My goal in traveling is to find wow moments. I explore fabulous places and love to share those wow moments, but every now and then I have to say “wow” because something so bizarre, unusual or bad happens. I call those my travel “misadventures” and thought I’d share highlights from some of the things that have made me laugh or want to pull my hair out. A couple made my knees shake a bit. Tag along over the next few weeks as we wander and wind our way through some of my most memorable travel moments.
Navigating back alleys in Bangkok
When I visited Bangkok, I found myself in an interesting spot. One of my fellow travelers was looking for a bag to carry home all of her extra finds (the markets in Bangkok are incredible). I knew I was almost out of space, so decided to tag along with her. We asked our guide if he could suggest a great place to pick up a bag, knowing there are markets everywhere. He assured us he knew just the spot. No need to worry. Right?
We chatted as the van wound its way through the side streets, not really paying a lot of attention to where we were going. Finally, the van came to stop in front of a nondescript shop. We weren’t certain our guide had understood what we wanted, but he assured us it was “perfect” and we followed him to the shop. In a flurry of fast Thai that neither of us understood, he spoke to the shop owner before turning to use with a huge smile. He told us his friend would take great care of us. Before we could respond, he’d gotten back in the van and drove off. With no clue where we were, we looked at each other, shrugged, and followed the shop owner through a cramped, dark shop to a back door and motioned for us to follow him up the three flights of rickety stairs. We looked at each other, I gave a nervous little laugh, and up we climbed.
Our friendly host led us through another battered door and we found ourselves in a sparkling showroom–complete with white marble floors, glass cases and beautiful lights that made us feel as if we’d walked into a store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The room had maybe half a dozen workers, including a couple of burly guys standing around the room. The shelves were filled with high end–and very illegal–designer knock-offs with labels claiming to be Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel. Now, I love purses, don’t get me wrong. They’re my weakness. But I really didn’t want to end up in a Thai prison. The proprietor was giddy, I’m sure believing he’d just found two rich Americans. He showed us several bags that ranged from about $500 to $1500. We thanked him graciously and told him we weren’t looking to spend that much money. We’d been thinking in the neighborhood of $20, minus the jail sentence.
We turned to leave and our way was blocked by a large Thai gentleman, his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. We smiled graciously, went around him and made our way back down the stairs and onto the street. About a block away, we found a little luggage shop and picked up two cheap roller bags for $25. Then we had to figure out how to get back to our hotel. We ambled along for a few blocks–we had no idea even what part of Bangkok we were in–until we spotted one of the hot pink taxis.
We’d been told not to hire a cab that wasn’t on the clock, but we knew we didn’t have any real choice and this guy wanted to negotiate the drive back to our hotel, which turned out to be clear across the city. We agreed on what we knew was an outrageous price (although it was only about $8 in U.S. money and we were more than happy to pay it to get back across town). It was the craziest cab ride I’ve ever taken, getting us back to our hotel in less than 20 minutes. I didn’t know it was possible to go that fast through back alleys, dodging stray dogs, tuk tuks and food carts. I can’t even tell you what a sense of relief it was when I finally saw the hotel. It was a much more welcome sight than a Thai prison.
Do you have some crazy adventures to share from your travels?Note: Special thanks to Andy and Barbara for the photo of the pink cabs in Bangkok. Be sure to check out their travel adventures at http://andyandbarbara2011.blogspot.co.uk/.