During travel, I have felt like a princess floating around on ballrooms of warm sand and waves…but I have also felt like a homeless, drifting vagabond with no place to shower and no change of socks. I believe that travel works best when you dive in with an open mind, realizing that at any moment…you may experience the most bizarre feelings of place-lessness.
Hence…the 100 oddest places to spend the night…
7.) Rental Car in Guam
As soon as we left South East Asia, we knew the $10 hotels wouldn’t be there to compliment our budget-travel style. This didn’t leave us plan-less however- we have other tricks to try. Reviving a trick we’d used for a bit of travel we tacked onto our honeymoon, we decided to rent a car in Guam and use it as a safe place to sleep. When we’d used this trick before, we had been in Canada. There, the trick had been keeping warm. We had put down the seats in my car and slept with our heads in the trunk and our legs sticking out into the back seat, fitting into my car just as a bicycle would have. This worked fine in chilly Canada where we were grateful for the heat of a car’s trunk. Guam is a good bit hotter than Canada, obviously. Within ten minutes of this “bicycle” set-up, we realized that there was no way to fall asleep in a place so hot. After testing out a few things, we found that the only workable way to sleep in a car in Guam is to recline in the front seats and open the windows all the way. Yes Guam’s weather brings on frequent little spurts of rain, but we took these brief rain spurts as an opportunity to enjoy brief spells of air conditioning. And what about mosquitos? Through trial and error, we discovered that sleeping under a bright street light minimizes the presence of mosquitos. We also discovered that K-mart is NOT like Wal-mart and does NOT invite people to sleep in the parking lot…
Luckily we only had to spend a week sleeping this way before we made a friend who was kind enough to offer us a bed.
6.) The First Class sleeper train in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was an adventure in so many ways. One of the memorable adventures was simply taking the first class sleeper train from Colombo to Trinkomalee. We hid away from the dust and noise just outside the bus station when a man approached us and babbled in about…things we weren’t sure of and not entirely comfortable with. But inside the train station, our train arrived and we were just as confused. Our ticket listed a certain car, but the car wasn’t numbered as the ticket was..so we wondered about until a conductor dressed in a sharp blue uniform and cap ushered us into our private, bunk-bed cabin. Our cabin had a door to a shared bathroom- shared with the cabin next to us. This seemed like a really nice feature: we had a bathroom nearly to ourselves! But…unfortunately the “contents” of that bathroom- water from the toilet or sink or both…or worse- leaked into our cabin all night so that our floor was completely covered in a puddle of bathroom leakage. We didn’t sleep well, waiting for that 5 am wake-up knock that would inform us we’d arrived. And when we had indeed arrived, we tried to pack up and leave our little cabin without touching the floor.
5.) The beach inside a gated community of sorts…retirement community maybe?
We arrived in Phuket, Thailand at a ridiculous hour. I believe it was after 3 a.m. or some such awful time. Early arrivals really end up narrowing down a traveler’s options, or eliminating them entirely. Luckily we are flexible young folks who, as seen below, had already experienced un-ideal sleeping conditions before. Our last attempt at sleeping on the beach had been pretty mosquito-filled and miserable. This attempt however, couldn’t have been better. First of all, we had to go through a check-point of some kind to get to the beach. There wasn’t enough shared language for us to find out exactly what this check-point was for, but it certainly made me feel like this was a safe beach to camp at. The guards were up at 3 am and would surely be up the rest of the night. In semi-English, they said that we couldn’t enter, at first. Before Drew and I could think of any plan B, our Malaysian friend (traveling with us for a time,) told the guards “Oh don’t worry, we just want to sleep on the beach. That’s all we are trying to do.” I was quite surprised when the guards seemed to nod with understanding and let us through. Hmmmm. A beach on which travelers are allowed to spend the early morning hours… On top of this good fortune, the breeze was perfectly successful at keeping the mosquitoes away, there happened to be a tennis court complete with showers and bathrooms right across from our spot on the beach, and the view of the sunrise was incredible. This beach stay was as successful as our last attempt had been miserable. Though…I did have very realistic dreams about getting swept off the beach by a tidal wave….
