Is there anyone who doesn’t experience travel fails? Of course not.
It’s just that most of the time I intentionally choose to write about the good experiences of my travels instead of the travel fails.
Today I am going to share my travel fails here in the hope that maybe you too can relate, perhaps we can bond and or you can learn something from it. Or maybe you can judge me for being travel-stupid.
Not Liking The Place I Traveled (Vietnam)
Unlike most of the places I deliberately choose to travel to, I chose Vietnam because it’s only a couple hours away from Singapore. Also, lots of people rave about it. There was never an intrinsic, cultural pull personally. I was slightly hoping I’d be pleasantly surprised once I arrived.
I went with my cousins and had a good time with them there, but still, I was not too fond of Vietnam. Not even after sailing on the Mekong River. And after sipping Vietnamese drip coffee for three days in a row, I was so ready to go back.
Vietnam, I could have done without.
Some of my friends define Vietnam as the place to go while visiting South East Asia, kind of like how France is in Europe. There must be a base to it, might be because of the war stories, but it’s a generalization.
South-East Asia is much more than in Vietnam. It’s the potluck of Singapore, the richness of religious culture in Malaysia, the Hindu influence of Cambodia, and let’s not forget the lush rainforest of Borneo Indonesia.
From this experience I learn not to travel to a place that doesn’t “ping” me from inside. It might be an obvious choice for others, but if I am are not feeling it, I should keep my travel fare for some other places I am being called to visit.
Missed The Flight (Jakarta)
The flight was at 8:15 AM, and I reached the check-in counter by 6:50 AM. It’s not late, but this time everyone else had checked-in. Since I was late by a max of ten minutes (the check-in counter closed 90 mins before the departure), the check-in counter lady refused to check me in.
I tried to reason with her so much that I was on the brink of tears. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in the mood to show a single drop of compassion. I had to buy another ticket for a flight that left 45 minutes later than the first flight. When I passed by the waiting room at 8:20 AM, I could see my actual plane was still waiting to be boarded. Gah!
I wanted to hate that uptight Air Asia lady, but I stopped myself because at least I was still going on vacation.
From then onwards I have become one of those people who reach airport hours before the booking counter even opens. And I treat myself with a pre-holiday drinking inside on your free time, once I have checked-in.
Visa Denial aka Most Expensive Travel Fails (New Zealand)
My boarding pass was torn up in front of my very own eyes for not having a valid visa to layover for two hours in an airport in Australia before heading to our travel destination, New Zealand. Who knew that we needed a visa just to layover in the airport? I certainly didn’t. And to find out two hours before flying, it felt like a death sentence to my travel dreams. I went back fighting tears and dragging my luggage, which seemed to be heavier now than I was dragging it back home. Fafa cheered me up with coffee, and, later that night, booze. In the end, we managed to exchange it for a direct flight and reached Auckland two days later. Phew!
If you think I am going to conclude this part with a lesson learned is to check on layover visas, you are wrong (because of course, that one is obvious).
The lesson I learned is to have someone try to cheer you up when you are feeling super sad, someone who cares enough about your happiness to stay up all night to sort out the problem while you were passed out after drowning your sorrow in copious amonut of cider. It matters a lot, more than going to New Zealand itself.
Keep Losing Stuff (Japan)
I am not that good at keeping track of my things, especially the random ones. My mind works in an orderly manner and nothing else, which is why I have a travel checklist, and also why I always check my passport like 15 times before I reach the airport, but I misplace things.
I already made my peace in losing small things here and there while travelling, but the hard part is when I lose something precious or when I have the strong feeling that I have lost more things during my travel.
Among the things I have lost, the most memorable one was my first Kindle, which I went to so much trouble to get for myself for my birthday, years before Kindle was even a thing in Asia. I loved it with every fibre of my bookworm being, and I left it on the Delta Air Lines, flying back to Singapore from Japan.
