These travel tales are the funniest, sketchiest, strangest, most random & ridiculous experiences I’ve had in my years of long-distance overlanding and living overseas.
A 3-week asskicking at the hands of Vietnam. Theft, robbery, scams, arrest, and the only physical altercations my travels have ever involved.
Landslides, a motorbike accident, stolen passports, fireflies over the rice paddies, the forging of new friendships… the journey from Phonsavan to Hanoi via the remote mountain border turned out to be a bit of an epic.
Oh, the joys of hostel life… my own personal worst hostel horror story is the Melbourne Bag Pisser. At least it wasn’t my bag I guess, but that poor girl had a flight in the morning…
Middle of nowhere… middle of the night… four kids on a road trip, winding mountain road, no cellphone signal… and we get chased by a crazy hillbilly in a pickup truck. When people say visiting America’s like being in the movies, they don’t usually mean a slasher movie!
Falling asleep on the train is pretty normal behaviour in Japan (and a rite of passage for those who move there), but for my first experience of it I went all in and got my drunk ass stranded late at night in the middle of nowhere with no way back.
My ferry home from Hokkaido was cancelled, leading to an alarming encounter with a disturbed lady wielding a pair of kitchen scissors, which in turn led to a gruelling 2-day journey back to Kyoto (by local train in the holiday crush) via the scene of the tragic last stand of Japan’s favourite legendary heroes.
The bus was supposed to take me to Kota Bharu in Malaysia, or so the lying bastard at Hat Yai bus station said. But after a nervewracking drive through the conflict zone of southern Thailand’s separatist region I found myself stuck at the border and shitting my pants. Luckily a border cop took me in for the night, fed me some delicious eggs, and inadvertently showed me how lonely border cops fill their nights with a little x-rated websurfing.
The teahouse scam’s a long-running classic in Beijing’s Wangfujing and Tiananmen areas. This is what happened and what I observed when I went to Wangfujing to troll the scammers – I didn’t get scammed, exactly, but I did end up buying expensive ice cream for a complete bitch…
Chongqing hotpot is famed as the hottest dish in China and we were force fed it mouthful-by-mouthful by our mother hen for the evening, struggling to breathe between remorseless deliveries of fiery tripe and bouts of hysterical laughter.
Where? Exactly! We were stuck there for days watching heavily censored Hollywood movies and arguing about Scarface lines, yet oddly it’s probably the most memorable episode from that trip round India.
A terrifying bus ride down the Trans-Sumatra Highway (with one guy driving the whole way for days while only sleeping in 1-hour snatches at meal stops), and a Led Zeppelin epiphany at the end of it in Jakarta.
There I was in Bangkok walking along the street towards the Skytrain station, minding my own business, when a sports car missed me by a whisker and wrecked itself right there in front of me. I went to help the occupants, who turned out be a lone red-eyed ‘high society’ rich kid who smelled like a whisky distillery. Thai road safety isn’t very safe…
Khaosan Road’s a hectic place, and I’ve witnessed a few severe beatings there late at night, usually of the 5-on-1 variety. On one occasion I stuck my neck out to stop a drunk Belgian guy getting one of those beatings, and very nearly received it myself instead… and he went back to Belgium none the wiser, likely still believing he’d been in the right.
Thailand has a problem with soi dogs – packs of stray dogs who eke out an existence on the streets, with rabies a serious issue. They’re sorry creatures with tough lives, and deserving of much sympathy – except when one of the little bastards bites you!
The Great Buddha of Leshan is an impressive sight, carved into the cliffs next to the river it towers over. It’s also a popular sight, attracting large crowds which form a long, slow line descending the narrow steps as they zigzag down the cliff face. And if you’ve spent much time in China, you’ll know that large crowds often become agitated, angry crowds… angry crowds and precipitous drops are a bad combination…
As if ending up back where I’d started in the morning wasn’t bad enough, I also ended up stinking of fish. Still, not getting on that crappy little boat to head out under those towering thunderheads felt like the right decision.
It was supposed to be three days of backpackers sailing and partying in paradise, but instead we got three tragicomic days of vomit and misery.
Fruit picking in Australia would’ve sucked even without a racist asshole for a slavedriver, but just for good measure I got a racist asshole for a slavedriver.
I went to the World Cup in Germany and got a souvenir bag. Then I flew to New Zealand for the ski season, where my new bag tested positive for amphetamines at Christchurch Airport. A nervewracking interview ensued…
Absolute carnage on our first weekend in China, the ‘highlight’ being one of our new friends for the evening pulling a knife on his mate in the middle of a bar.
Late at night and still driving through thunderstorms in the desert, we realised we weren’t going to make it to the Grand Canyon and started looking for a place to camp. We ended up bunking down for the night in a fishing guide’s cabin in stunning Marble Canyon, with scorpions and black widow spiders for company.
Beijing to Chengdu only takes 8 hours these days by bullet train, but I once did the 27-hour journey by old-school train, in hard seat class. It sucked, and yet it was also a fascinating glimpse of life in a rapidly changing China.
Four hours through the jungle, with too many passengers inside the van and a whole shitload more clinging onto the roof & sides, along potholed roads, through tropical downpours, in the dark – with no headlights. The driver’s buddy rode point on his motorbike, our driver navigating by the bike’s lights. Crazy transportation scenarios are par for the course in SE Asia, but this one really took the buscuit.
Riding the night train from Vienna to Rome, we woke up a couple of passports down. Not that Rome’s a bad place to get stuck for a few days, and it didn’t stop it from being a great trip.