Travel Fails

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.

It didn’t.

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.

What’s your most memorable travel fail?

Hallo uit Amsterdam

Thirty-six hours later, we finally reached Amsterdam. Schiphol airport looked lovely in the morning. After showing our bleary faces to the immigrant officer, we loaded our three luggage into a big taxi and head to the very hip Conscious Hotel Vondelpark hotel, where we will be staying for the night.

Since it was just 8 AM, our rooms were ready yet. So we opened our luggage on the lobby, spilling half of our stuff onto the floor. Finally, after we managed to pack up the luggage and freshen ourselves up, we went out to explore the city.

This time, Amsterdam was just a stopover. We didn’t have many plans, except to eat stroopwafel, meet our cousin and get high at night.

First stop: coffee. We stepped inside a cute little coffee shop run by a Japanese.

Is there a saying about missing a foreign place when you are in another foreign place?

Happy to report that the coffee in Amsterdam was good.

We then walked around the town to find the little bakery that sold stroopwafel that I had with my cousin and her friend five years ago. Stroopwafel and another cuppa later, we continued walking around the city. We stopped for a midday drink at a fancy looking place before joining the free walking tour. We walked along the canal, the red light area and a shopping district. In one of the stops, I bought shell to ad to my jar back home. I also went inside a weed shop trying to get something for Fafa. But I was too afraid that Australian immigration will catch me that I came out empty-handed.

We then had lunch late lunch at the Indonesian restaurant Kanjtil and went back to the hotel to rest.

In the evening we picked our cousin and went to Sampoerna, another Indonesian food feast. Full, cold but very happy we walked around to find the small cafe that sells the best space cake. Once acquired, we shared it between the four of us. Soon after we went back to the hotel and here I am writing this and waiting for the cupcake to take effect.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel anything, just uber tired, which that makes sense because I haven’t slept for almost two days and I am on my period. I guess it’s sleep time for me as we are flying to Norway tomorrow morning.

Goedenacht!

Space Cake

Eating space brownies in Amsterdam has been on my wanderlust since 2011. It’s when, after visiting Amsterdam for the first time, I came back without trying and had been penalized for it by my friends, my friends of friends, my friends’ cats, my neighbors, and my exes. I have had enough of “How could you not try it!!” variations that I put weeds, only weeds, in my Amsterdam itinerary when I visited it again in 2014. My people were counting on me and I couldn’t let them down for the second time. In conclusion, I had to try the space brownies in Amsterdam because of peer pressure. I needed to fulfill the social expectations of myself, other than getting married and breeding.

I did my research. I knew these places are called “coffee shops” and they display the green white license sticker. I was ready! After lunch, we went through the red light area and spotted Baba, one of the best “coffee shop” in Amsterdam. I took a few seconds to compose myself (I didn’t want to behave like an annoying, shallow tourist who came to Amsterdam just to smoke weed; even though it was the exact truth) and went inside, with my backpack and camera dangling on my neck. I tried to read the menu nonchalantly; Espresso Macchiato. Wait, what is this place?! And then I saw it. The glorious space brownies.

We ordered two of it to be shared by four of us. The space brownies tasted like something I would have tried to bake and failed. It was hard, tasteless, but edible. The shop itself was nice and crowded on a Thursday afternoon. It was decorated with Hindu deities, including Lord Ganesha, which made me feel awkward on the first few minutes.

I finished my coffee, which I have ordered just to mask the main reason we came here (I made a lot of quick and stupid decisions that day), and stepped out into the cold winter afternoon. We walked, took some pictures, ate stroopwafels, and walked some more. During all time we felt nothing much, just a little happy buzz. I thought this was it and felt pretty disappointed. It was pretty similar to the time when I tried happy pizza in Cambodia. I could the same feeling after the second glass of wine. I began to regret paying 14 euros for two tasteless space brownies.