I didn’t panic at first, as I was sure I would get it back. After calling and emailing Delta, and a few weeks of an unsatisfactory response, I came to terms with it.
My first eBook with 35+ self-help collections inside it was gone forever. I only hope that it made the person who took it into a better person after reading it. They have my self-help blessings.
Misplacing Passport (Netherlands)
My craziest moment of losing something was when I realized I couldn’t find my passport after I reached the immigration counter. I ran back to the arrival gate. Begged the stewardess to let me in because I thought I left my passport in the back of the aeroplane seat. Fortunately, she was kind enough to let me inside the flight again to collect my passport.
Retrospectively, it was a minor incident, but imagine if the flight had flown somewhere. I would be stuck in the airport, like Tom Hank in The Terminal.
Ever since, I always do a 4P check before leaving any plane. Passport, Phone, airPod and (travel) Pillow. Also, I stop keeping anything inside the back pocket of a plane seat.
It has been months since I stayed past my bedtime to finish a book. The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida made me do just that yesterday. I turned off my Kindle, only leaving the epilogue part unread. There are only a few things that can match the luxury of reading in bed right after you wake up. And the last few pages of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida would be a perfect companion to savor at that moment. Which exactly what I did right before I write this post.
I found out about The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida only a few hours before reading it while browsing through the Avid Readers event catalog online.
The first thing that caught my attention was the name “Sumida” — it must be about Japan. And as you know, something, anything to do with Japan interests me. I then went on to read the synopsis. The first paragraph said:
Miwako Sumida is dead.
That was all I needed.
I’d read the book for those two reasons alone. But then, while searching what’s the best (ie: cheapest) way I can get it, I realized that The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida was written by an Indonesian-born Singapore female writer, Clarissa Goenawan. I don’t think I have ever read any Japanese fiction written by a non-Japanese before, let alone by someone I share a certain degree of identity with.
I feverishly waited for the workday to be over. I finished my dinner, took a shower, and told Fafa that I am retiring to bed early today. With a final click on a button that says $14.99, I entered The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.
The book was written from three different perspectives, none by Miwako Sumida. Though all of them centering around her. The story gives equal importance to the other three characters and their life.
The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is also layered with many sub-stories and details which add depth to the novel — from the watch that Miwako wore, the Salt Studio to the Secret Diary Zine — turning it into one delicious read.
It also took me to all the familiar places I have been yearning to go back to in Japan — from the English bookstore, Shinjuku train station, the convenience store, and the shrine. And then there was the part set in a small village below the valley, which made me pause to daydream about my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage in September next year in the middle of the night.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the book is written in a distinctive style of Japanese novels, with a bit of absurdity and melancholy, which if not overdone, can be utterly beautiful. And Clarrisa managed to do it perfectly.
So beautifully written The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida might top my best book in 2020 chart. But that’s a decision to be made for another day, as I have just download Clarrisa’s first book, also set in Japan, titled RainBirds.
Update: Avid Readers is hosting a free online Queer Book Club on The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida on 4th November and a conversation with the author the day after.
I have been reading this book for almost a month now, yet I haven’t finished it.
I loved Bridget Jones’ series as I enjoy a healthy dose of voyeurism.
I love reading the diary type of books and people’s blogs.
In short, I want to know what’s in other people’s minds, be it fictional or my neighbor.
But Bridget’s mind (in the form of her diary) doesn’t appeal to me.
There are plenty of self-pitying/self-destructing thinking and behaviors. It’s like Bridget doesn’t have her shit together. Even in her 50s she is as helpless and clueless as she was in her earlier years.
I am tired for and of her.
The book is still damn funny and has a healthy dose of wittiness, but I have clicked the off button on my Kindle more than usual ever since I started this book.
I still intend to finish it. I keep telling myself that at least it isn’t as bad as the Shopaholic series which I considered as the equivalent of the TV series Keeping It With The Kardashian. Or in a word: trash.