Monday, February 20, 2012

Traveler's Tales

RHYS BOWEN: I had planned to devote this week to travel because I'm about to embark on a book tour with Cara Black, who writes the fabulous Parisian mysteries and will be my guest on Wednesday.

Then fellow JRW Rosemary Harris announced that she was just popping off to Dar Es Salaam to visit the library in Tanzania that she created with her husband and I was reminded what a terribly peripatetic group we are. (See I know long words even if I can't spell them) Deb spends half her time in London, Hallie and Rosemary are outdoor nuts, Jan goes to civilized places like Provence, Lucy to Key West, (Julia is chained to child rearing at the moment and Hank is perpetually busy but does zoom around the country to writers events.)

I had the travel gene in me from birth, from the time I wandered into the sea wearing only my sun hat and would have kept on going if I hadn't been rescued when it came up to my neck. At twelve I went from London to Vienna alone. More trips across Europe followed. I left England to go to Australia at 24--a place that had always haunted my dreams. Luckily I met a man who worked for an airline so we've traveled all our lives. When I've been at home for about a month I find myself staring up at a passing airplane and thinking "I wonder where that is heading?"

I've cris-crossed most of the world but I find the trips that stay with me are not those that go smoothly. My travel memories are more about things that go wrong. It's the adventure of the thing. So I'm asking Jungle Reds and our visitors today to share their most memorable travel experiences:

My own: I vividly remember every detail of going by jeep into Ladakh when there was no real road and we had a maniac driver who tried to switch off the engine to save gas while going down an unpaved 15,000 foot pass. I remember an overnight in a first class sleeper with my daughter and a disgusting old man who drank red wine from a big coke bottle, made noises and asked to borrow my comb for his long greasy hair. My daughter, the sweetest natured of all my kids, whispered to me, "When he's not looking stab him with the fruit knife."

Of course I have lovely memories too, but I'm going to be discussing my 5 most beautiful places on Earth later in the week, so start thinking of yours.

LUCY BURDETTE: Stab him with the fruit knife? that's priceless Rhys! I'd hate to tangle with your other kids:). Probably my most adventurous trip was a church mission trip to La Romana, in the Dominican Republic. We stayed in a dorm-like arrangement with one bathroom for about 20 women. For some reason, we had to spit our toothbrushing liquid into a giant garbage can. But compared to the folks who actually lived there, we had it made. I'd never seen such poverty in my life--we were helping to build a hospital for Haitian immigrants, who were not allowed to use the regular hospital. The building conditions were primitive--no elevators to move supplies up to higher levels so we had to shovel gravel up, several stages at a time. It was utterly exhausting and humbling and I don't believe I slept a minute the entire week.

: Most-memorable-bad, you mean? I suppose it was all in the line of duty, and I try to think of it as being a team player. I was assigned to cover the Super Bowl when the Patriots played the Bears, in New Orleans. It was all fine for the beginning of the week, even though we worked around the clock, editing all night, shooting all day, and appeared on every newscast. Still, it was fun and exciting. At first, we stayed at the Intercontinental. It was gorgeously luxurious, the whole place smelled fabulous, it had millions of high thread count pillows and sheets, there was such lovely soap, I still remember, I was hoarding it like mad.

But. Our station had failed to plan on so many of us staying thought the weekend, so at the last minute, we had to move out of our lovely hotel. You can imagine that New Orleans was fully booked for Super Bowl weekend, so we would up billeted on a river boat that was in the process of being renovated into a hotel.

Note I said in the process.Can you imagine staying someplace that is under construction? On a BOAT, that is UNDER CONSTRUCTION? It was a horror. Dark, only the dimmest of lights, freezing, no heat, clammy, no rugs, no hangers, no drawers, no curtains, no towels--only some thin pitiful little gray washcloths. It didn't matter, because there was no hot water. The beds were cots. There was no food, at all. I kept a coat on all the time, and never took off my shoes, because I'm sure the floor was crawling with whatever. It was as bleak as bleak could be. It was January, and SO COLD even in NO, and we were on the river so it was windy, too.
We were EXHAUSTED, working every minute, and to come back to that prison of a pseudo-hotel, tired and starving and oh, I just remember almost bursting into tears.

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, what a shame! How to spoil New Orleans.