The evening got colder. We roamed around the museum quarter and stopped at the outdoor cafe for hot beverages. We sat down with our coffee and hot chocolate. I started to say something in English but stopped midway because I couldn’t continue my sentence. Then my cousin tried to say something but she kept forgetting her words. We found that hilarious.

Oh, so hilarious, that we laughed and laughed until we cried out of laughter.

And then we realized we were high! But too late! Can’t. Stop. Laughing. I was aware that people were watching us and that we looked extremely stupid, but for the love of Ganesha, I couldn’t stop laughing because anything and everything was so freaking funny! It was sort of an out of body experience. You knew you were high but you couldn’t control your feelings nor behave normally.

We then walked back to the train station to go to the Airport to catch our red-eye flight back to Jakarta. The whole walk was another new experience. I felt so light like I was a floating spirit and that I could go through any object. Of course, I didn’t try, I only ate half of the space brownies, I wasn’t that high.

We managed to reach the Airport and pass the immigration without any hiccup. Though, I’m sure the officer knew I was high as I was the only person in the sea of passengers who supported colorful AMSTERDAM beanie with no shame. My cousin told me that it was her first and last time trying space brownies. She didn’t like it because she had paranoia. As for me? Next time, I will bake the space brownies myself, if I need to!

Do you know that smoking weed is an illegal BUT unpunishable offense in Netherland?! Gave you tried space brownies before? How about happy pizza? Would you?

Unfolding Universe

After Amsterdam I got to see my ultimate travel dream, Paris, which I had been dreaming of visiting ever since I wrote about Coco Chanel for my school project. We also visited Italy — Venice, Rome and Florence.

It all felt like a dream came true from a girl like me.

Starting from the second I stepped out of the airport taxi in Amsterdam.

For the first time only a couple weeks ago. It was like another Universe folded open in front of me in one blink of an eye.

I stepped into it. And my life has forever changed.

Amsterdam

“Amsterdam has more than 150 canals and 1,250 bridges, but it never seems crowded, nor bent and bitter from fleecing the tourist.”

Julie Burchill.

I didn’t know autumn. I mean I knew how it looked like, I watched Gilmore Girls religiously, but I didn’t know how Autumn feels like. Moreover Autumn in the screen is not as powerful as snow on moment framing scenes, so I always looked past it.

Until one day when I got to see it during my first ever trip to Europe. From the window of a taxi that was taking us from Schiphol International Airport to Amsterdam. I was trying to absorb all the new things laid in front of my eyes. Everything, while thinking, eh Amsterdam lacked of greenery. The stupid thing was (I was a little sleep deprived), it didn’t register in my mind that it was Autumn. In my defense, I came from a tropical country. I have only experienced summer all year long, so it didn’t dawn on me right away that those bald trees were due to the change of season.

Getting inside the city. All the yellow, red and gold! My heart beat faster. I was ecstatic, despite being awake for 36 hours. I was in the movie scene. I was Rori Gilmore, coming home from Yale spring break. I was Ally McBeal with greasier hair, walking back to my brownstone apartment while daydreaming my life away. I was Serena Van Der Woodsen sitting on met steps with Blair Waldorf.

Never in my life, I have seen a street as beautiful, so picturesque. I forgot the last time I felt like this. Oh wait, maybe when I went snorkeling. Then I saw in the canals and the buildings. I was looking at a painting! Row and row of endless paintings. Can a city be this gorgeous? What more beauty could I see at The Rijksmuseum??

And the taxi stopped. My cousin paid. I guess she must have called my name, but I still had my mouth wide opened disbelief that we were staying in a hotel that was facing the canal. #travelhigh. I wished my parents could see it one day and I keep bugging Fafa to go and see it.

At night we took the canal ride, a must in Amsterdam.

Even though I was fighting the tiredness of not sleeping for two straight days mixed with alcohol, I couldn’t stop thinking that I was in Amsterdam. I got to experience this and that I was extremely lucky. I wanted to stand up to give a thank you speech to God, my parents and the Universe, but it would be a little to other sleep deprived tourist. I will do it here instead.