Travelers' Tales

0904_truestoriesOn second thought, we'll take those Italian chips

From our April issue: Readers share anecdotes about a language mix-up in Puerto Vallarta, twitching food in Cambodia, no-star toilets in China, a curious monkey in Barbados, and more.

New Prize
The best response we receive between April 18, 2009, and May 10, 2009, wins a four-night trip for four people to the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in Coronado, Calif., courtesy of Loews. The prize includes one bay-view room, breakfast daily, and activities like dive-in movies and bay-side marshmallow roasts. For more info: 800/815-6397,

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

Trip Winner April's winner is Jim Barnett of Brookhaven, Miss. His prize is two nights in Puerto Rico for two people, plus dinner and a spa treatment, courtesy of Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa.

Two friends and I decided to drive from Dallas to check out a lake in Mexico that was known for its bass. After crossing the border in the dark, we got quite lost, and as we were driving through a village, a policeman stopped us. Realizing that none of us spoke Spanish, he had me, the driver, walk with him about two blocks to the jail. When he got out the keys and opened a cell, I thought, This is it. Imagine my surprise when a prisoner came out and said, "May I help you?" The policeman temporarily released the man so he could help us get to the lake. The prisoner—who said he had been locked up after a car accident even though he was innocent—joined us for two great days of fishing and good food. Then we returned him to custody. Viva Mexico!

A nice clear lip gloss might be a better look for him
During our 10th-anniversary trip to Ubud, Bali, the staff at our villa offered to photograph me and my husband in traditional Balinese wedding attire. On a sweltering afternoon, I allowed myself to be slathered in heavy makeup and wrapped in yards of sarongs and sashes. For a plus-size woman, this was no easy feat, and the attendants used dozens of safety pins to keep everything in place. My extremely introverted husband was mortified when they beckoned for him. It took plenty of coaxing, but he finally relented. Erin Tapken, Marion, Iowa

Are neck skirts the new look?
After visiting London, I flew to Florence to study abroad. I checked two large bags and was left with my purse and a carry-on. At security, I was told my carry-on was too big and that I couldn't bring it. I was about to miss my flight, so I had to think fast. I stepped out of line, opened the bag, and put on every last article of clothing—four shirts, two sweaters, two jackets, and finally two skirts, which I draped around my neck. To pass through the metal detector, I had to take off my shoes, jackets, sweaters, and neck skirts...and then put them all back on again. But it worked! Hannah Welch, Los Angeles, Calif.

At least he was listening While on vacation at a resort, my husband and I went to the buffet for lunch. After making my choices, I sat down and resumed our conversation where I had left off. I finally looked up from my plate, only to realize that the man at the table was not my husband! My companion was staring at me, dumbfounded, and then we both burst out laughing. As for my husband, he had been sitting one table over, watching the whole thing. For the rest of the week, every time the man saw me, he waved and called out, "Hi, honey!" Grace Kapelanski, Palos Park, Ill.

Maybe start with a teacup I traveled to Malawi to visit a friend. Her village was remote, and we had to haul water from the village well to her house. I usually spilled half of mine en route and was amazed by how gracefully the local women and girls carried the bucket without spilling a drop. They made it look so effortless that I decided to try their method. I started by practicing with an empty bucket. Once I got to the well, I filled my container half full before hefting it. All eyes were on me, but I made it just a few steps before giving up. In the end, I had to ask a girl half my age to carry my bucket for me. Sarah Ruttan, Tucson, Ariz.

And we always thought one star was the lowest My family traveled through China, and instead of booking fancy hotels, we wanted to stay in smaller, more authentic places in the oldest parts of each town. All of our many guides, however, were star-minded, proudly pointing out every five-star hotel that we passed along the way. On the road to Lijiang, our guide and our driver conferred and selected a restaurant for lunch. It was a great meal. Afterward, we asked about the bathrooms. The guide went to check with the owners and came back to tell us, "Toilets are no star." He certainly was right about that: The so-called toilets were just open trenches next to the pigsty. Judith Capen, Washington, D.C.

The adult chips are kept behind the register While in Sardinia, Italy, I intended to immerse myself in the culture by sampling the local food and wine and exploring the island. I was quite surprised when the general store next to a Sardinian history museum prominently featured a shelf loaded with this particular delicacy. Summer Brown, Blacksburg, Va.

This time, you can't really blame the monkey Visiting the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, we were charmed by how close you could get to the animals at feeding time. The green monkeys are wild and roam the island freely. They tend to come to the reserve to get snacks from the tourists. One sat on a bench next to my friend Carol, and she proceeded to show it things—her purse, her keys, her glasses. Each time she offered something to our new friend, he'd reach a paw out to investigate, but Carol always pulled the item back. At last, the monkey had enough of Carol's teasing; it decided to show her something and gave her a bite on the bum! Kathy Noll, Reading, Pa.

