately my fault for missing those tiny boxes that no other airline I’ve been on has pre-checked whilst being rushed.
Now I know thatch these Southeast Asian airlines for every detail.
So after nearly a month traveling around Thailand to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phi Phi islands, Krabi Town, and back to Bangkok I am leaving for a few weeks.
Originally I booked for Surabaya (I didn’t even know what that city was) for the 8th, but since plans sometimes change with those last minute forced ticket purchases, I had to change the date to the 11th (another $85).
Jakarta is also the new destination.
Derek of The HoliDaze blog has settled in and set up a base for himself in Indonesia and I figured I’d go kick it with him for a few weeks and have someone who knows the ropes show me around.
I will say I am quite excited to see Indonesia. Thailand is becoming better for me, and it definitely has to grow on you from my experience.
I’ve heard there is a bit less of a punch-in-the-face when it comes to the chaos and tourist centric overflow happening in some parts of Thailand. Other travelers said it’ll be a nice breather and a more prominent culture experience right from landing. We shall see!
With that, I don’t know a single thing about Indonesia so I have my headphones in practicing greets and phrases as I write this.
All the while, my laptop is dead.
If you’ve been on my social media pages, you would have read about my dear MacBook Pro dying of some unknown disease that even a techie couldn’t figure out. Even though I am headed to Indonesia, I’ll still be posting plenty about Thailand as I figure out a good method using my iPad.
You know me friends. I’m a stickler for design aesthetics and posting from apps is extremely restricting on photos and personal touches. But I will get caught up!
I’ve sent my laptop to the United States with a friend, to have another take it into Apple for repair. They’ll bring it to Thailand fixed for me when they come visit in January, and hopefully I’ll be back to posting regularly!
Cross your fingers for me.
Looking past the debacle of this last minute ticket, onward to another country and another adventure.
Saya mau kembali ke Indonesia!
Welcome friends to the ongoing (mis)adventures of Ryan and his trusty chucks!
Travel is filled with blissful moments of self discovery, awe-inspiring sights, nature to behold, awesome adventures, dances of extreme emotions, budding friendships, and exposure to amazing cultures around the world.
Travel is also filed with epic fails.
Admit it, we all do quite stupid things sometimes — and other times, the fates just want to have a laugh at our expense. Here is where I leave my humility behind, and share my laughable travel moments.
“I’ve done a fair share of stupid things in my life, a couple of which should have put me in the grave. But here I am, typing away as if I had a brain.” – Craig Wilson
Let the (mis)adventures begin!
It began with a slight pitter patter, which soon turned to a stuttering putter, which became a grinding ‘grrrrrrr’, which led to a finale with a ‘KINK CLUNK’, followed by silence. We were dead in the water in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
Sometimes, when it rains it pours. And other times it pours 90mm in an hour and shuts down an entire city! While waiting for my bus to leave Toronto, a freak storm struck the city, closing it off from the world.
Travel is filled with shitty moments where we aren’t sipping wine on a beach, but in the end it’s all apart of our journey exploring the world.
There were no other backpackers checked into the hostel and some of the others from the bus had been sitting around on the balcony. Nobody could have stolen it. Nobody except SANTA!
“Oh shit, is that bad?” I said, sitting up and eyes wide.
It began with a slight pitter patter, which soon turned to a stuttering putter, which became a grinding ‘grrrrrrr’, which led to a finale with a ‘KINK CLUNK’, followed by silence. The propeller had stopped, and we were dead in the water in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
“Nah, we’re all good man” Vick re-assured me.
Well, we weren’t in the middle of the Caribbean Sea per-se…but as the Kapitèn Bato, or boat captain, yanked the boat engine rope over and over with no rewarding roar of an engine starting, it seemed as though we would be stranded east of Tortuga in Baie de l’Acul for an un-foreseeable future.
At least that is what my comically disastrous mind immediately started coming up with.
Scenarios involved a Gilligan’s Island-esque existence, or possibly man-eating sharks swarming our boat which didn’t exist when we were swimming in the water earlier. Or what if a freak storm were to hit! I would have no volleyball available to be my best friend…
“Actually, maybe we are fucked!” Vick said, then proceeded to laugh.
Truth be told — our rickety water taxi; built of weather-worn planks and corrugated metal roofing, had broken down off the coast of Northern Haiti and our “captain” had no tools with him.
And we had no cell reception of course.
