It’s a fact I’ve been avoiding for over a month now. All good things do come to an end, and my trip was no exception to this rule. I’m already back on U.S. soil, hoping to find some luck in Texas after a few weeks spent at home with friends and family. I would love to tell you that my trip went out in a blaze of glory, but the truth is anything but that. It ended the way a lot of my trips end… with a streak of bad luck.
My parents always joke that I’m the most doomed traveler alive, and I guess they’re probably right, but that almost makes me love travel even more. It might sound strange, but I like that it always challenges me and teaches me something new about both life and myself, even if I didn’t want to learn these things in the first place. I face it all with a pretty good sense of humor, and while I’m not always satisfied with the end, like in the story I’m going to be telling you in a moment, I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. I know it sounds cliché, but what other reasoning can we give to those events and moment that end something in a way very different from the way we imagined? And thus I bring you to the end of my adventure in SE Asia.
It all began with a flight. I found myself taking a quick journey to Malaysia and saying goodbye to Vietnam for the foreseeable future. I wasn’t thrilled to be leaving, as I really did love Vietnam, but my visa was expiring and my trip needed to keep propelling me forward. Since flights can never be simple or cheap, I found myself with a few day layover in Kuala Lumpur while I waited for my flight to Indonesia to materialize out of thin air. So what does a person do in Kuala Lumpur for 3 days? They eat a cheeseburger without mayonnaise at McDonald’s (Judge if you must but I needed a burger), devour copious amounts of Indian food, and see a few sights while not sleeping off the remnants of that cold they’ve been rocking for a good week… or at least that’s what I did.
When I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I took the time to take the 4 photographs above, among other less impressive photos I’ve erased from my memory, and did a fair bit of walking thanks to the lazy cab drivers who refused to drive me to the other side of town. When the day came for me to leave, I was both relieved and excited to be heading to Indonesia.
I had finally arrived in Jakarta, and took the lengthy cab ride into the backpacking section to search for a hostel to call home for the next week. I had big plans for Indonesia, but since it was already afternoon, my first order of business was to find someplace to eat. I spent a rather tame night in, thanks to the lack of people in my hostel, so I finally found the time to pull out my guide-book and began planning the Indonesian adventure that was upon me. I probably should have done this already, but the truth is I wasn’t sure my budget would hold out long enough for me to make it here.
By the time I went to bed I had a loose plan in the works and was looking forward to a little time in Jakarta before slowly making my way to Bali. Since I had been up late planning, I woke up equally late to the sound of the afternoon prayer call at the Mosque a few blocks over. There was a speaker down the street and as the eerie yet beautiful sound made its way to my room, I couldn’t wait to get out and do a little exploring. After some lunch, I mostly wandered in random directions within a 6 block radius of the hostel and got a good feel for the surrounding area.
The next morning I woke up and went off in search of one of the 3 Dunkin Donuts within walking distance. I know it’s not very touristy, but I was craving a hazelnut coffee so badly I could hardly stand it. This is probably the moment everything began to go wrong. I stopped at an atm, ordered my coffee, and made my way back towards the hostel to grab my camera and pay for my room before heading out again. About the time I opened my wallet to pay, I noticed that my credit card was missing. I checked everywhere in vain to find it, but it was gone. Since I had stopped at a random atm nowhere near the Dunkin Donuts, I knew it was pointless to go back and search for it, since I wasn’t even sure where it was in the first place.
The hostel owner tried in vain to calm me down as I essentially had a panic attack along with the realization that the only money I had was in my wallet, and it was barely enough to feed me for a few days. He offered to lend me his phone, but since Indonesia has banned international calling from landlines (was there ever a worse idea?), he sent me down the road to an internet cafe where I was supposed to be able to call. I couldn’t. Luckily the lady working the front desk was willing to lend me her cell phone as long as I paid to add the minutes I needed onto it.
After finding no other alternative, I agreed and paid what is probably the equivalent to 1 US dollar to insure I could call my credit card company and shut the card off. Next I had to call my debit card company and beg them to allow me to use the card to take money out of an atm nearby. The lady I talked to was so unwilling to help me out, because it was against company policy, but the moment I started crying and thanking her for stranding me in a foreign country with no way to pay for food or accommodation, she miraculously changed her mind.
So now I had money, but I was facing another problem. I needed to bump up the date of my flight, and would have to convince my non-international credit card company to allow me to use it to do so. It took me 3 days to accomplish all of this, and I have to say that it’s a miracle what tears can get done from you. I had to make a payment in order to accomplish my goal, which I did… but then it took 2 days for it to be processed, leaving me eating chips and ramen noodles like a broke college kid sitting in a college dorm room. By the time the payment finally went through I had talked to everyone from the customer care representative who answered the phone to the manager on duty before the answer once again miraculously changed from our hands are tied to I’ve authorized your account and you’re free to add more charges.
It was noon and I had just over 2 hours to make the payment, pack my bag, and make the 1 hour and 20 minute drive out-of-town to the airport. Somehow I made it, and the hostel owner waived my daily fee out of a gesture of kindness. I found myself back in Bangkok with a few days to spare before my flight home, with very little money in my pocket and a desperate need to find a place to stay. There was a long line at the taxi counter and with outrageous prices, not to mention crooked drivers, I was soon sharing a cab with a couple taking a weekend trip to Thailand from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur… I can’t remember. I shared my story with them on the ride, and when we arrived at Khao San Road, they wouldn’t let me pay for my part. I thanked them wholeheartedly and found a place to stay. Since I was broke, I spent a lot of time in my room not spending money.
On my last day I went out to find something to eat and ran into a wonderful girl named Neviin who asked me directions to something nearby. We spent the afternoon browsing in the streets nearby and picked up a guy named Andrew while chatting with a group of people over beers. We spent a while drinking, before grabbing some dinner and continuing our shopping spree. Khao San Road was coming alive and I was packed and waiting for my taxi to rush me towards the flight that would take me home.
My last act as a backpacker was to try a scorpion on a stick. The next 36 hours would involve multiples planes, airports, and an endless array of movies keeping my occupied from my fixed position in a tiny seat. Luckily the audio on my theater system worked this time around. I was on my way home, and I wasn’t sure I was happy about it.