My husband and I are amateur birders, and one of our best trips ever was to Costa Rica where we stayed at a biological reserve in the Corcovado National Park. Our "room" was a tent platform - electricity after 8, no hot water. Very basic meals. We saw the MOST AMAZING wildlife. Toucans and scarlet macaws and howler monkeys and and and... ants. Lots of them. Parading into our tent, under the mosquito netting to get at my husband's breath mints. They bite.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Back in the 80's and early 90's, Ross's father made a sort of avocation of going to time-share presentations (this was in the glory days of the time share condo) and picking up free vacations, which he would frequently donate to us, the young married couple. As a result, we went on quite a few four-day, three-night holidays to sunny spots.

One year, he gave us a more extended trip to Manzanillo, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Overall a good time, it was a trip with many memorable moments: We got picked up at the airport by the resort shuttlebus. We were the only passengers. We drove and drove and DROVE and drove through what seemed, to our Maine-trained eyes, dense jungle. Ross was convinced we had been kidnapped. We finally arrived at a fairly luxurious resort - but we were the ONLY people there.

Turned out it was off-season. Way off-season. In fact, it was the rainy season, which we found out when we took our complimentary topless VW bug into town to sightsee...and had to bail it out before driving back to the resort. We spent the week feeling rather like secluded drug lords, walking through beautifully decorated empty rooms, sunbathing by the empty pool (which would get covered in leaves after every passing rain storm) eating, alone, in the Palapa restaurant, while rain dripped off the palm thatching. One thing I'll say - we had EXCELLENT SERVICE.

RHYS: Julia, that is so weird because exactly the same happened to my daughter on her honeymoon. Also out of Manzanillo, miles of jungle. When they arrived there was nobody to greet them except for a Dachshund who escorted them to the reception area. They signed in then found a palapa and went to sleep. All week they were the only guests and food and margaritas miraculously appeared. They said it was lovely but creepy at the same time. I wonder if it was the same place?

JAN BROGAN - The year was 1978 and I was in school in Aix-in-Provence traveling through Italy with a friend who did not know enough to NOT TALK TO MEN WHO FOLLOW YOU FROM THE TRAIN STATION. So this guy followed us all the way to our pensionne, up three flights of stairs. Here, he finally caught on that I was telling my friend to ignore him, and as punishment, he grabbed my crotch. Reflexively, I pushed him away and he tumbled down the stairs. We rang the doorbell of the pensionne and banged on the door, hoping like hell, they door would open before the guy at the base of the stairs, furious now, could recover. Door opened in the knick of time and we scrambled inside.

: Traveling all over England and Scotland on a coach (bus) pass on my own a year or so after I graduated from college. I'd worked for a year to save up for the trip, but still, the money didn't go very far. B&Bs with nasty nylon sheets and the only heat came from coin-metered electric heaters. These were the sort of places that rationed hot water, too--the boiler was only on an hour or two morning and evening. I was always wet and cold. The food was generally horrible, and nobody talked to me. One night on a coach layover in Birmingham, I ate in an Indian restaurant near the coach station. A rat ran over my table. I must say that put me off Indian food for many a year...

Obviously, the entire experience didn't put me off Britain, and I can now look back on it with a tiny bit of nostalgic gloss. But I like my hot water and down comforters these days.

RHYS: Your turn, friends. Share your most memorable experience. The best comment will win a signed copy of NAUGHTY IN NICE.


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  2. OK, if you don't ask me what was wrong with me yesterday (too many seizures fried my brain) I'll tell you my worst vacation story, which was also my best, for the same reason. I witnessed a crime in Denmark and spent most of my time with the Odense police riding with them and pointing out where everything happened and looking for the two men who did it.

    After that I went to the pharmacy to get something for my headache, and the pharmacist asked me how to pronounce suppository. Then she told everyone there at the top of her voice, saying it over and over, and everyone in Odense must have been there, because everywhere I went people indicated me then smiled and said, "supPOSitory!"

    The flight home with two non-English speaking Icelandic fisherman, who bought me lots of vodka and taught me to swear in Islande, was a lot more fun.

  3. What a collection of stories. Here's mine. Spending a year in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, with my (now-ex) husband and sons ages 12 and 9, we drove south to Ghana for Christmas vacation. On Christmas Day we drove west along the coast to a scenic village, and selected a beach-side place with traditional thatched-roof round huts. We ate grilled fish on the beach for dinner - delicious - but the overnight was AWFUL. The double bed had a Deep Valley mattress under the mosquito net (which had holes in it). The two cots didn't have nets. The malaria-carrying mosquitoes were plentiful and HUNGRY. I ended up "sleeping" in the double bed with my sons and my chronically-cranky husband went to try to sleep in our tiny Toyota. Nobody was happy the next day.

