Tales of A Disgruntled Traveler: Travel Disasters & Other Catastrophes
"Hey, how was your trip to Thailand!" I asked a gym colleague yesterday."Oh, it was just awful! Couldn't wait to come back home!" she replied.
"Why? What happened!!"
"The whole thing was a disaster from start to finish," she said. "We ended up coming home early."
After some gentle coaxing, I ended up hearing about the whole sorry saga. What started off for my friend as a 10 day I-Can't-Wait holiday with her girl pal ended up being a trip from hell. While I will be withholding names and the details of their trip for the sake of privacy, you'll be able to get the picture:
Apart from the annoyance of my friend's narcissistic pal, who took endless "selfies" of herself at the airport - definition of "selfies": pictures taken of oneself while holding the camera at arms length - the flight to Thailand was seamless. However, things got off to a bad start when my friend and her pal arrived at their Thailand accommodation and discovered to their horror that it was a sadder version of the delightful place that they saw on the internet. Owned and run by an 'ugly foreigner' (nationality witheld), it turned out to be little more than a dingy backpackers hostel. To make matters worse, my friend had somehow picked up a bug on the flight over or on the way to the accommodation and spent the first two days of their stay laying doubled over on the grimy bathroom floor - she couldn't afford to venture too far from the toilet. Unable to tolerate the sub-standard surroundings any longer, my friend and her pal decided to bail out of their rat hole. Telling the proprietor that they were going to visit a friend, they packed and left their fully-paid hostel for something more decent close by.
In the meantime, it had started to rain hard. All day. Everyday. With no choice but to remain indoors, my friends neurotic pal morphed into a shrieking harridan whenever the internet connection dropped, which meant that she got to miss out on her every-hour-on-the-hour texts from her boyfriend in Australia. Screaming down the phone at the poor soul on reception several times during the day, the stay at their improved accommodation could only be described as misery soaked. Thank God for the resort that they were booked to go to in a couple of days time!
When they arrived at the said resort, however, the weather hadn't cleared. To add insult to injury, there were warnings of a tsunami. As things seemed to be going from bad to worse, the girls decided to abort their holiday and leave Thailand early. Scrambling to make last-minute arrangements, they realized that they would not get a refund on their return flight ticket and fully-paid accommodation. What started off as an inexpensive trip ended up costing the two girls a fortune.
"I thought that we could fly home via Singapore for a couple of nights. Maybe do some shopping, walk the streets a little and maybe get a relaxing massage," my friend mentioned.
Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. They caught the Singapore smog on their 2-night stay, which decended on the city as a result of the bush fires in Sumatra. Stuck in a shopping mall for an entire day and having lost the energy to resist, my friend was dragged along by her pal as she scoured the shops for a particular mini-skirt that she just HAD to have. To wear with her high heels and midriff top. On the flight back home to Australia as she proceeded to take more "selfies."
"You must have been exhausted after that ordeal!" I cried. "I was. But the up side to all that was that I now appreciate who my real friends are. And I now know what not to do next time on my travels."
While tragic, these travel disasters can happen to anyone at any time, anywhere in the world. I thanked my friend for sharing her story as it teaches us the value of researching our destinations thoroughly and picking our travel companions with care.
Here are some valuable lessons that I learnt:
1) Research the weather patterns of your destination ahead of time - Traveling in parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia in the warmer months of June and July means monsoon season. This means that the weather can be unpredictable, with oppressive heat one minute and heavy rains the next.
2) Research your accommodation carefully - Before booking your accommodation, look up any reviews. I like to use TripAdvisor. If you can't find any, then post a question about it in the public forum.
3) Be careful about what you drink and ingest - For drinking and brushing your teeth, use only bottled water from a container that has a sealed cap. Do not accept anything that has ice in it or eat any fruit that you haven't peeled yourself.
4) Choose your travel companions very carefully - make sure your travel buddies share your values and are looking for the same travel experience as you are. Boundaries need to be set in concrete before you head off on your trip. Any capricious behaviour will only intensify when you're living in close quarters with each other.