Now don’t be fooled with what everyone always posts on their social media. I always believe that what you see is not what it seems to be. And that’s why I want to let you know that even though I had amazing experiences travelling by myself, I also had bad moments that I did not post about it. And every time I looked back at my travel photos, I often say to myself that “Gee, did I really do that?”. Being a solo female traveller never seems easy even though when you say it, it sound so cool. Well, I am doing something that most of the travellers or even normal people would never do; post about my worst travel experiences ever. And yes, I keep a post and pictures about it, so maybe someday other can learn about it. Here you go.
The Scary Host in Fez
My first town that I landed back in Morocco, was in Fez. I was super excited as I got myself a Couchsurfing host named Sa’ad that was eager to see me. He kept sending me messages about when I will come (even though I already put the dates there) and then talked about he want to make itinerary for me. Being a good couchsurfer I replied all of his messages and said that I want to travel by myself with my own schedule. I was a bit suspicious at that time but thought that maybe it’s a Moroccan thing to greet guests.
Even though he was nice to wait for my arrival midnight by the taxi at his place, I felt something was off. First, his family did not have any passion for interacting with me (cos most of couchsurfer host would really like to get to know the guests), they looked at me like I was some customer that are ready buy something for them. They changed their attitude when I told them that I am from Indonesia and that I am a Muslim. Then, they began to feel happy and see me as one of their family. Nonetheless, I knew that something went wrong.
I finally understood the next day when Saad took me to Medina and forced me nicely to use his friend’s tour to circle the Medina. When he said “friend’s tour”, it turned out that the guy was not an official tour guide. Being the largest Medina in the world, Fez tourist government asked the tour company to apply as an official tour guide for the tourists. You can see that from the sticker they have on the vest. But the guy that Saad was introduced, did not have one. I was already suspicious about it but could not resist. The guy was smiling friendly when he saw me but then dramatically changed when I bargain the tour price. In the end, he took the price that I had and being friendly again. And yes, this is one of the things that made me learn that fake smile does exist. You can definitely distinguish that after you have my experience.
I remember that I cried that night. Being scared that all of the Moroccan people are like Saad and his friends, I think I could never finish the journey. Geez, I was trapped in his house. The day after that Saad come again and forced me to changed my itinerary. He tried to pursue me not to go to Chefchaouen as what he said “A small village and nothing to see”. Boy, he was so wrong. I insisted and left. It was the best decision I have ever have cos I finally realised that Saad gave me a wrong impression of Moroccan. Chefchaouen was the best city I have ever been, the people were not a pushover, relax and genuinely smile at you (REALLY!). I had a blast and changed the way I feel about Moroccan.
The day after that, I hate that I had to go back again to Fez where Saad (again) forcefully asked me to use his Sahara tour. Hey, I was already being fed good food, he gave me a rooftop to sleep in, and introduced me to his friends and family. I could not say no again, right? So, even though I had an amazing time in the Sahara, I just hated that I did not have any choice to pick up the tour by myself.
Personally, I think Fez people’s personality are sly and cunning. Mostly the men. Maybe because the place was filled with tourists and so they tried to trick you and use the opportunity like the Couchsurfing experience for their own benefit. All my life, I always try to find the good heart in people no matter what people said. But this time, I really have to say that I do not like Fez at all. Especially the people.
What I have learned from this:
- Not all people have good intention. Trust your woman instinct (ABSOLUTELY)
- Get backup hostel ready and leave when things are uncomfortable.
- Never ever being told by someone, especially stranger that you just met
- Do not ever try the sketchy tour guide
- Always try to bargain when you are about to pull out your money. Take it or leave it.
The Overcrowded Karimun Jawa New Year’s Eve
I went to Karimun Jawa twice in my life. The first time was my first backpacking trip with my sister and I had such a blast! The trip was simple, get the bus from Bandung to Jepara, meet the tour guide and then cross the ferry. The journey was simple, comfortable and fun. And when we got there, boy, I was stunned. The sea was beautiful, the people on my tour were cool, and I got to swim with the sharks! Wohooo!
Now, the second visit was during the New Year’s Eve moments. I went there with a couple of my friends, my good friend, Ipoy were the one who booked the tour by his choice. The bad part that I had, start with the traffic from Bandung to Jepara. I remember that all of us dropped ourselves off the bus and ran hastily to the ferry. The ferry was almost close and we were the last passengers! The bad luck did not stop there. The ferry was too crowded, that people had to sit and sleep on the floor of the car park. Even they did not allow any car inside and just filled them up with the human. Gosh! It was 6 hours ferry ride with throw ups, snoring and smelly feets. Trust me, I felt like I was one of the immigrants floating on the boat to another country..
The time we had in Karimun Jawa was nice whatsoever, it was as beautiful as I remember even though there were too crowded. We had good times experiencing New Year’s Eve on the beach with drinks and fireworks.
But damn.. we had to do it all over again to get back home.
What I have learned from this:
- Do not go to touristy place during big events such as New Year, Christmas Day or any other big holiday. Crowded, overprice and totally did not feel like relaxing!
- Be adaptable in every situation. Do not be a baby!