View Larger Map
The day had begun as all cliché island adventures do: The sun was bright (of course it is, it’s the sun!) and the azure Caribbean water was calling us (of course it was, it’s blue…and it was freakin’ hot!)
Our motley crew; David, Vick, Mike, and I, were just coming to after a night of Prestige…the beer. There was nothing prestigious about us at that moment as we licked our dehydrated lips, grunted as we picked ourselves up off the beach chairs where we had passed out, and chugged water vigorously.
We had a meeting with the mayor of Cap-Haitian that afternoon, but chillaxing in the private beach cove called Belly Beach had been so much damn fun that we needed one last day to explore the area before leaving. We were on Haitian time anyway, and surely the Mayor was of course, so we could take our time cruising a bit.
After grabbing some of the typical finger-lickin’ grub of Haiti, fried pork and plantains, Vick was able to convince a boat taxi driver to spend the day with us taking us around the coast. Just like taxi drivers in big cities, they hate leaving their “jurisdiction”, but a few extra buckaroos is always enough to change minds.
TIme to cruise the Caribbean baby!
Sometimes the fates can be assholes, and maybe I should have taken this as a sign. It was kind of like an “Au Revoir suckers!” before we even set off.
But we didn’t expect anything to go awry as our boat slid off the beach and the engined roared up to take us out into the open waters. Actually, more like a lawn mower sounding when it turned on, but whatever!
With the wind blowing in my hair (of course the wind was blowing through my hair, we were moving!) the boat zipped out into open waters and we were finally going to get to tour the coastline.
All jokes aside, I gotta’ admit to you – The waters around Haiti’s coast are kind of mind-blowing. They really are like looking through a thick piece of glass.
Wanna’ play chicken? I think not. The cruise ship was in port near Labadee and people darted around in the distance on jetskies.
I mainly stuck to the bow of the boat marveling at the scenery while our boat driver explained a bit of the area.
Along the coast it was common to see little outcrops of ruins from clubs or resorts that once was. It looked like an utterly amazing spot to relax, but Haiti’s tourism has yet to recover.
Razor sharp rock outcroppings line the coast in many places, I’m guessing from some sort of volcanic activity?
I’m on a boat! It was crazy chill cruising around, and at that moment I was totally diggin’ the rickety boat. But that wouldn’t last of course.
Totally looks like Jurassic Park huh? We all at this very moment started singing the theme song at the same exact time.
All was fine and dandy. We were swimming in the warm waters off the coast before heading back. I mean, look how freakin’ happy Vick is…and this is his own country!
But all would stay at such gleeful levels. After diving for a bit off the boat, we all boarded and realized it was getting WAY late, and we still had a meeting to make it to!
And then it happened. Or began to…
It took our boat driver a few pulls to get it started this time. At first I didn’t think much about it, but as we continued on I kept seeing the driver fiddling with the engine.
We started cruising closer and closer to the coast because I’m guessing he knew something was wrong.
Then, with an orchestra of mechanisms failing, the engine grinded to a halt.
There wasn’t much around us at all, just some huts in the distance with smoke from cooking fires rising into the air, and far off silhouettes of boats out of yelling range.
This guy paddled up to us with an assortment of handmade souvenirs, but alas, I don’t think a small carved paddle would help us out of this one.
At this point I had nearly bitten off all of my nails. Our two other Haitian friends were completely relaxed and chatting, but I was thinking up the worst ends to this dilemma as possible.
Suddenly the driver got the engine working again, and our little boat that could began cruising again!
And again the engine failed.
Luckily for is this time the engine happened to fail close to a stone landing. Our driver let the boat drift over to the landing tied up the boat.
From the top of a hill a few Haitians called out, and the driver called back. Then a gent came strolling down the stairs and to the landing.
It’s amazing just how Haitians up and help strangers out, but as I’ve said before, it’s a quality I noticed all over Haiti.
They hoisted the engine onto the landing and the presumable owner of the house broke out his tool box. I have no clue what was done, but it seemed after a few trial-and-error experiments and the engine back up and running!
And though I was still pretty skeptical of our boat’s ability to get us back…I let out a HUGE sigh of relief.
But with sights like this would it be all that bad to get stranded here?
As much as I love a life untethered, I wasn’t ready quite yet to play Survivor Man on a random island near Haiti.
Though we didn’t make it back in time for our meeting because of that unexpected mis-adventure, getting to cruise along the coastline of Haiti was a damn good time, and is exactly one if the reasons why I fell in love with the country.
