Travelers' Tales

Everyone has a type

From our April issue: Readers share anecdotes about cruising Santas, intrepid iguanas, and an innovative way to fill that photo album.

New Prize: All-inclusive Panama
The best response that we receive between April 19, 2008, and May 13, 2008, wins a five-night trip for two to Panama from Tara Tours. The prize includes round-trip airfare from Miami to Panama City, five nights at the all-inclusive Royal Decameron Beach Resort, Golf, Spa & Casino, airport transfers, all meals and beverages, nonmotorized water sports, gratuities, and more. For more information on Tara Tours: 800/327-0080,

How to enter
E-mail us at or mail us at True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10018. For a complete rundown of the contest guidelines, please see

This month's winner!
This month's winner is Kathy Orr of Edgewater, Md. Her prize: 10 $200 gift certificates from

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, my husband and I went to Egypt with my brother (right) and his wife. While docked after a boat ride on the Nile, we saw a man thrashing around in the water. "He's teaching himself to swim," said our captain, but it quickly became clear that the man was drowning. My brother dove in and managed to find the man in the murky river. Some locals hauled the man into a nearby boat. He wasn't breathing, so my brother and my husband instructed them to turn the man over to make him expel the water--sure enough, he coughed it up and began breathing. If my brother hadn't been so quick, the man would've died, and no one ever would've known what had happened.

You won't find that kind of service on Air Bigfoot
Before going to Nepal, I frequently ate at my local Nepalese restaurant to get acclimated to the food. One server gave me a business card and wrote on it the name of his brother-in-law, a Yeti Airlines pilot. "Look for him!" he said. I never thought I'd actually see the man--my flight from Kathmandu to Biratnagar was on Buddha Air--but a change in plans found me boarding a Yeti plane. When the pilot welcomed everyone and said his name, I checked the card. It was him! I notified the flight attendant. The pilot invited me into the cockpit, and he let me sit in the jump seat. He even deviated from the flight plan to give me an amazing sunset view of Mount Everest and the Himalayas. Angie Key, Hummelstown, Pa.

Just tell everyone that it's in honor of Britney Spears
I flew 29 hours from Boston to Bangkok without getting a wink of sleep. Upon arriving at my hotel, I climbed into the shower and washed my hair so I could finally go to bed. In the interest of saving some time, I decided to multitask and began shaving my legs while waiting for my hair conditioner to take effect. In my delirious state, however, I forgot to set the razor down before rinsing my hair. Only after I had taken several swipes at my scalp did I realize in horror what I was doing. Needless to say, my first purchase in Thailand was a big straw hat. Jessica Wellar, San Francisco, Calif.

And even that's worth more than the U.S. dollar
In the Swiss Alps, when I took my change from a tollbooth counter, the clerk looked at me strangely. Much later, I realized it was a magnet, not a coin. Then it hit me: I had swiped the magnet that holds down money on windy days. Lynda Scheifele-Jones, Celina, Tex.

Welcome to Café Trichinosis
I couldn't wait to try authentic tapas while in Spain, so I was excited when my brother and I found a cute little restaurant. The various choices included cho­rizo, stuffed mushrooms, and shrimp. Since neither of us could speak Spanish, we pointed to what we wanted, and the waiter set full plates in front of us. Everything was raw, but the waiter didn't seem to be returning, so we dug in. A few minutes later, our waiter returned, bursting with laughter. He whisked our plates away, made a "loco" sign with his hand, and slid our food onto the grill near the bar. Eventually, he brought new plates of food and even let us sample a few we hadn't ordered. Everything tasted much better once it was cooked. Lindsay Mandeville, Atlanta, Ga.

"So I knocked on their door and complimented them"
Along the shoreline near Belfast, Maine, I came across a sign stating that the fields were covered in Taraxacum, the wood­lands were infested with Lycopodium clavatum, and that people without protective clothing would be exposed to radiation. Curious, I took a picture and Googled the terms--they were warning against dandelions, ground pine, and the sun. It was a clever ruse to discourage trespassers. Nancy Goslin, Midlothian, Va.

Everyone has a type
My husband and I spotted a man with a white beard and a round stomach when we boarded the Caribbean Princess. He was the spitting image of Santa Claus. A few moments later, we saw another Santa-shaped fellow sporting a beard. We then entered an elevator, and yet another Santa-esque man joined us. I jokingly asked my husband if there was a convention on board, and the man said there was! The International University of Santa Claus was hosting a seminar at sea. Children on the ship were told that 31 of the 32 Santas were helpers and only one was the real deal. We never did find out which one he was, but I spent all week searching. Joanne Raffel, Newark, Del.

"Don't waste your time. It's totally cracked"
When my husband and I arrived in Boston, we headed to a visitors center to ask about local attractions. We arrived to find a commotion. "Please say that one more time, sir," said the woman running the booth to a visitor. "I'm not sure everyone in the room heard you." So the man asked loudly, "How do I get to the Liberty Bell?" Lisa Lobdell, High Point, N.C.

The Boots: a Japanese horror film to be remade in the U.S. with Sarah Michelle Gellar
I frequently travel to Japan on business, and I bring older pieces of clothing and discard them along the way. On one trip, I got rid of a pair of steel-toed shoes in my hotel room's wastebasket. A month later, I was back at the same hotel. A young lady knocked on the door and handed me a package. It contained my old boots, shined to perfection. At the end of my stay, I ditched them again--but this time in a wastebasket at the train station. Don Haller, Douglasville, Ga.

Leave the minibar door ajar and no one will get hurt
While at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, I left my purse on the floor when I went to sleep. The next morning, it was surrounded by silver flecks. Then I saw two holes in the purse and remembered that I'd put Hershey's Kisses in the pocket. Something chewed through the fabric and ate the chocolate! Freaked out, I called the manager. "Probably mice," he said matter-of-factly. I got a new room, and I made sure to hang up my purse before I went to bed. Susan Cave, Louisa, Va.

A quick rake, and you'll be ready to hit the road
After waking up to catch a 7 a.m. flight, my wife, Linda, was dismayed to find that her hairdryer was broken--and she had just washed her hair. She didn't want to risk looking like a wet poodle, and she remembered that a day earlier I had been blowing off the sidewalk with my electric leaf blower, so she had me fetch it. Back in the house, I held the leaf blower at head level while she combed and dried her hair. John Toles, Sycamore, Ill.

This little piggy got eaten by an iguana in Aruba
I loved feeding the iguanas in Aruba, so after my boyfriend settled into his lounge chair, I sneaked away to get a snack for my dear friends. When I returned, I surrounded his chair with food as people nearby watched and laughed. At least 15 iguanas were soon scurrying around him. Rhoda Chan, Hanover Park, Ill.

Finders posers!
In Grenada, I left my camera in a cab. Fortunately, my driver had given me his card, so I called to ask if he'd found it--and he had. But when I developed the film, I noticed pictures that weren't mine. The driver's kids (I assume) had played with my camera and taken pictures of each other. I got a peek at a Grenadan home, an unforgettable story from my trip, and some special additions to my photo album. Meredith Peruzzi, Vienna, Va.

Prize Report
Steve Hall won a seven-night stay at the all-inclusive Riu Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for his story about dressing up as the cast of Gilligan's Island on a cruise. "Everything was flawless," says Steve. "The boys enjoyed building sand castles, while my wife and I appreciated the wonderful service, including the daily restocking of our minibar! We really had a fabulous week."

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