Easiest mistake in the world My wife and I were in Puerto Vallarta at an open-air market that had a greeter, much like our Wal-Mart back home does. He smiled and welcomed us in Spanish. Using my best high-school Spanish, I responded, and asked, "What time do you close?" The greeter's smile vanished, and he stepped back slowly and then ran away. While my wife and I tried to figure out what went wrong, the greeter returned with a machine-gun-toting policeman, who asked me in English, "What is your problem, señor?" I told him I had asked what time the market closed and repeated what I had said in Spanish. The policeman laughed and explained, "You did not say, 'What time do you close?' You asked, 'What time do you want to die?'" Needless to say, I stuck with English from that point on. Harold Cole, Johnson City, Tenn.

Try checking under the horse I took a carriage ride in Egypt arranged by my guide, who paid the tip in advance. My driver told me that his horse was pregnant. She didn't look pregnant, but what do I know about pregnant horses? He also talked about the cost of sending his son, who was in the carriage with us, to school. After all that, of course, I gave him a second tip. When I told my guide about the day, he laughed and said, "I know your driver very well. His horse is male, and he has no children." That day I was taken for two rides. Jane Rosenberg, Houston, Tex.

Souvenirs of what, exactly? While traveling in China and Tibet with a group of older couples, we stayed at a hotel in Lhasa. In the bathrooms we found condoms in decorative wrappers with a sign saying that they were 25¢ each. After a three-day stay, our group was on the bus ready to leave when the manager came running out and asked who had stayed in No. 207. Bill and Barbara held up their hands, at which point the manager said loudly, "You used the condoms and didn't pay for them!" There was a roar of laughter and two very red faces. Barbara had taken the condoms as souvenirs. Leonard E. Snyder, Flat Rock, N.C.

On second thought, we'll take those Italian chips By my third tour of Cambodia, I thought I had seen the world's weirdest foods, like deep-fried spiders and "thousand-year-old" duck eggs, which are buried for months until the yolk is green. But I was not prepared when a woman approached me in Kompong Cham with a tray of snakes. I had my choice of boiled or deep-fried. I've eaten some strange things, but I just couldn't bring myself to try those creatures—some were still twitching! Adam Lempel, Chesterfield, N.H.

Try bungee jumping again? In New Zealand, I had the opportunity to bungee jump at the famous Kawarau Bridge, and I really wanted to do it. Just one drawback: I wear dentures. I asked the busload of strangers I was touring with if anyone had denture adhesive. A Scottish lady loaned me hers. I ran to the bathroom, applied the cream, and hurried out. But my new friend sent me back for "a wee bit more—just to be sure," she said. Well, I jumped and survived. Three days later, I had to stand up on the bus and ask if anyone had any idea how I could get the stupid teeth out of my mouth. Bonnie Poynor, Hickman, Ky.

Is husband swapping a new trend out there? My husband, Jason, and I were in Key Largo, Fla., and went snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. After a few minutes, I saw a beautiful blue fish. I grabbed Jason's hand so I could bring him to see it, but he swam in the other direction. I followed him, locked my fingers in his, and started pulling him toward my favorite fish. I heard a "mmm mmm" sound under the water. Jason pulled his hand away and shook his head. I stared into his mask and realized that it wasn't my husband—just another snorkeler wearing a similar swimsuit! My husband still reminds me about the time I tried to pick up a guy underwater. Eileen O'Neill, San Francisco, Calif.

It's not like you met there Before my husband and I were married, we took a trip to Turkey. On a very hot day in August, we arrived at the ancient city of Ephesus. I wanted a guided tour, but my then boyfriend had a hidden agenda and insisted we venture through the city by ourselves. After a couple of hours, he took my hand and led me to a building that our map identified as the House of Love. We went inside, just the two of us, and he got down on one knee and proposed. I said yes, and on our way out we bought books about the history of Ephesus. Back home, when we finally looked through the guides, we learned that our House of Love was so named because it had originally been a brothel. Kathleen Eren, Indianapolis, Ind.

But you just wasted 35¢ After traveling from Virginia to visit our daughter in Chiang Mai, Thailand, my wife and I were quite fatigued. We had dinner with her but were soon ready to go to the hotel. During negotiations for the price of a ride, she wanted to show us that she was a resident who would not be taken advantage of. We waited patiently as she waved down a songthaew (taxi) three times, bargained with each driver, and then sent each one away. I asked what the problem was, and she told me that they were trying to take advantage of us. They wanted to charge us 30 baht ($1 back then) each. She was able to get them down to 15 baht, but locals generally only pay 10 baht. She was determined to get us a ride for that price. Needless to say, we put an end to the negotiations and hopped in the next songthaew that came along. Thomas G. Ryon, Warrenton, Va.

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