Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Best/Worst Travel Experience

I just finished entering a contest where the subject matter was your best &/or worst travel experience. Well, since my best happened on the same trip as my worst, it was pretty easy to pick which story to tell. Here, in all it's absence of glory, is my recounting:

Having lived overseas, I've flown quite a bit, and my best & worst travel experience occurred all in one instance while living in South Korea.

Or perhaps I should say, the trip was fabulous, but the before & after were horrendous.

While teaching ESL in S. Korea, one of my roommates and I decided to take a four-day weekend and hop over to Hong Kong, shortly before the handover from Britain to China. Since payday was going to happen during that very weekend, we asked our director if he would pay us a couple of days early. "No problem," he said. However, when the day arrived, he was no where to be found. We spent hours hunting him down and finally cornered him into going to the bank with us and getting our pay. Whew! Problem #1 overcome.

We then went home to pack, when roommate #3 decided to return from a drinking binge (looking back, RM#3 probably had alcohol poisoning, but we didn't know that then). RM#3 also brought two easily-irritated, drunk nationals into our home. When RM#3 holed up in the restroom, "ill," these two guys refused to leave, and were bordering on becoming violent. We demanded that RM#3 come out and boot them out, no matter how ill. These two guys finally left, and we locked the door. Problem #2 overcome.

However, RM#3 continued to stay in the restroom long into the night, until we finally began to bang on the door and demand an exit. When RM#3 did finally leave, what was left behind was disgusting. Every hole in the bathroom was clogged with, uh, "illness." It was one of the worst things I've ever seen. It was all over the walls, the sink, the washer, the toilet...I could have strangled RM#3.

With only a few hours left now until our early morning departure, and utterly exhausted, we spent the next 1-1/2 hours using up every paper towel and plastic bag in the house to clean out the room. I would gulp air, hold my breath, and clean as long as I could, then stick my head out of the door, gasping in fresh air. It was truly horrific...but we finally got it cleaned up. Problem #3 over with.

We made our flight from the south up to Seoul, but made our flight out of Seoul only by the grace of fellow travelers who let us cut when a slow-moving, 1/8-mile security line that didn't exist 10 minutes earlier threatened to keep us from our gate. Problem #4 averted.

However, once we landed in Hong Kong, we could not have had a nicer time. Adventure after adventure, wonderful people, food, shopping, and landscapes captivated us, and we were able to squeeze in every item we had placed on our itinerary.

Our flight home, however, was turbulent enough that I genuinely--despite much experience traveling--questioned whether we would arrive at our destination. My stomach began to get a little queasy, but we did finally arrive in Seoul. Return Problem #1 overcome.

However, our return flight landed late, and we missed our connecting flight--the final one of the day. So we headed outside to queue for a taxi, which would take us to the bus station across town. It was so late at this point that the lines were long waiting for the few remaining taxis. Disreputable taxi drivers kept trying to 'book' us to take their taxis--for triple or quadruple the price. Finally we got a 'real' taxi and arrived at the bus station just in time to catch the final bus south for the night. We had a five hour ride ahead of us (instead of the planned 45 minute flight). It was nearly midnight, but at least we had a ride home. Return Problem #2 overcome.

The queasy feeling that had started on the plane turned into a full-blown stomach virus by the time our bus ride was over. It didn't matter, however, as I still had to head to my class at 6:30 a.m. I'd had no sleep and was very ill, but there was no way my director would have believed I was sick the day after vacation if he hadn't seen me. So I suffered through three hours of teaching (doubled over) and then collapsed. Return Problem #3 endured.

The befores and afters of this trip were really, really awful. The only consolation is that my visit to Hong Kong was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As bad as before/after were, this was still the best vacation I've ever had.


(c) 2008


Beth said...

i've gotta wonder what you ate in HK?

ShalomSeeker said...

Best Peking Duck I've ever had (also, the only Peking Duck I've ever had...but it WAS fabulous). I also tried to drink a bee. (I do not recomment this.) I was not successful, but did emerge unscathed. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ok I have never heard this complete story. Wow that was quite an adventure!!! Thanks for sharing. Your far out sister

ShalomSeeker said...

Just to be clear, drinking the bee was an accident, not some crazy oriental idea of a good time. ;-)

We also had dim sum (yum!) and ate at Planet Hollywood--Yes we did! LOL! Nothing like leaving the hemisphere only to eat at an American restaurant, huh? To be fair, I'd been living in S. Korea for almost two years at that point, so 'American' food was not something I partook of frequently. (Not that I missed it much; Korean food is fabulous!)

Rachel said...

Yuck about RM#3. I think I would have let them clean it up. Yucky Yuck. I am glad that you had such a good time. Sounds like fun. Planet Hollywood would be a great place to go if you were missing us in the US.

Rachel said...

I am having trouble with the letter things. I keep typing the wrong letters. Some are really hard to read. Just sharing.