  4. When we went to China to get the munchkin we had to travel from Nanning, the capital city of her birth province, to Wuzhou, where she was born and home to the world's largest snake pit. It was a long bus ride and we stopped after a couple of hours for a bathroom break. The bathroom was a trough in the ground. Being an obsessive kind of person I was carrying hand sanitizer and toilet paper. I was very popular.

  5. My bosses gave my mom and me an all expenses paid trip to the Mexican Riviera. That is, my bosses earned a trip with the local supply house by spending a lot of money with them and gave it to me. The distinction is important because it meant participating in numerous schmooze-events. The first event was an ice-breaker Olympics on the beach, with 10 teams of a dozen strangers. In one event, each time lined up in the sand. The first person in line ran around to the end of the line, crawled through the legs of the rest of the team, ran 25 yards, sucked down some Kool-Aid flavored tequila from a squirt bottle, put her forehead on the top of a baseball bat and spun around it three times, then ran backward to the team and tagged the next person, who repeated the process. First memorable moment: Mom is short, less than 5'2". One of her teammates was a tall, beefy guy who, when he crawled through her legs (?!!), picked her up and caused her to ride along until she hopped to the side. Second memorable moment: I made it through the crawl, refused the tequila, spun on the baseball bat, paused and shook my head so I wouldn't run crookedly, then trucked back to my team. Just as I reached back to tag the next person I fell, sitting down hard in the sand. Sand is not soft. I messed up my back and was in pain for the next several days. To add insult to injury, I forgot sunscreen and was lobster red as well.

    However... it was an adult-only all inclusive resort between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, impeccably maintained, with incredible restaurants and rooms that all looked like the brochure photos. Despite the pain, it was still the best vacation I've ever had.

  6. Mine is not very comical at all but I certainly remember it...we eloped when we found out hubby would be called back to serve in the first Persian Gulf war...we were scheduled to fly to Tuscon to help his parents... But when he left, we figured I would just go. His father had bought "buy one flight,companion flies free" tickets (can you see where this is going?).Wel, I flew out , enjoyed five days with my new in-laws and went back to the airport to fly home, only to find out they wouldn't let me come home. Seems I was the "free" passenger and without hubby, they weren't letting me on the plane. No matter some one messed up and I got out there, I couldnt go home. I could buy an insanely expensive ticket, or too bad. I did get home, thanks to a different airline willing to help a military wife., but I will not, to this day, fly one that airline.

  7. My worst trip must have been when I went to the Philippines in 2008 while we were working in Korea. My ex had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was scheduled for surgery shortly after we returned to Korea. It was our third stay at this particular resort and we had always felt very safe there. On my birthday (no kidding) we went out to eat at a favorite restaurant and when we came back we sat down to watch some TV. My ex turned to me and said, "did you leave the window open?" Thieves had forced open the window and stuffed a carryall with my laptop, his miniDVD player and all our cash. The carryall also happened to contain my ex's passport and credit cards. We had to go to the US Embassy for a replacement where we were told that it would take 6 weeks unless there was a life threatening reason for a rush. Um, cancer? While we waited the driver the resort had provided at their cost took us to the Mall of Asia in Manila, which was beautiful but they did a more thorough search at the doors than TSA. The Philippines hasn't seemed so safe since.

    Of course there was also the time I narrowly escaped being deported from Chile and last summer when the friend I was traveling with decided she needed to see all of Paris in one day. Or the two days I spend holed up in a hotel in Liverpool with the worst cold I've ever had in my life after having diarrhea on the bus from London to Hay-on-Wye where we arrived at 11 at night without reservations and well after the town had rolled up its sidewalks. It's really a wonder I ever leave home.

  8. And oh, the rest of the comments...amazing! And you are all so brave!

  9. Oh yes, now other fond memories are flooding back: the time our bag was stolen on a train in Prague station, John's wallet stolen from the trunk of our rental car while we were at the beach... and we only discovered it missing when we went to pay the bill after lunch...
    Ah travel, So relaxing.

  10. Amazing stories! After reading them, I can't believe my own travel has been so peaceful and unstressed.

    Though there was our last trip to NYC where we stayed in a beautiful Victorian brownstone B&B where the only bathroom was up on the 4th floor with a Victorian claw-foot tub (fitted with shower head and curtain) that you had to lift your leg practically to your waist to get into. I'm on a cane and stairs get tough for me by the time there's four flights, plus there's no way my legs will lift high enough to get into the tub. But then it turned out they didn't have hot water the whole time we stayed there anyway. So it was twice-daily cold sponge baths at the sink.

