As winter was drawing to an end during a rather gloomy February evening, I was doing what I do best – procrastinating in a feeble attempt to avoid sorting out the kitchen, distracting myself from the Alpine-sized ironing pile and using Twitter as a nifty little distraction.
Using technology to hide from reality
I had just published a post about an experience I had in Marrakech. It generated a few giggles amongst bloggers, which gave me a warm gooey core, since “funny” is not something I’d ever dream of putting on my CV. Then, during the midst of some Twitter banter, I was asked if I would go through it again. After a moment of indecision, I concluded I probably would not, carelessly joking that things you would never do again would make for a great link up one day. And thus this month’s theme was born.
Many of us have no hesitation in bellowing out our praise for that breathtaking destination, that iconic hotel or that memorable tour. But hands up, how many of you have actually posted about that awful hostel, that Bangkok ladyboy you nearly went home with (don’t worry Mum and Dad, not me!) or that time you got the runs eating crushed ice from a street cart in India? (If you think the last one sounds like madness, Pumpkin actually did this and from the vile description of what followed, I can only assume then got cholera.)
Our treasure troves of travel memories would be uncomfortably lacklustre if they weren’t interspersed with a few cringe worthy stories and with that in mind, I’m dishing the dirt on a few of mine with a frank admission of the sentiments they became affiliated with.
Five Unrepeatable Travel Experiences
Activity: The Moroccan Hammam
Setiment: (MAJOR) Embarrassment
I’ve written an entire post on this so I won’t dwell on it too much here but suffice to say that spending one’s birthday virtually stark-naked whilst being scrubbed down by two strangers in a poorly lit room, all the while feeling flushed and woozy from being cocooned in giant cloud of steam is not my definition of relaxation. My skin may have felt softer than a baby’s bottom by the time the sun had retired and the soothing Argan oil did have a way of erasing away my stresses but I was always the girl who would hide in the corner of the changing room at school and until I can wear a few more clothes in a Hammam, I’ll be steering clear.
Activity: Going on a boat in pitch black skies and torrential rain
Sentiment: Marital discord
We’d been married just over six months when we arrived in the intriguing and lush island of Borneo. After a few days of beach luxury at the Shangri La in Kota Kinabalu, we were eager to delve into Borneo’s remote nature locations with a river safari and overnight stay along the Kinabatangan river. On our tour were a delightful British couple, married for over thirty years and despite this age difference, the four of us gelled rather well. As night time approached, we had one remaining activity scheduled – a boat trip to see fireflies. With the monsoon rains rapidly gathering momentum, we were given the option to go ahead but warned it was highly unlikely they would be seen. The violent shards of rain were pounding the river voraciously and the sky was that disconcerting shade of black, where even the contours of your loved ones are difficult to decipher. We wouldn’t go. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned and the other lady in our group agreed. It seemed dark and a little intimidating with nothing to gain in return but unfortunately, a misplaced streak of adventure in our husbands robbed them of all sense and they were determined to go ahead.
Equipped with three decades of marriage, my respective fellow pained wife stood by her decision and went back to the peaceful oasis of the lodge to enjoy a spot of reading to the cathartic sound of rainfall. But marred by the infatuation of a newlywed, I resisted my instincts and joined the men. We got drenched, I felt scared and unsurprisingly, no fireflies graced our presence. Upon returning to our room, Pumpkin got a royal nagging but with a few years of marriage now under my belt, next time I will leave him to his own devices!
Activity: Swimming up close to a venomous sea snake
Those of you who have kindly been reading my posts for a while may know that I find snorkelling utterly enchanting. Snorkelling in the Maldives has probably been my marine-life travel highlight but seeing a new creature gliding through the ocean, wherever that may be, always heightens that sense of discovery. When a black and white banded sea snake was pointed out to me during a recent snorkel trip in Koh Lanta, I was dumbfounded.I swum up in curiosity but our ancient camera wouldn’t focus and I was determined to capture at least one good photograph. I swam closer and clicked away and only when I resurfaced was I enlightened about my madness. Apparently sea snakes are amongst the most venomous creatures in the ocean and whilst they are unlikely to attack unless provoked, you would be in rather a pickle if they did.
On what planet did I think it would be a good idea to intentionally wander within inches of a snake?!
Activity: Asking a hemiplegic man to take a photo of me
Sentiment – Humiliation
It may have been before the genre of eyesore selfie-sticks and multi-functional smart phones but long before “selfies” were credited with a name, generations of eager travellers have been turning the camera round on themselves and awkwardly turning timers on. Pumpkin and I have a vast collection of unflattering photos of nose close-ups and chopped faces from our failed attempts. Sometimes it’s just easier to ask someone if they mind photographing the two of you. At the Vienna Chistmas Markets a couple of years ago, I sheepishly turned my head trying to spot someone within the crowds who didn’t look too grumpy, too rushed and would understand my request. After extensive dithering, I approached a man with a friendly face, arms by his side and standing casually with family. I asked whether he would possibly mind taking a photo of the two of us. He smiled understandingly, stating “sure, no problem but if you could just ask her”, pointing to his wife who was walking back towards him, before then pointing to his left arm….a left arm which was not moving, not even an inch.And that’s when it dawned on me – it’s not that he wasn’t moving it; it was that he couldn’t move it. He had full left sided paralysis, which is not uncommon after a stroke for example. I was mortified at my actions and from the instant that the humiliating realisation of what I had just done sunk in and his wife clicked away courteously, I apologised profusely, my cheeks suffused a cherry red before speedily dashing to the exit. He laughed graciously in good spirits but this little piggy cringed all the way home. In a market full of people, I had managed to select a man who couldn’t move one arm – and as a GP at that! The shame! Needless to say, it did not take long for Pumpkin to break into fits of hysteria at my embarrassing faux pas and I was endlessly grateful for the light-hearted understanding the gentleman in question showed me.
Activity: Eating Durian
During our honeymoon in Zanzibar, Pumpkin and I visited a traditional spice farm. It is almost a rite of passage there, as the whole island is known for its spice exports. We were Durian virgins and left feeling a little violated. Sorry, durian-lovers.
Whilst there, we were told that the renowned fruit “tastes like heaven but smells like hell”. I am partial to most fruits and gladly handed forth my open palms when offered a taste. It was not good. It was foul in fact but to take a loathing to any form of fruit is most uncharacteristic so whilst Pumpkin feigned botox to avoid causing offence, I volunteered to try a second piece. And a third. Unfortunately, repetition was not the key to this puzzle and with each inch of Durian-laden residue melting into my tongue, the flavour only became more unpalatable. We even experimented with Durian ice cream and biscuits but this is one food item which can’t be rescued with even a sugary facade!
What have you done on your travels that you would NEVER do again?
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