Not the breaking down part…the beauty of course…
Ever had a mishap like this one? Share your mis-adventure!
It was when I was drying my chucks with hand dryers, whilst standing barefoot on paper towels so not to step foot in the nastiness that is the basement bathroom of Toronto’s bus station, when I knew it was going to be a long freakin’ night.
Mother Nature can be a bitch sometimes, and she picked the night I was leaving on my bus back to Washington D.C. to have the mother of all mood swings.
The train station lay dormant, flooded with knee high water. The roads were shut down in parts of the city from flooding, flights were halted, and most of Toronto was consumed with blackness.
Kinda’ sounds like an ‘End of the World’ Roland Emmerich film. But no, this is what happened to Toronto in a mere 2 hours as a freak storm whirled into the city, bringing with it 90+mm of rainfall and umbrella inverting winds.
Hence why I was in the bathroom attempting to change out of my sopping wet clothing and trying not to touch the piss covered floors like hot lava we played as children. Except this was WAY more difficult.
We had been strolling around the Kensington District of Toronto to try and fill my last few hours with a neighborhood I had heard so much about. When we started toward Kensington, the sun was beaming hot, and fluffy white clouds dotted the sky. Not foreboding at all.
But soon enough after getting to Kensington and poking into few of the hippie stores, dark clouds began to creep in.
“That doesn’t look to happy” I said looking at the sky, but it wasn’t until we saw dresses blowing sideways on hangers that we decided to find shelter.
I still had a couple hours left until my bus was scheduled to leave, so as the rain drops began falling and the clouds swirled above, we ducked into a Chinese joint for quick bite. And to hopefully last out a quick shower.
But we would come to find out, this storm wasn’t just an ordinary summer thunderstorm, but a shitstorm coming to destroy all hope of me getting home on time.
“Oh looky there, the rain is sideways”
We were done and out of time, but the storm hadn’t let up, it had worsened. All cabs were taken, and the cab phone numbers were jammed, so we were going to have to hump it through the pudding rain back to the bus station.
Umbrellas were no use, the rain was flying at such an extreme angle that it soaked us completely from head to toe. After walking a block or toe and realizing that our camera and laptops were at risk of being destroyed, we sloshed through the already 6 inch deep water in the streets and hopped aboard a streetcar.
And that is when my mission impossible began. I did not choose to accept it, but I had to take it nonetheless.
7:45pm rolled around and still no bus. Tweets were flying in left and right about the #TOflood and #TOstorm, with people sharing images of the unbelievable craziness that ensued after the storm hit. It had calmed down to a drizzle now, but the aftermath was still apparent.
Even Jack and Rose couldn’t fight the Titanic sized mess.
9:00pm came and went, with still no sign of the bus. Everyone in line was fast growing impatient, and Megabus had no answers to give. I sat patiently and quietly knowing that bitching wasn’t going to get me anywhere, but I’ll tell ya, sitting on concrete for a few hours sucks!
A rep from Megabus finally strolled over and gave us bad news, news I figured was coming after seeing the photos.
“The bus is stranded on the flooded freeway and can’t go anywhere,
traffic is at a standstill. We don’t know if the bus will be canceled or not.”
And then came the uproar. People began bitching and freaking out as if it were possible to just fly over a shut down city to us. I didn’t bitch, but I was growing wearing of waiting and I just wanted to know if I had to stay or go.
“1 hour, the bus will be here in 1 hour, it’s making its way across the city”
That hour came and passed as well. At this point I was slouched over my bags, aching and tired. And no bus came. One lady who was about to lose it yelled out to the guy giving us updates.
“The bus was stuck at a closed off road, 15 minutes, it’ll be here”
And finally it did. We all eagerly piled onto the bus, relieved, but 4 hours later than we had thought. We slowly made our way through the dark city and toward the United States.
But of course the fun didn’t stop there!
Why is it that I made it to Washington D.C. At 4pm the next day?
Border Control crossing into the United States of course took their sweet time, and decided to question me for 20+ minutes because they didn’t believe who I was.
And then in Buffalo the bus driver that was supposed to switch with the Canadian one was an hour late.
And we made made two 30 minute pit stops, as well as stopping every hour because out bus driver had a small bladder.
Talk about purgatory. I thought it would never end, but it did after 5 hours of waiting and a 14hr bus ride.
How about you, have you ever had a trip from hell like that one?
(Disclaimer: most photos were taken off of Twitter posts from others)