    Then our flight back was delayed 18 hours, and we spend them all at La Guardia. *sigh*

  11. Linda, I think the delayed flight story is one of the worst thing that happens to us these days. Sitting in a plane on the tarmac, powerless. Ugggh.

  12. Rhys, you're right. That delay was much worse, much more stressful, than the stay in the B&B, which was beautiful with good food and staff who were helpful & trying to get the hot water fixed.

  13. Oh yes, now the memories are coming...I went to France for a semester in college. On the plane on the way over, someone stuffed a stack of extremely pornographic photos into my train case. Now how did I explain THAT to the Catholic roommates I'd never met???

  14. My husband used to tease me about being a picky eater until we were in La Manzanilla, Mexico -- a lovely little beach town just north of Manzanillo -- on my birthday and all the few restaurants were closed, so my birthday dinner was street tacos and Tecata in a can. And I loved it. :)

  15. Yes, Hank, a rat. I am not a scream-and-jump-on-a-chair person, but oh, ugh.

    Very interesting to think about how much the standard of living has improved in the UK in the last thirty years, isn't it, Rhys? Although maybe you never stayed in such horrid places. And I'm sure there are still a good few of them...

    I'm writing about a real hotel in the w-i-p that one would not care to visit. (The name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent...)

  16. The year was 1997 and I was making my first-ever trip abroad. I was traveling solo to Russia to hopefully bring home my infant son. The night before my departure, while I made a last minute, late night trip to the grocery store, my Rhodesian Ridgeback got into my suitcase and ate the packets of oatmeal, ramen noodles and peanut butter crackers that were to sustain me for 16 days. By the time I returned, he had deposited a large portion of what he had eaten back on the carpet. After cleaning that up, I tried to get a few hours sleep before my early morning flight, but was kept awake by his piteous moaning. Being truly alarmed at his condition, I took him to the emergency vet clinic, which was dealing with a more pressing emergency. Finally, I left him with a blank check and a note saying a friend would collect him. I dashed back home in time to load my things into the friend's car (explaining the extra little chore I would need her to do for me) and we made it to the airport. FF 16 hours and I arrived in Moscow, but my luggage, containing the 'conservative court attire' did not. The next day I found myself begging my translator to explain to the judges why I was wearing jeans, hoping it would not jeopardize my adoption. Thankfully, it did not, but they would not waive the 10 day waiting period, and it was 16 days later, after adding in time for other bureaucratic details to be taken care of, before I was ready to begin the journey home. Finally, the day of departure arrived, and I was ready and waiting, with 3 pieces of luggage, a diaper bag, briefcase, purse and a tiny infant strapped to my chest, waiting and waiting and waiting for my driver/translator to appear. He was 45 minutes late, and when he did arrive, well, that's when the adventure really began....

  17. Fortunately, fun travel has generally been good. But a year ago, in January, I had to travel to South Beach Miami, from Washington DC for work. There was a conference of lawyers from all over the globe, and I had just started a brand new job. Well, I decided to take one bag, complete with suits for daywear, dressing clothes for evening wear, and so on, which I had just bought on a major spending spree.

    For casual attire, I wore my black cowboy boots, black jeans, and a black and cream flowered cowboy shirt I had recently bought in Austin. Fun stuff, but by no mean business attire.

    I planned to carry my bag, but at the gate, the airline took it and checked it through Atlanta to Miami.

    Got to Miami,and of course, no bag. The line to report a missing bag was immense, as a host of travelers from the Midwest had arrived and were about to get on a Disney Cruise. After about an hour, I reported my missing bag, was assured it would show up and be delivered to my hotel. I went over to South Beach where I checked into a FABULOUS hotel, the Fountainbleu.

    Well, my new work colleague was waiting for me, and we had to rush to get to the cocktail party. Most people were in suits, some in casual clothes, but I was the only one men asked if I'd been out riding the back forty looking for dogies.

    Oh well, I went back to the hotel, bought a toothbrush and toothpaste and fell asleep. At 2 a.m., when the popular club closed, the line of cars pulled in honking and clubgoers screaming for about two hours. I finally got back to sleep, and I awoke to ... no bag. I called, and the airline said they had no news, it had well and truly been lost.

