Travel opens your eyes in many different ways. To the culture, behaviours or the intriguing sights, something always makes you remember it years or hours down the path.
After 43 countries I have experienced a lot of random and sometimes scary moments but below are my top 5 moments, in no particular order, that make me giggle. I have left off the illegal handgun on the Kabul-Jalalabad Road in Afghanistan story for now.
‘You want me to pee WHERE?’ – Hanoi, Vietnam
My bladder was almost bursting at the seams and wandering around a market place in Hanoi meant western toilets would not be available. I finally found the toilets, paid and walked in to be stopped short but the scene ahead.
Water soaked floor, a raised platform on the left with short walls every meter and squat toilets in each cubicle. Squats don’t worry me but the short walls and no doors had me questioning if I could actually use this bathroom. The rat that scampered across the floor as I was debating turning and running almost made me wet myself right there and then. So my bladder was the ruler that I was staying.
Moving to the only free toilet right in front of the one tap to wash your hands I dropped my trousers to commence my business. Within a few seconds, four women were at the wash point LOOKING at me. Were they in shock a foreigner was using them or where they trying to see if I looked like them ‘down there’.
Either way it felt like I had accidentally stepped into what became a reverse tourist attraction. Step right up and see the crazy traveler pee in a female squat open urinal! Not an experience I wish to repeat again but no doubt will at some stage somewhere.
Naked Mayan Man – Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Waiting in the hallway so we could head out to explore Guatemala City should not have been a heart stopping moment. Until I heard a door open and looked to me left to see a short Mayan man walk out of his room completely NAKED. Yes that is right, he stepped into a public hallway without a stitch of clothing to cover anything! Giggling and trying not to continue looking at him as he went back into his room I was in fits trying to tell Igansi what just happened. We locked our door and started to walk down the hall to exit the hotel. Right we when got to the mans door; HE OPENED IT!!!! Still very naked with his glory to be seen. We both tried not to laugh, was this normal in hotels here or was this just some random man. Either way I couldn’t stop giggling.
He followed us down the stars and when the hotel staff member let us out the locked metal door (they are everywhere here which worries me about the level of crime) he didn’t even seem remotely perturbed that a naked man was following us down the steps. 10 minutes of walking up the road we both burst out laughing and remarked it has to be one the most unusual thing we had seen in a hotel.
Least he didn’t attempt to touch me or do anything vulgar so perhaps he was just a nudist. The fact we kept running into him all day meant the laughs continued well into the evening.
Post note: We worked out later that the man was being cared for by a woman and he was clearly not completely well mentally. The moment took on a different tone and the fact that the hotel allowed him to be him touched my heart.
‘Don’t touch the baby monk, don’t touch the baby monk! How do I get him off me if I can’t touch the baby monk!!!” rapid fire thoughts ran through my mind but at first it was nothing. I simply noticed this little robed figure beside me in the internet room peering over my shoulder while I checked my email. He couldn’t have been more than 8 years old and certainly just looked like he wanted to see what I was doing. Then after I turned back to the computer he leaned up against my side and just stood there.
So how does one get a tiny baby monk from touching them when you are not supposed to touch or disturb them from their studies (which he clearly had no interest in). To my rescue was another robed figure. A senior monk stepped in and swiftly guides him away with soft spoken words and then he comes back and apologies to me. He is a new novice who is missing his mother so any female that is in the monastery he leans on. Somehow I don’t think this young man will be cut out for a monastic life but will only receive his education there.
I did donate enough for one year of his education (which was the smallest amount of money) just to make up for touching a monk!
Hundreds of goldfish circled around in front of my mask. They can’t be goldfish, they are fresh water fish, so how could they all be swimming in front of me. I bounced my head up out of the water and removed my snorkel to yell to my mother as she was walking in to the Blue Hole, ‘I found where goldfish come from’.
It was like being in a fish bowl with hundreds if not thousands of goldfish. It reminded me of our old pet goldfish named ‘Harry’. He had managed to survive numerous train rides, house moves, accidentally overheating of his tank water and a persistent cat. The goldfish made me turn from a semi-responsible adult to a 10 year old in seconds.
Regardless of what type of fish this goldfish were, after nearly 4 years they are one of my favourite moments of travel.
Tribal warriors and drugs – Day Forest National Park, Djibouti
The Ethiopian tribal masks hanging in the dining room did everything subconsciously to fuel my already well known side affects to any antimalarial medication I attempt to use. Laying down to sleep in my palm frond hut with no door with a mattress on a slated stand with a mosquito net covering me. I fell asleep peacefully after a day hiking through the Goda Mountains in the Day Forest National Park.
I woke some hours later and there he was. Standing just inside my room against the door jam. His head appeared to be flicking his head left and right at speeds not humanly possible. Why was he here to kill me? What did I do wrong? My brain was frantically trying to process how I could get out of the room and away from this Ethiopian warrior but more still why hadn’t he come towards me yet and why were rats running around the beams and past him without fear.
It took more than 15 minutes for me to realise I was hallucinating! The first time I took antimalarial drugs in the military in 1999 I had what was dubbed doxy dreams and suicidal thoughts (never a good thing when you carry live rounds in your weapon 24/7) and subsequent attempts to try different drugs now proved futile.
When the dawn finally come and the hallucinations stopped I vowed never to take antimalarial drugs again. I now don’t need perfume whenever I travel to malaria effected countries as bug spray is my constant companion.
Travel means moments like these and the more enrich my life so deeply. I would not change any of them for any amount of money, then again a few more photos of some of these incidents could have probably made me some money!
Wonder what the next misadventure or magical moment will be!