4.) A banana boat
One night on the Malaysian island of Langkawi, we had the brilliant idea of camping out on the beach. We had rented a car for a few days, so our belongings were safely locked away in a parking lot not far from the beach. The weather was beautifully warm and I began the night stretched out on the sand, looking up at the swaying palms and the stars under which they danced. I had romanticized the location quite a bit…but then…the sand started to feel hard.
What luck! A banana boat was stored on the beach. Much better….until the mosquitos started to bight.
We were quite tired the next day, bundled up in clothing so as not to leave any skin exposed for the mosquitoes. The part of my knee where a hole had torn in my jeans was covered with 64 bites (yes I counted.) I rose in the morning to catch a tourist taking a photo of Drew and I pathetically camped out on the banana boat.
Well…the idea of camping out on the beach seemed much less romantic.
3.) Sleeper buses…and dumpling shops
I was completely unprepared for what was in store when I boarded the sleepr-bus from Yangshuo to Hong Kong (via ShanZhen.) Firstly, I had no idea how many people could be crammed into a bus. Three rows to be exact. Three very narrow rows of people laid out on tiny cots, end to end in two different levels. I couldn’t imagine how, but somehow there was room for an aisle between the rows, but the aisle was hardly big enough for my backpack’s width. We were given cots all the way at the back of the bus where the aisles were replaced with..yes…more cots. Each cot was exactly the width and height of an average adult. The head of each cot was raised just enough so that the person behind could fit their feet in the space underneath. It was either genius or crazy: most likely a bit of both.
At five in the morning the bus driver stopped the bus to wake up the three Americans, Drew, our friend and myself, and shuffle us off the bus to catch the connecting bus that would finish the gap between ShenZhen and Hong Kong. We followed the bus driver’s instructions groggily and shuffled off the crowded bus where we waited for a woman he had called to meet us. This poor woman barely knew English and had gotten up at five in the morning just to escort a sleepy crew of American tourists. She led us into her dumpling shop which seemed to double as a ticket sales office. She pointed to a sign that said “7:30.” Then she pointed to the sofa behind her.
Using only gestures, she successfully communicated that we had two hours to spend in her not-yet-open dumpling shop until our next bus arrived.
The sleeper bus was comfortable enough…but the experience as a whole was not so much.
The sleeper train from Hangzho to GuiLin was actually much more comfortable than the hostel we staid at the very next night. In China, the beds tend to be very hard: more like box-frames. On the train however, they were quite comfortable. This is coming from a small person with not much to worry about in terms of space issues…
The view from the window the next morning is my favorite part of sleeper train experiences. Beautiful way to see the countryside.
The first time I evaded high hotel costs with a night spent in an airport lounge was the night before our 10 a.m. flight to HongKong from JFK in New York City. We had spent the day doing as much sight-seeing as we had energy for, burdened with backpacks and the chilly December air. Our ambitious goal had been to force our bodies into China-time. We were going to wander around our country’s most popular city ALL NIGHT, then spend our entire 16 hour flight catching up on sleep. This was our supposed recipe for a bright-eyed start to China.
Instead…we wore out quickly. The city was cold and our backpacks were heavy. The energy of the people around us did nothing but tire us more so we headed to the airport early. Our terminal closed for clean-up during the hours of 11:00 pm and 3:00 a.m., so we picked a random terminal to begin our rest. We slept a few hours between an outlet and a shiny metal recycling bin before waking up and moving to the other terminal to finish off our sleep on lounge chairs.
The next night was spent the same way in Hong Kong’s airport, waiting for a flight to Wuhan.
Lights stay bright. The temperature is cool. But no one bats an eye and there are almost always other travelers around doing the same.