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Weird And Wonderful Travel Experiences


June 11th, 2014Travel
By Jemma Dicks

Weird and wonderful travel experiences

Image courtesy of Jemma Dicks

Working for an organisation like Projects Abroad, our staff end up travelling a fair bit. With travel comes experience, often of the unusual variety.

Here are a few of our weird and wonderful travel experiences:

Jason – India

Anybody who has visited India will have seen the head wobble – it’s not a nod or a shake of the head, but more of a combination of the two. Similarly, it doesn’t mean yes or no, more of an ‘OK’.

If you don’t know this before travelling to the country, it can be quite disconcerting. The first time I came across it was when I tried to order a drink at a diner in Madurai, southern India. I asked if they had a Coca Cola to which they responded with a wobble of the head. I took this to mean no, so proceeded to go through a list of alternative soft drinks.

When I had asked after about 5 drinks, I resorted to just pointing at chai instead as at least I could see that this was available.

When the waiter arrived at my table, he was carrying a tray load of drinks – all six that I had unknowingly ordered.

Claire – Senegal

A birthday cow in Senegal

Image courtesy of Claire Howlett

I grew up on a farm in Herefordshire, but lived and worked in Senegal for a while a few years back. I was in Senegal when I celebrated my 25th birthday.

Unbeknownst to me, the Senegalese staff had arranged a surprise party for the evening of my special day.

I was blindfolded by my friends and taken by taxi to the edge of the river. The blindfold was taken off and there in front of me was a cow all dressed up in the Senegalese colours.

All the staff and my local Senegalese friends were standing behind me waiting to see my reaction!! They had all clubbed together to buy it for me (I guess they must have thought I missed the farm in Herefordshire!!) I mean what do you say when you see a cow in a Senegalese hat and you are told that is your present!!

The joys of living abroad!!

Jemma – Thailand

A couple of years back, I went on a family holiday to Thailand with my mum, dad and two brothers. Whilst in Bangkok, my dad happened to mention to an elderly Thai man that we were all planning on having a traditional Thai massage at the Wat Pho Massage School.

The guy wrote down the name and address of a place which he said was far better. He told my dad, who has back trouble that he should ask for an elderly masseuse who has more experience.

So that evening we headed off in the rough direction he had suggested. After a while we got a little lost, so we stopped and showed a few street vendors and passers by the name of the place we were heading.

This we had to do about 4 times and each time we were met with the same reaction. They would look at the five of us in surprise and bewilderment, show the name of the place to a friend and then start laughing hysterically before pointing us in the right direction.

When we finally arrived at our destination, we stepped into a seedy establishment occupied solely by middle-aged Thai men. They looked at us in astonishment.

My brothers and I immediately spotted a huge, glass window behind which several girls were posing and smiling seductively. My mum and dad however had marched straight over to the owner and were in the process of explaining how my dad needed to be seen by a woman who was at least in her 50s or 60s and had experience in working with people who had back trouble.

The owner looked completely baffled and asked my parents if they were sure they had come to the right place. It was only when my brother pointed them in the direction of the glass window that they realised maybe they hadn’t.

Terry – Mauritania and Greenland

Travelling in Greenland

Image courtesy of Flickr, christine zenino

A few years ago, a colleague and I rented a car and driver to take us from Mauritania to Senegal. The drive was great fun and entertaining - across sand dunes for several hours and through bleak landscapes.

Our driver then got the direction wrong and we ended up in the middle of an army base with a soldier pointing a Kalashnikov machine gun directly at us. My colleague froze and I immediately dived behind the passenger seat.

Luckily the driver apologised and the soldier pointed us in the right direction.

The following year, the same colleague and I planned a trip to Angmagssalik in Greenland. We had rented a boat in advance to travel around what on the web had looked like some beautiful fjords.

On the morning we were due to set off, we rung the hotel reception and inquired after our boat. The man on the other end started laughing hysterically down the phone. When we asked why this was, he asked us if we had looked out of the window recently. “The sea has been frozen for weeks! I can certainly rent you a boat, but you won’t get very far.”

Perhaps we should stop travelling together?

Peter – Chichester

I was going out with a very Gucci kind of girl called Katrina who had an interest in botany. We went out on my small boat from Chichester Harbour when I realised I’d left the picnic in the car.

I left Katrina looking at some interesting plants on a small island and returned to the car to collect the food. I hadn’t really realised that the island was only an island at low tide and that there are four daily tides, not two, in Chichester Harbour.

By the time I returned with the picnic, Katrina was already up to her knees in water. This caused the relationship with Katrina to falter.

Heidi – Peru

Road through the Peruvian mountains

Image courtesy of Suzi Lamb

My most embarrassing experience has to be when I took the 4 hour drive from The Sacred Valley in Peru up to Huyro with a very bad tummy. The driver gave me a bucket and a loo roll. I was under the impression that the bucket was to be sick in and that if things went wrong the other end that I could just run in to some bushes on the roadside. How wrong was I! The road we were taking had a sheer mountain face on one side and vertical drop the other. There was nowhere to hide! I ended up using the bucket for both ends, losing all dignity in the process.

Nisha – Kenya

I travelled to Amboseli National Park in Kenya with my parents and my grandparents. It was the first time my grandparents had been to Africa and they were in their late 60s.

The drive was horrific as there had been a lot of flooding, so one issue was getting across a bridge (which was only really as wide as the car) with water gushing either side. This was followed by a particularly bumpy ride into the park itself.

My parents and I took this in our stride, and even my granddad relaxed after a while and got distracted by the local wildlife. Not so my grandma. Normally the coolest of customers, grandma immediately decided that Kenyan transport was not for her. She was convinced she was going to die and spent the entire journey with her eyes closed, clutching her hip flask, and letting out the occasional squeal, much to the amusement of her travelling companions who have never let her live this down!

Suzi – Belize

Backpacking in Belize

Image courtesy of Suzi Lamb

I was backpacking in rural Belize with three of my best girlfriends (Sheila, Kat and Jude) when one day we got caught in a rain shower.

Looking for some shelter we saw a small shack with a 'bar' sign not far away, with music coming from it.

Upon entering, it became obvious that this was very much a 'locals' bar and they weren't used to hosting travellers, but we were warmly welcomed and very much the centre of attention. It also became instantly obvious that the music was coming from people singing karaoke.

There seemed no polite way to refuse joining in with the karaoke, and we were thrust the manual to choose some songs. Sheila and I thought we'd choose something well known and fun for Kat and Jude to sing, so they went up and sang a Britney Spears track, which went down well.

Kat and Jude then proceeded to spend ages choosing a song for us, and in the end chose some obscure Bee Gees track called 'Fanny be tender' which they found hilarious. Not knowing the tune, our performance was rather less successful!

Ian – Ukraine

At 8am on a Saturday morning in Yalta, Crimea I got out of bed in a local hotel. I left my friend Mike asleep and went off to the communal bathroom.

There were two guys from Kiev in the communal shower having a cigarette, which in itself seemed interesting. They offered me a cigarette from under the shower head. As a non-smoker I turned down their kind offer.

With this one of them went out of the shower (to get changed I assumed). He returned with a bottle of sherry which he passed around the three of us. This was the first time I had ever had sherry for breakfast and definitely the first (and last) time I drank sherry in the shower.

I returned to my friend Mike and explained the strange goings on in the showers. With that there was a knock at the door and my new found friends came in with yet another bottle of sherry and some oranges which were very difficult to get hold of at that time of year. A very pleasant, if random, breakfast!

Have you got any strange travel experiences of your own to add? If so, we want to hear them! Please leave your comments below.

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