My Strangest Travel Moments: Part 1

On the whole, I’ve been a very fortunate traveller.  However, I’m pretty cautious, so I like to think this helps keep me out of danger.  Also: I’m not a big people person, so I’m almost never found in large groups which helps me avoid a shit ton of nonsense in addition to helping me keep my sanity. Score!

In saying that, I have had a countless stupid and some genuinely scary experiences on my travels, but they are greatly outnumbered by the awesome memories I have and friends (canine, obvs) I’ve made along the way.  These are my most memorable experiences, so far*

*The situations mentioned are in no way indicative of the places I was in, or the people I met. They’re simply moments in time when I was genuinely dizzy, shocked or inappropriately amused.

Bangkok:

Many years ago, I took a fabulous trip to Thailand and spent a few days in Bangkok before catching a bus to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat.  I’m a traveller who generally drives abroad and communal transport isn’t something I have experience of outside European cities. On this particular day, I spent around 7 hours with 15 people in a 10 people minibus for what was the longest day of my life. Seriously, if you ever think life is passing you by, I urge you to take a bus from Bangkok to Cambodia. You’ll soon change your mind. Anyway, having never visited Thailand before, I had no idea of the penchant some people have for spitting. I detest spitting, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be sat next to several Olympic standard enthusiasts for the entire journey between Bangkok and Siem Reap.
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I didn’t know it was physically possible to clear your throat that much in the space of one day but, clearly, it is. I have never before wanted to jump from a moving vehicle, but I started to think back to episodes of The A Team I’d seen as a child and wondered if it was really that dangerous. Mind you, at this point I hadn’t encountered Cambodian border control or random snakes crossing the road, so I soon began to realise that putting 15 people on a 10 seat bus and having them all spit into plastic bags for 7 hours really wasn’t no big thang.  It has provided me with a whole bunch of laughs in the years since, right enough, so it was worth the homicidal feelings I had for the whole day.
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bang
OMG just let me out!

Yucatan, Mexico:

I adored travelling in Mexico and was ecstatic to finally get the chance to travel to Chichen Itza and so many other fabulous Mayan sites while I was there. I also enjoyed the 5 star all inclusive resort I spent my days in, sipping cocktails in the intense heat and generally chilling out. I love animals and seeing new creatures, and have an intense fondness for the sweet little lizards that darted around my pool hut.  I had mentioned this to one of the resort staff; a lovely man called Enrico and was thrilled when one day he came to me, excitedly nattering about a lizard that had strayed into the area and did I want to come have a look, Mrs Suzanne?  SI, Enrico!  Those little guys are so cute and my initial confusion at why he’d come to get me (as the lizards were literally everywhere), disappeared and off I trotted in Enrico’s wake.

‘My confusion soon turned to horror when it dawned on me that the creature I rounded the corner and poked my head beneath some low hanging bushes to see was NOT, in fact, a cute, harmless lizard, but a 10ft giant alligator type thing with huge chops and a really pissed expression’

He had indeed strayed in to our paradise – – possibly on the lookout for one of their signature cocktails- –  and Enrico quickly informed me that the resort staff had to call the Monitor Monitor (I’m guessing, here… ). This did NOT sound like something that happened when you stumble upon a non-human munching lizard. This one looked like it could take on one of the larger American tourists and possibly still come back for dessert.

And so, as I stood next to Enrico, inwardly chastising myself for telling him I liked lizards and wondering how the HELL I could serupticiously take a photo without making it chase me as I realised that this would make a *really* good story. You know… If I survived long enough to tell it.

I case you’re wondering, the Monitor Monitor soon swooped in with his big net and swiftly removed aforementioned beastie, leaving me in need of several more cocktails and a lie down. During quiet moments at night, I often wonder how he’s doing…

Downtown Manhattan, NYC:

On my very first trip to NYC, I did what lots of tourists do and, when I needed to get to the port for a dinner cruise, I hailed a cab. I’d done this from Newark airport just the day before and it had been perfectly easy.  Unfortunately, it didn’t stay this way. I got a cab no problem, but two minutes after I sat down, after giving the driver my directions, I heard Police sirens going off somewhere behind me. Now, this was NYC, so it’s not like I was that surprised by the noise. I was, however,  alarmed AF when I realised that the sirens were right behind me and making noise for the sole purpose of getting my taxi to stop. I immediately regretted taking this tea sachets from the airport lunge and wondered if this was the result of me forgetting to out my phone on airplane mode for the flight from Edinburgh??

My driver, who was largely unruffled by the whole thing, eventually stopped and it turned out that, in addition to making a turn on red, his licence was also *slightly* dodgy. I believe he was eventually deported to Mexico. Or, if he wasn’t, he certainly will be now be now that Donald Trump’s in the White House. He wasn’t even Mexican.

taxi
You been on long, mate?

New Orleans, Louisiana:

My first visit to NOLA had been scheduled as part of a road trip across the southern US and happened around 4-5 months after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city and surrounding areas.  Apart from visiting lower Manhattan while fire and rescue was still removing bodies form the remains of the Twin Towers after 9/11, I have never seen the aftermath of any major incident on this scale; whether it was caused by natural events or complete lunatics. Regardless, I thought, from the footage I’d seen on TV, that I had a fair idea of what I was driving into.  I did not.  I drove along the Gulf Coast, heading West and noticing that the massive billboards at the side of the roads were getting more and more bent out of shape until, towards Mobile and NOLA, they had completely vanished.  The further we went, the more windswept everything looked and the more devastation was evident. I saw a car on top of a hotel roof, people crowded in roadside motels with half-collapsed walls, and houses just torn to shreds.  And this was in a part of town that really hadn’t suffered in comparison to the Lower 9th.
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To this day, the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen and the most shocking moment of all my travels combined was minding my own business, driving across a bridge that consisted of two separate roads; one for traffic in each direction across the river. I casually drove across the north bound bridge only to realise that, after a minute or so, the south bound carriageway had completely disappeared. It wasn’t there. The force of the hurricane had be so severe that it wiped out an entire bridge. I realise this might not seem like a big deal but it stunned me at the time to suddenly see that an enormous bridge was wiped out as if it had never existed.  The whole thing was a scene of devastation the likes I’ve never seen again, and never wish to.  I went back to Mobile and NOLA in 2014 and the spirit of the people there made me love the Gulf Coast even more than I already did.
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What are your strangest travel experiences?

Suz x 

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One Comment

  1. Doreen

    Great stories. I was born and raised in New York and worked and visited NYC a lot, so that struck me very funny. I also spent time in Mexico and fell in love with the Iguana that used to greet me every morning at our condo and sit and sun him/herself at the pool daily while we swam. Anything larger than that would have sent me running! 🙂

    Like

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