Last week we were in Vang Vieng, Laos’ most famous party town. Its fame comes from the alcohol-downing sport of tubing. Basically, you hire an inner tire tube, go a few kilometres up river and float back into town, trying to drink as much as humanly possible in the river side bars and get your tube back before you lose your deposit at 6pm. Like every other traveller ever to stop here, we drank ourselves silly and had a great time tubing. Unlike every other traveller, our Vang Vieng based misadventure didn’t take place on the river.
No, our little adventure took place right on the main street in town, at the cash machine on the way to lunch. That sounds much more exciting, eh? It wasn’t. Graham put his card into the machine, just for the greedy thing to gobble it all up. We looked at each other for a moment, not really believing what had just happened, and then pounded every button on the machine in the hope it may be persuaded to spit the card back out. Unfortunately for us, the machine was enjoying munching on it too much to give it back, and stubbornly refused, instead trying to distract us with on-screen ads. I ran to the other side of town to find the bank branch to get some assistance, which came in the form of two uniformed men in a JCB bank Jeep. A quick identity check revealed the card was indeed Graham’s. We discovered the machine didn’t support Graham’s card type and that my card would be fine. I withdrew some cash and we had a lovely lunch and a beer Lao or two to celebrate.
Unfortunately for us, the card machine really wanted to keep hold of one of our cards. The day we were leaving I went back to pull out some cash ready for arriving in Vientiane only for the machine to gobble my card, too. Initially we weren’t too concerned, knowing that we could pop to the bank and have someone come and retrieve it from the bowels of the greedy thing. Then we realised it was Sunday, and our bus was leaving in just over an hour. Graham ran off to the bank whilst I waited by the machine. I seemed to be waiting an awfully long time, with my concern mounting with ever passing minute. Our knights in shining armour arrived soon enough to retrieve the card, and waited whilst I tried again. With cash successfully withdrawn, we thanked the JCB men for their assistance and complimented each other on our impeccable ability to use an ATM machine.
As you can tell from this, misadventures on the road are often pretty drab. I particularly like this ATM adventure, because I love the bank’s response to an ATM machine that regularly pinches cards. Instead of, oh I don’t know, fixing the machine, they employ a team to respond whenever a card is taken. Other misadventures can be much more exciting, like our trip to the top of the Hai Van Pass. I suppose that misadventures almost always end with some sort of positive, whether that is an insight into culture, or a great day out exploring some countryside you might not have seen. Or even just leaving you with an exciting story to share. Rachel, from Plan to Vacation, has kindly shared some of her misadventures on the road with us here.
Travel seems to lend itself to misadventures, or at least it often has for me. I’ve come up with a theory that vacation mishaps tend to lend themselves into a few major categories: Illness, Money Trouble, Getting Lost, and Transportation Failure.
Let me just recount a few of my own experiences with these travel woes for you.
Illness. Thankfully, for the most part I’ve been remarkably healthy while traveling. I do remember spending a miserable day on the beach of a tiny island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, feeling sick as a dog while the rest of my family went snorkeling. The island was probably really cool, but I’ll never know.
Money Trouble. Here, also, I’ve gotten off pretty easy. On a trip to Hong Kong not too long ago, we forgot to pack any of our credit cards or debit cards, which meant that we really had to rely on just what we had on us until we returned home. It made us a little more cautious in our spending than normal, but all turned out well in the end.
Getting Lost. I do have a epic story about getting lost for 5 hours on a hiking trip, and being forced to hitchhike to make it back to our cabin on a tiny island in Lake Huron. That was about 10 years ago now. In more recent times, we’ve gotten off at the wrong bus stops and gotten onto the wrong buses more times than I can count.
Transportation Failure. This, I have probably the most experience with. This is possibly compounded by the fact that I like roadtrips, and my husband and I specialize in owning cars in less-than-brand-new condition. In the past few years, while on vacation, we’ve slid into the ditch during an ice storm, blew a tire on the expressway, had a transmission die, and, in the strangest freak accident of them all, while driving on the expressway, we got hit in the front fender with a chunk of cement that flew off the back of a truck in front of us.
Sometimes things don’t go the way we plan on vacation, and some of those misadventures are worse than others. We’re very thankful that in spite of these little mishaps, we’ve always arrived home safe and sound! What’s your most worst travel disaster story?
Rachel records the tales of her travels with her husband at Plan to Vacation, and writes so proficiently that she also has a recently released eBook. They are currently based in the coastal city of ShenZhen, China, and she doesn’t miss the brutal winter weather of her native Michigan at all.
What misadventures have you had on the road?