When you have spent over a year and a half on the road, making travel as a part of your lifestyle, you end up having a mixed bag of experiences. Being a vagabond, digital nomad, gallivanting soul or whatever internet calls people like me these days gives a lot of memories to remember the past. Only thing is that these memories are not always pleasant. But then that’s how life is and that’s how travel is.
When everyone is talking about their favourite memories from 2018, here are some of my worst.
The Costliest Departure from Kochi
The easiest way to travel between Kochi and Bangalore is by trains. If you not short on money then you can also book a ticket in AC bus that will drop you in Bangalore in about 8 hours.
I visited Kochi during the New Year because I wanted to see the Carnival parade. Some misinformation happened and I booked my return tickets for the day when carnival was scheduled. Confident that I’ll catch my bus with a ticket fare of INR 2200 when rest were only around 900 to 1100 (and all booked), and reach Bangalore to catch the next train to Delhi. Weird plan but that’s how I thought will be the best way to travel.
I ended up missing that bus because long traffic jams during carnival stopped all the autos and Ola. I missed my bus, then had to take another bus to Coimbatore and then another bus till Bangalore. Wow. Then I missed my train from Bangalore and had to book another ticket in tatkal.
The second time when I went to Kochi, I looked around for flight tickets and realized that it only costs 2100 one way trip. I ended up spending more than 5000 on the same route for nothing.
Couldn’t enter Bhutan
Bhutan has kind of confusing entry permit system. Being a first time traveller, I didn’t know anything about the gates being closed on certain days. During this time, they don’t allow people to enter the Land of Thunder Dragon.
I reach Jaigaon on a Wednesday evening. I had planned that I’ll get my permits on Thursday and reach Paro on time. I realized that the country was celebrating some festival in February and gates will only open on Monday.
Heartbroken, I took a shared jeep from Jaigaon to Darjeeling and spent the next week exploring that region.
Attempts to eat weird in Bangkok got my stomach sick
Khao San street in Bangkok is a quirky and fun place when you know what you are doing will keep you away from troubles. But not me, on my second day of my Bangkok trip, I took a stroll outside my hostel and saw stalls selling all sorts of scorpions, grasshoppers, cockroaches and everything that would otherwise creep you out. I had some of these and some of those but the worst came after eating a shrimp that tasted like a rubber eraser. Next morning my stomach got sick and I spent the next two days in my dorm’s washroom.
Not planning my Thailand trip enough
When you tell someone that you are going to Thailand ‘alone’ the first thing they do is making an expression that would put VeteranBollywood villain Ranjeet to shame. Then they start talking about everything bad for which this country is known for. And while that is a part of their tourism, it is not necessary that you are there because you have similar intentions.
I didn’t plan my Bangkok trip enough and as a result when I reached there I ended up wondering about what to do. Spending extra bucks on tuktuks, hopping a few temples here and there and then visiting a cultural show that was a snoozefest was how I spent my time in Bangkok and Pattaya. But the worst came when someone suggested me something that was really bad and indecent. I went there, realized what was it all about (no, not ladyboys), and then I made a quick escape.
Worst, I enquired about it at my hostel frontdesk and everyone around me gave this weird look as if I was there representing everything wrong with Indian men.
Dealing with Indian immigration officers
I don’t even want to talk about it. I had to interact with Indian immigration officers twice. My first encounter was an okay one but the guy had so much time that he kept asking the girls standing in front about the reasons they wanted to go to Thailand. Don’t you know what happens there, have you asked your parents, modern girls and all kinds of nonsense he came up with and simply got on my nerves. When my turn came he didn’t ask a single question and said enjoy when I was leaving.
The second time when I was travelling to Thailand and Malaysia with my parents, the immigration officer simply started bullying my parents. He threatened them that he’ll not allow them to cross. This guy was simply rude for no reasons. When we were leaving, he started shouting at another couple.
Going to Universal Studios in Singapore
Why this was bad? Because the queues were longer than Kolkata’s Durga Puja pandals. I wanted to enjoy the first roller coaster of my life and even after standing for 45 minutes, I barely crawled an inch like vehicles do in Bangalore, I figured out that this was a giant waste of time and left.
Universal Studios is not a bad place. But if you hate standing in queues then you should avoid it. The place is very entertaining if you are with friends and family because then you’ll find someone to speak with.
Universal Studios also gives VIP passes that helps you get ahead in the line. But they are obviously costlier than the ordinary tickets.
Thankfully I had a great time at SEA museum nearby.
Almost burning myself in Bikaner
I was in Bikaner documenting a sect of tribal community that worships a fire lord (I won’t get into details because I don’t want anyone to track them). They worship their god by running on fire and even eating the chunks of burning wood, spitting on the people present around.
What happens in process is that as their chants and bhajan get into trance, they start running and throwing fire all over. Being the excited one, I went in the front row and a huge chunk of fire fell upon me. I would have almost burned myself but the jeans saved me.
Getting in wrong bus for Imphal
Getting a ride between Dimapur and Imphal is easy. The problem is when you reach there because if it gets too dark you won’t get a hotel. I reach Dimapur at 10:30 AM, got a ticket in a minibus that took 3 hours to get full. We started at 2 PM, the roads were so bad that it dropped me in Imphal at 12:00 AM. By this time the city was shutdown and I was the only human on the road. It was seriously scary. I looked around for a few hotels and nothing was open. So I went and sat inside a hospital, spent next 5 hours playing ludo on my phone and only took a hotel when the city started moving at 5:30 AM.
Attending Mysore Dasara
A popular festival like Mysore Dasara is bound to get crowded. But I was not expecting this level of participation from people coming from here and there. On the day of the parade, I could only see an ocean of heads. The parade didn’t start 3 hours after the actual time it was supposed to begin. I have already ranted about it in the past, you can read it all here.
That night at Dzukou Valley
The beautiful serene Dzukou Valley where greenery is your companion and the mornings are golden has something that no one will tell you about. It gets so cold in night that doesn’t matter how many sleeping bags you have, you’ll always end up freezing. I won’t go in detail because I want everyone else to suffer the way I did. Please stay at Dzukou Valley, it is a magical place.
My misadventures on trains
Any journey in India is incomplete without missing a few trains and misplacing tickets and getting in fights with ticketless travellers. What did you say, this doesn’t happen with you? Well, really sad. My year started with missing a train, it went ahead with a scary travel experience in Bihar where ticketless passengers started bullying the travellers with tickets and made them adjust so that they can sit. After this, I booked wrong tickets and then got in a wrong train.
Also, this time I booked a lot of bus tickets and the experience was not really good. Thanks to Redbus, my problems were addressed but the one I booked from Via turned into a sleepless nightmare.
Well, a new year has begun and I am not hoping for anymore misadventures. Let’s see how this year of solo travelling goes by.