Solo Travel Nightmares

So, obviously all travel during this time is a no go.  I think it’s great how the country and the world has come together to understand that we’re all in this together and that the covid19 virus is just one of many hurdles we’ll have to clear as a society.  

I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not anywhere I want to be (even though I was in the midst of planning a trip to Spain before the pandemic) and that I don’t see myself going anywhere in the foreseeable future (at least in the next few months).  But I thought it would be fun (and hopefully amusing to you, the reader) if I relived a “holy sh*t that was awful” story from my solo travels over the years. At the very least, it gives me something to do and hopefully gives you some enjoyment.  


I remember arriving in Yangon was simple.  I had arranged for the hotel to pick me up from the airport (although overpriced, at least I know I’m not being screwed by a taxi).  It was humid and raining but since I was coming from Singapore, it wasn’t anything unusual. Actually, on the drive over to the hotel, it started dumping rain…as in biblical.  That may have influenced my decision later on.  

After checking in, I only had 2 options.  Either stay in the air conditioned room or go out in the rain and get something to eat.  Now at this time, it was probably around 5pm so it was still early but I also had to get up at 4:30am the next morning so I wasn’t too keen on a late night.  But being an adventurous eater and a lover of all things local, I had to go out and try the food…

As I walked around in the rain, I struggled to find something local.  Although I love eating street food, eating on the street in the pouring rain wasn’t my idea of nice.  I quickly found an ATM and was soon on my way to find a restaurant to at least get out of the rain and enjoy my food.  After about a 30 min stroll, I saw a restaurant that was not only popular, it also didn’t have any English on the menu.  I like to take a spin on the wheel of “point, smile, and nod” and see where it ends up.  If other people are eating it, it’s obviously not poison.  However this time…

I walked in and was greeted at the door and it quickly became apparent that I was supposed to pick and choose what I wanted as the staff cooked the food.  Now, remember how I said how it was humid? By this time, it was around 6:30pm and although it was dark outside, it was probably a good 85 degrees outside with humidity to match.  It was warm to say the least. 

Now I don’t know what possessed me to continue but it probably had some combination of my youth and stupidity.  As I was walking through the restaurant to pick my food, it was clearly evident that their idea of refrigeration for meat was a plate on ice and that they were impervious to the smell.  Most might find that a dead giveaway to leave…of course, I took it as a challenge.  

I proceeded to point at a few meats, veggies, and other unknowns on skewers and made my way back to my table.  I don’t know what I ordered but how bad could it be right?  

grilled stinky tofu

First up, the stinky tofu.  Now, I’ve had stinky tofu a few times in my travels.  It isn’t my favorite food in the world but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve eaten.  However, I’ve really only had it as a street food that’s deep fried at food stalls in Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur.  Never grilled. And the smell is usually masked by the fact that it’s deep fried. I mean c’mon, it’s deep fried. Can anything be bad when it’s deep fried?  

Well the stinky tofu arrived and….well, it certainly made itself known.  I mean the smell was so strong it could wilt flowers from a mile away. Ravens were circling, thinking there was a fresh kill.  Fish swimming near the surface just went belly up. It was awful and I could see and taste the smell. 

Did I eat it?  Of course I did.  At first, I could only take a bite.  But my rule is to taste everything twice (once to see if you like it, and the second to see if you’re really sure) so of course I tried it again.  It was just as bad the 2nd time as it was the first time.  

Mystery meat

Next came the meat. I had ordered some veg as well and ate that since I know it can’t be too bad and it’s mostly recognizable. Meat dishes on the other hand, can be anything….and when I travel, all meat is chicken. What is that on a skewer? Chicken. And what is that grilling? Chicken. How about this stuff in my soup? CHICKEN.

As I finished my meal, I felt content.  Not a OMG, I need to eat here again kind of way but it was ok.  I paid and walked back to my hotel knowing that I had a really early wake up the next day.  

By the time I got to the hotel and in bed, it was probably around 9:30pm.  I was tired, mentally exhausted, and excited for the following day (I was going to Bagan after all).  However, this was all short lived.  

Now I should preface the next part by saying this. I don’t know what actually made me ill. I just remember the stinky tofu because it left such an impression but I honestly have no clue if that’s what did me in or if it were something else.

Around 1am, I started feeling sick.  Not the “I have a stomach ache” sick but a 5 alarm “OH NO, SOMETHING IS TRYING TO EXIT MY BODY AND IT DOESN’T CARE HOW IT COMES OUT” kind of sick.  This “flu” was coming out both ends and it didn’t care. Either teeth were coming out of my butt or my ass was going to get jealous from all the sh*t that came out of my mouth.  Either way, it was throwing a coming out party and it was issuing a parade with confetti, floats, and a marching band. 

This continued for hours….I mean every time I tried to go back to sleep, I was back in the bathroom.  At some point, I thought about falling asleep in the bathroom but worried that if I died, the hotel staff would find me in a very embarrassing position.  Joking of course…sort of…

My wake up call wasn’t necessary since I was already up.  I was sick with whatever. The stomach flu wasn’t going away and I wasn’t going to beat it before my flight.  While sitting on the toilet with liquid jet fuel coming out one end while leaning over to the shower with battery acid coming out the other, I questioned my reason for being.  I wondered if I would make my flight. Ultimately, between symptoms, I decided it would be better to go to the airport and go to Bagan vs. stay in Yangon.  

I got to Yangon International airport around 6am and with my flight around 7:30am, I had some time to kill.  Thank goodness for that. I got through security in enough time and slowly made my way to the Priority Pass lounge.  I was just looking to find something to get some calories in me since everything I had eaten the night before was…unprocessed.  

I needed calories for energy so I thought I would try liquid calories.  I tried my luck at a soda. That didn’t work. Maybe an iced coffee? Nope.  Water? No. To be honest, the fact that I made it to the airport without stopping was a triumph. 

At this point, I decided to give up and made getting on my flight my priority.  I knew that my stay in Bagan would be better than being in Yangon so I made it my mission to get on my flight without drawing attention to myself.  When it was time to board, I was ready to go.  

Now here’s the thing with Myanmar and the local carriers.  The planes are these old school prop planes that’re actually really cool.  For obvious reasons, they don’t have the engines on while people are boarding but that also means there’s no electricity onboard until the engines turn.  

Pretty cool to fly but not when you’re feeling ill.

That said, it was already humid at 7:30am and I wasn’t feeling any better.  Sweat was pouring down my face as I tried to do whatever I could NOT to throw up.  You know those little bags for people who get air sick? Yeah, I was clutching one of those like a lifeline.  When it was time to depart, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated AC more.  

After a quick one hour flight, I was in Bagan and as soon as I checked in, I crashed on the bed.  Hard. I only woke up since the staff came around to offer turn down service and offered some fruit.  I had forgotten how hungry I was since I didn’t have anything to eat. I think I ended up ordering some room service.  It seemed like whatever I had was gone and my body had recovered. I was able to go out and about for the rest of my trip and felt fine.  

Well, hopefully that was a somewhat entertaining read.  It was certainly nostalgic to relive and fun to write. As we all learn from social distancing and working remotely, hopefully this was a small break in your daily life to give a mental vacation for a bit.  Let me know what you think and leave a comment!

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