Disclaimer: This post is chock-full of whining, complaining, whinging, and all that good stuff. Wanna make something of it?
We here at Yeti are great proponents of the ‘plans-kill-our-spontaneous-travel-buzz’ mentality. We don’t own a guidebook, try not to google the shizz out of everywhere we go, hardly ever book a place online, use local transport, and steer clear of tours, if at all possible. We’re also stubbornly stingy, and will go to great lengths to save a dollar/ringet/baht/riel or two.
This usually works pretty well for us. On our way to Langkawi, we forewent (forego-ed?) the easy, but slightly pricey, ferry straight from our hostel in Georgetown, instead taking two ferries, two taxis, and one bus, and saving ourselves around 20RM ($7) each, at the cost of 4 more hours. A success in our books, if not in many others’!
In Korea, we never-ever-ever booked accommodation (having a website seems to correlate pretty closely with charging a buttload there) and always found great, super cheap minbaks* close to whatever beach/river/city we were visiting.
However, a couple of recent incidents have kind of kicked our spontaneous, stingy arses, reminding us that sometimes our style of traveling just plain sucks.
Case Study 1: Melbourne, January 2013
On our way from New Zealand to Malaysia, we were lucky enough to spend a few days couchsurfing in Melbourne. Our flight got in too late for most public transport, so instead of heading to our hosts’ place (a little way out of the city), we planned to crash at a hostel for the night. Ahi had visited Melbourne before, and remembered there being a bunch of sweet hostels scattered around the city center. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Right?
Wrong. Wrongwrongwrong. What we failed to realize is that late January, 2013 was actually a pretty frickin’ popular time to be in Melbourne, what with the frickin’ Australian Open on and all. D’oh.Yes, people actually care about tennis. Who knew? We strode (then walked, downright trudged) all over the city center, in search of a bed. Or, as the night went on, a couch. A floor, even.
After over three hours of pleading, bargaining, then all out begging hostel owners to let us crash in a corner, we admitted defeat. Every single room in Melbourne was full, with the exception of one suite in The Hilton – or something – at the low, low price of $290/night.
We, as anyone in our position would (right?), found a mini-mart with an adjoining internet cafe and paid $15 each for a ‘day pass’. I pulled a couple of chairs together and stretched precariously between them. Ahimsa slumped head-down onto the desk and passed the hell out.
The moral of the story: Check for major sporting events or other large people draws before deciding to ‘wing it’, accommodation wise.
Case Study 2: Melaka, February 2013 This one was less about lack of planning, and more about plain old stubbornness. We bused from Tanah Rata to Melaka (with a stop in Kuala Lumpur) on February 9th. Or, as we kind of failed to take into account when planning our transportation, the first day of Chinese New Year.
Our bus from Tanah Rata was a full 4 hours late. 4 hours. Now, I don’t want to sound like too much of a Cranky McComplainsalot, but, just to make our wait a little more frustrating, the bus manager (who, as it turns out, knew full well when the bus was going to arrive) kept assuring us that ‘It’s coming! Maybe half hour!’ making it impossible to actually, y’know, go and do something.
Anyway, the point is, we arrived in Melaka at around 10pm– a fair chunk later than we expected. Too late for local buses. A taxi approached us as soon as we stepped off the bus, quoting us 30MYR ($10USD) to take us to our hostel. ‘$10?!’ we said. ‘Ridiculous!’ we scoffed. (That might not sound like much, but keep in mind that we could each eat large dinners, twice, for less than 30 ringgit. Spending power wise, this was the equivalent of a 50-70 dollar taxi.) We knew the hostel was only about 3km away and had a vague (uh, very vague) idea of how to walk there, so we, as we are wont to do, set off walking.
Like I said, our idea of how to get to our hostel was, at best, a little foggy. We headed to a nearby supermarket with the hopes of google-mapping on their wifi. No luck.
With no real idea of which direction to head in, we, as anyone in our position would (right?), walked in the direction with the most lights, stopping a couple of times to ask for directions. Every local we asked simply shook their head, wrung their hands, and replied with something along the lines of ‘Oh, no! Too far. Cannot walk.’
We did convince a couple of people to point us in the general direction (towards the lights!) though, and after a couple of hours, and a number of wrong turns, we arrived on the doorstep of our hostel, Lavender Guest House. We’d booked a room (!) and checked that they had a 24hr reception (check us out, all organised and stuff) so we knew without a doubt that we wouldn’t have a problem checking in.
We had a problem checking in.
We were greeted by a lovely, old Frenchman, who informed us that the desk dude had stepped out for a moment or two. No worries, we thought, mighty happy to have magazines to read and couches to sit on. At 1am, after an hour or so of waiting, desk dude showed up. We strode up to the desk, gave him my name, and smiled proudly and expectantly. He grimaced.
‘Uh, you are late, so I rented out your room…’
What the shit, bro?
‘There is one more room available….’
Sweet! We’ll take it!
‘…but the lock is broken, so I can’t actually get inside.’
Oh. I can see how that would be a slight problem.
I don’t think we were even surprised at this point. We just sort of looked at him helplessly, while he shuffled papers and murmured to himself. Eventually he said we could take two single rooms. We said we’d take one. He, I assume out of exasperation, agreed to let us share. And that’s how we ended up tired and a little cranky in a wee 25MYR ($8.30USD) room in Melaka. The end (cue sighs of relief- both mine and yours).
Moral of the story: Sometimes you should just man up and fork out $10 for a frickin’ taxi.
So, in conclusion, we love traveling. We love making it up as we go. But not always. Sometimes it sucks.