    I showered and put on... the same clothes I had traveled in. I got a LOT of strange looks, but did my work at the conference. (Did I mention, even my makeup and my medicine was in my suitcase???)

    So, lunch time. Major internationally recognized speaker (and a former boss) was presenting to the crowd. I decided to head over to the local mall to do some power shopping. In two hours, I bought shoes, a dress, a pair of pants two shirts, makeup, jammies and other essentials, for a total of $850. I hopped into the cab to get back to the hotel... and my cell phone rang. It was my PHARMACIST back home.

    The only thing with any identification in my bag was a bottle of medicine, and the airline called my pharmacist, who, because of federal laws, couldn't provide my phone number, but who called me. We've become friendly, and imagine my shock when the I answered the phone and my pharmacist is saying, "Hey, where are you? Because I hear you are traveling and *I* know where your suitcase is!"

    Larry gave me the id number for my bag, laughed a bit, and hung up. I called, and was assured that my bag would be there before I went to bed that night.

    I went to the conference appropriately attired after lunch. Went to dinner with my colleague. And of course, no bag after dinner.

    A repeat of the 2-4 a.m. wakeup experience. ACK!

    The next morning, my bag still hadn't arrived. I got dressed, went to the last few hours of the conference, and got a call. My bag arrived at the airport.

    I had to tell them to leave it there, since I was about to leave the conference. WHen I got to the airport, I had to wait in a huge line again, almost missing my flight. I dashed to security, where the guards wouldn't let me through because I had to check my bag, since I had a sack and another bag and my suitcase!!!

    THat's when I just started crying. They wanted to CHARGE me to check the carry-on sized bag that I had not seen for the whole trip! I don't really remember much after that, except that I finally got home, claimed my bag, and went home for a long shower and nap.

    The silver lining? The airline reimbursed my out of pocket for the clothes I bought. Still. I wouldn't recommend it as a way to get a new wardrobe...

  18. I love all the stories although I don't think they felt good at the time for you all. I don't have any stories to equal yours other than getting rocked out of sleep in an earthquake in LA, and getting soaked on various camping trips. It was a quiet life.:) Oh and dealing with bears-but that's another story.

  19. Lil,
    I'd say getting rocked out of bed during a an earthquake is a pretty good story! :)

    Certainly dramatic!

  20. Bears! Oh, lil, I forgot about the bears.

    Fabulous stories! I have to say really good writers, all.

  21. Reine's story of a crime in Denmark reminded me of my time living in Quito, Ecuador. This was just after college, my first career job in international finance. This was the 80s. I thought I was heading on to investment banking glory in NYC. Hah! But that's another story.

    This is so outlandish, it doesn't seem real now. So, as these things can start, I meet a man. An exotic Spaniard named Bruno. Seems a little thin, but no matter. He was European. We hang out. We don't get together, but I, hopeless that I am, thought we were heading that way. He's got a friend, Isabel. "Friend," yes.

    I was SO naive, folks, so trusting, out there in the world by myself for the first time (and not even in the U.S.)...
    Ends up, I let Bruno and Isabel sleep at my place as a favor because of something to do with their hostel. I got to work, I return home, and they're gone. My place seems the same as usual, felt off at the same time. They'd stolen all my American dollars -- $5,000, which was a ton back then, and all the money I had in the world. It was my get-of-Ecuador money.

    Later, I confront him in the bar where I'd met him, and he gives me the innocent look. I'm just a stupid American. He basically tells me what a bad-ass he is, having had to flee Spain for awhile because he's a member of the ETA separatist/terrorist movement. He tells me the money is gone--back to Spain for the movement. But,he also pulls up both his sleeves, and oh my innocent eyes: the track marks of a junkie like you wouldn't believe. A solid, thickened red line from wrists up to elbows. I was horrified. But I must have said something because he and Isabel went into hiding.

    He thought that was that, but I got the Ecuadorian policia involved. I, like Reine, drove with them night after night to find out where Bruno and Isabel were dossing down. Finally, we found them. The policia let me follow them into the hovel. It was what you'd expect: yelling, pounding, breaking down the door. And there were the two lovers-slash-junkies-slash ETA extremists curled in bed together.

    But, the disillusionment didn't end there. Bruno was imprisoned, and treated non-too-kindly by the police (this being a third-world country) but eventually let go. I never did get my money back, and I found out later the only reason the policia were so helpful was because I was a stupid American, and they thought they'd get the dollars for themselves in exchange for letting Bruno go. When they realized the money was indeed gone, that was that.