- Open minded and learn to appreciate everything that happens in your life. Even though the road to get there were sucks, I had good times having New Years with good friends! 🙂
The Halong Bay Scam
I was already warned by lots of people from travel blog about tourists could not go to Halong Bay by themselves. They had to go on the tour to get in. And so I found a cheap tour that was fitted in with my budget. I did not want to have a sleepover tour, and so I chose the one day tour instead, the A tour per se. The tour leader then promised me to upgraded it to the B one. He said that I will have more time to explore in Halong Bay and have own buffet food. I thought yeah why not. Would be great to see more of Halong Bay and have the buffet instead. So I paid for the B tour fully and was ready to embrace the next day!
The Halong Bay tour was not as I expected. The A tour was also buffet. And I had the same time with the A one. So what did I get from the B tour upgrade? One scallop of oyster during my lunch. That’s it.
I was so angry that I went back to the tour office and asked them to get my money back. The guy was shocked and upset but he knew he was wrong, and so I told him to check the tour before selling it to the tourists. Truthfully, it was my first scam experience that I got upset of.
What I have learned from this:
- Find reliable tour guide. Make a good research about it first on the internet
- Make sure what are the services and what are they offering on the package. Write it down on both sides to make sure.
- Do not be afraid to ask what they have the offer you. Ask them nicely and if they still did not get it, protest and show how upset you are. Speak your own mind.
- Again, I always try to enjoy every little thing that happens to me despite many factors that made me upset. Halong Bay was stunningly beautiful landscape and I am eager to go there again one day!
The Hostel Fight in Brussels
When it comes to the hostel, I always try to find a good reasonable hostel whenever I travel. But that hostel in Brussels was one of my bad experience ever. I already booked the hostel a long time ago for the sake of my visa approval. So I presume they already save a spot for me. When I got there, The hotel has normal services like any other hostel I have ever been. I got myself a corner room with one bunk bed and a large window. I was a bit happy thinking that I can share this nice corner with just another people rather than the other room filled with 8 people. I looked at my key and it said my number is 10, which is the lower bed bunk. Perfect. I threw all of my stuff in that bed and left the hostel to explore the city.
I went back home around 6 pm and realised that all of my stuff were thrown to the upper bed. Of course, I was a little bit upset, so I put my stuff back in the lower one and laid down browsing my phone. Then suddenly this old lady opened the door and screamed, “You! You don’t sleep there. That is my bed! You sleep upstairs”. Being yelled suddenly of course I got intense. We fight for sometimes and I clearly told her that I have the number 10th key and she has the 11th. She finally went downstairs and fetch the receptionist. The receptionist guy then asked me kindly to give up that spot and just sleep on the upper bed.
Being tired of travelling around and thinking that I will only have one night here in Brussels, I gave up. I got myself up on the bed with anger and even the old lady did the same thing. Oh man, I hate that night. I could not even sleep because she was snoring loudly and I had to rock my bed just to make her awake and stop. I left super early morning the next day and gave the worst review ever on that hostel.
What I have learned from this:
- Quality equal Price. That’s no doubt about it.
- Trust the review of the hostel.
- Always have another hostel backup when you do not feel comfortable at the current one.
The Crappy 23 hours Sleeper Bus from Laos to Vietnam
The craziest ride I have ever been was the bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam by the bus. And it took 23 hours! Yes, people. 23 hours on the sleeper bus, non-stop and guess what? I had to sleep with a Vietnamese stranger beside me. Gossssh!!
I was super excited to meet Nghia in Hanoi and decided to end my Laos trip faster. The plane ticket to Hanoi was super expensive and so I had to use the bus instead. I was shocked to know that it will take 23 hours! But then the guy said that it will be a sleeper bus, so no need to worry. I thought, yeah what could go wrong? I can just sketch, read books and edit my photos on the bus while sleeping.
Man, I was so wrong! I was with my travel buddy, Alie back then, and decided to use the back seats instead. It has a long bed on the back and thought that it will be available. Then suddenly after few stops, there were Vietnamese farmers swoop in and sit next to us. Correct it. Sleep next to us. Geez! I never really complain about whoever I have to sleep next to me. I had my time where I slept on the boat to Koh Tao with strangers, but hey, they were not that smelly and pushed me over to the window. Geez! And all of these people even sleep on the hallways together with all of the tourists that sit next to them. That was one of my worst 23 hours experience in my life. I could not even get out from the bus; they just stop 2 times and one of them is on the border of Laos and Vietnam. What the heck?
What I have learned from this:
- Research deeply on what the hell is “sleeper bus from Laos to Hanoi” is 🙁
- Be patient and adaptable in every situation (oh deep breath for 23 hours everyone..)
- For a long journey, you have to be prepared for the food and drinks. BUT… do not drink that often, otherwise, you will want to go pee all the time. Be wise.
- The ultimate thing I have learned: try not to go all the way in one trip. I should have stopped by in the small city on the way and just immerse with the culture first instead of torturing myself for 23 hours 🙁
- Always prepare for eyemask, earplug, and probably something to redeem smell for your nose
Fiuh… this show you guys that my journey was not always flowers and the sunshine. I had some worst experiences and bad timing that made me upset. Did I ever regret of not staying at home instead of travelling solo out there in the crazy wild world? Never!! I am super grateful that I have met many amazing people and moments, bad or good, and that has built up who I really am. These experiences make me learned something new that enable me to survive. I got to adapt to every hard situation that is unimaginable, I learned how to deal with people and trust my woman instinct every step of the way. So, all these bad experiences that I had was actually a bliss for me, to be someone better, a grown up woman and an open minded person.
Now, what is your worst travel experience?
© 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.