    This was a hard lesson for a sheltered Marin County girl. The whole thing was insane even if hunting Bruno down with the police was exciting.

  22. Oh, Lisa... my experience was nothing like yours. Mine was only frightening at first. I wasn't harmed in any way. I got to patrol with handsome young Danes who bought me French press coffee at an outdoor café... . No. I had fun and gathered material for a cozy, should I ever be moved to write one. You, my dear, are very brave.

  23. Hi Reine, I prefer your story! Mine killed a little something inside me that I never grew back. What replaced it? A little cynicism. But that said, I don't regret the misadventure. It makes for a good story now. :-)

  24. A bleak little boat in New Orleans pales..

  25. Ah, Hank I felt for you suffering through all of that to get the story. Reminded me of that exceedingly hardy reporter back home who would stand on the Mass Pike - reporting on yet another blizzard in April - as ten-wheelers jackknifed around her! Who was that intrepid reporter?

  26. It was ME! (Or you might mean..ah..her name is...Shelby Scott! Right?

  27. You! Of course it was you! But Shelby Scott-- of course! Wow!

  28. I miss Boston TV. We have nothing like that "west a Worcester," unless you can get L.A. TV and watch the daily car chase.

  29. Hank, and those seawall reports during hurricanes...reporters hanging on as they blow sideways in the wind... that was you too... right? Hah! You are so funny. Shelby Scott probably did that, too - while running AFTRA in her spare time.

  30. Tried to post a comment earlier but my Kindle ate it. The arthritis and tendinitis in my wrists told me not to try to recreate it. Also, my tummy is not too happy right now. The gist of my message was that my vacations tend to be dull. Except when there are hurricanes. And the one minor earthquake that was not as exciting as Lil's.

    The End.

  31. About 15 years ago, I spent 10 days on Koh Samui, Thailand – a sweet little southern island in the Gulf of Thailand. It was my first trip to Asia. The beaches were beautiful and the water wonderful, as you might expect in this paradise. In my experience, the people were even more wonderful and charming. I fell in love with Thailand and the Thai people.

    The weather turned windy and rainy on the day of our departure. We were to sail in the ferry back to the mainland and make our way up to Bangkok. When my travel companion suggested we upgrade to the “fast boat” so we would be more quickly out of the storm, I felt relief. After a long wait in the weather, we boarded the exotic looking curved keel boat and made our way down to the interior seating area. We managed to find 2 seats at the back, and as I took my chair, I sat on a life preserver jacket. I remember thinking, well at least I've got my salvation. I took a look around at the other life jackets overhead and realized there were not half enough for the number of people on this ferry. It was NOW that I remembered hearing about ferry accidents in Asia and I started to get a little nervous. The weather had turned into an out-of-season typhoon, and the boat was knocking about something fierce. A throng of people who had been sitting up on deck came inside and sat on the steps, floor, anywhere they could.

    When the motor noise quit, we wondered what's up. My (now ex-) boyfriend made his way through the engine room to the toilet at the back of the boat. When he came back, he grabbed a life jacket off the shelf and sat on it too. He told me the men in the engine room looked upset. I made a quick trip to the toilet to see for myself. I walked through the door and down the single aisle inside the engine room. Although the engine noise was absent, the sounds of waves and wind were loud. I could see open water underneath the belly of the equipment. Several workmen appeared to be just sitting, waiting. One man was attending the silent engine. There were worried faces and no smiles, very unlike the Thai people that I had met. I had to walk a plank over open water to reach the toilet shack at the stern. I made my way back to my seat. We sat there biting our nails and not really understanding the danger of being in a long narrow boat with no running engine, buffeted by huge waves in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. This motorboat ferry had no back-up paddles as there were on the smaller boats. If a big wave had hit us broadside, I'd be typing this under water. (!)

    As I understand it, the engine had gotten overheated and finally cooled down enough for them to start it again. The fast ferry soon made its way into the mainland port. And we were off to a misadventure in Bangkok -- but that's another story...

  32. What wonderful stories! Thanks all for sharing the tales.

    Julia- I know where you stayed I think. Creepy finding it after driving through the jungle for hours, would have been more creepy if it were empty when I arrived.

    As far as my travel horror/adventure stories, I was nearly swept away in a river during a hurricane in Costa Rica, but what was more traumatic was the time I got trapped in the airport on the way home from a summer in Puerto Rico. I have a rule now - don't fly with a guy who was cursed by a Jamaican t-shirt seller. Just don't....