Travelers' Tales

0905_truestories_elvisAfter all, Elvis is Le Roi

From our May issue: Readers share anecdotes about a traveling Elvis, a language mix-up at a Tokyo hostel, a mischievous bear in Costa Rica, and more.

This Month's Prize
Tulum, Mexico The best response we receive between May 10, 2009, and June 25, 2009, wins a three-night trip for two people to the Blue Tulum Resort & Spa. The prize includes lodging, $500 for airfare, one massage per person, and a car rental. Estimated value is $4,000. Subject to availability, nontransferable, and nonnegotiable. Valid July 1, 2009, to Dec. 16, 2009. For more info: 866/336-2213,

How to enter: E-mail us at or mail us at True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10018. The full guidelines are available online at

Trip Winner May's winner is Sandy Campbell of Deptford, N.J. Her prize is a five-night trip to Aruba, courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority and the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort Aruba.

I took my husband to see the spa on our cruise ship. The woman on duty there asked if I wanted a free wrap and massage. Since I was going to schedule one anyway, I said yes. She asked us to come back at 2 p.m. for a tour the spa was giving. We came back, and I followed her to a room for my treatment while my husband went on the tour. The woman put seaweed all over me and wrapped me in foil—and then she opened the doors for all to see! As I lay there, groups of eight to 10 people kept coming in to watch as she gave me scalp and foot massages and explained the cost of the treatments. I was mortified, and thank the Lord my husband didn't come in—he wouldn't have been able to contain himself. And the woman left the wrap on too long, so I had to see the ship's doctor for my burns.

After all, Elvis is Le Roi
On a trip to Paris, my daughter brought along an Elvis Presley figure. It belonged to a friend, who asked us to take photos of it with famous sights. We attracted a few stares at the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, holding tiny Elvis aloft to get the perspective right, but our best moment came at the Rodin Museum, at a replica of the famous sculpture The Thinker. While I fiddled with the camera, my daughter set the figurine down on the pedestal of the statue, which was apparently forbidden. A uniformed guard rushed over to see what crime we were committing, but when he saw the toy, he burst out laughing. "Ah, Elvees!" he exclaimed. "Ça va" ("That's OK"). Then he stood guard while we got our shot. Paula Markham, Blacksburg, Va.

What's "rude" in Japanese?
I called a Tokyo youth hostel to reserve a room. The woman who answered excitedly said, "Hi." That's a friendly way to answer the phone, I thought. "Hello, do you speak English?" I asked. "Hi," she said again. Surprised by the response, I asked again, "Do you speak English? I would like a room for tomorrow night." "Hi," she said. Becoming frustrated, I said, "Oh, never mind," and hung up. After reading a Japanese language guide, I realized that she was probably saying hai, the word for yes. She was telling me that she did speak English and did have a room. I arrived at the hostel nervous and without a reservation, but there was still a vacancy. Jill Farrell, Livermore, Calif.

Is it sexist to say "nice legs"?
My wife and I were touring Israel with an international women's group. On the bus we learned that we would visit a synagogue in Tiberias and that everyone would have to be dressed appropriately. Our guide looked at me and said, "No shorts, Roger!" Everyone heard, and one woman tossed me a colorful wrap. "I can't," I said. "Go ahead, try it on," she replied. As we were walking up to the synagogue, our guide said, "Roger, you need a hat." A woman from Atlanta offered me one—a little white number with a pink bow. Well, I had gone as far as the skirt, so why not? At least it fit me. But as I was approaching the entrance—women using one door and men another—I had a moment of hesitation about which door to go through! Roger Blakewell, Schofield, Wis.

It's amazing what chefs can do with foams these days
In 2006, my brother took our 92-year-old Sicilian-American father to Sicily. Dad has macular degeneration and extremely limited eyesight. They went into a restaurant to see if it looked like a good spot to have dinner, and my brother stopped to read a menu in a glass case on the wall. When Dad asked what he was doing, Phil answered that he was reading the menu to see if they should eat there. Then he looked over at Dad, who was leaning forward, also staring at something. Phil asked him what he was doing. He said he was reading the menu, too. "Dad," replied Phil, "that's the fire extinguisher." Rita Messina, Bothell, Wash.

There are gods for that?
My husband and I went to Phoenix in the summer. It was over 100 degrees, so we decided to buy some beer. At the store, we noticed that someone had left a half case of Corona on the median in the parking lot. We talked to the store manager, who told us to take the beer if we wanted it, so we did. On our evening walk, we realized that we had forgotten to get a lime for the beer. Just then, we noticed green fruit in and around the bushes we were passing—they were miniature lime trees teeming with ripe limes! We picked one up, took it back to our room, and enjoyed our beer with lime, feeling fully provided for by the beer gods. Lee Fenton, Shoreline, Wash.

She really deserves a tip
On our visit to Costa Rica's Proyecto Asis animal sanctuary, the owner asked my wife and me if we wanted a banana. The second I peeled one, a friendly kinkajou named Benjamin darted out of his cage and crawled all over me trying to get the fruit. I gave the banana to my wife, and Benjamin jumped over to her, apparently finding it comfortable when she leaned over so her back was a flat platform. The owner kept handing Benjamin fruit to eat on my wife. We didn't mind; we were just happy to meet such a cute creature. He left the peels on her back when he was done, but no tip. Mike Smith, Santa Fe, N.M.

Very busy, it seems
My husband and I were in a harbor in the Bahamas when we saw a small boat with several mattresses stacked in the back. Then we noticed the boat was named Gettin' Busy. We laughed so hard Kalik (the local beer) almost came out of our noses! Ashley Gobble, Oklahoma City, Okla.

The new eco hairdryer
Several years ago my sisters and I took a trip to France with our father, a Frenchman. He hadn't taught us to speak the language, so we relied on him to translate. One afternoon, he took a nap while my sisters and I got ready for the evening. My younger sister showered first, and as she dried her hair, the hairdryer blew out. My older sister called down to the front desk and tried to ask for a replacement. After 20 minutes, still no dryer. When my father woke up, my younger sister told him that our request for a hairdryer had been ignored, and she implied that the staff had refused our request because we were American. My father was very bothered by the matter and went to ask about it. A few minutes later he returned to our room with a hairdryer in hand and asked, "Which one of you geniuses ordered this?" My older sister said she had. He told her that instead of requesting a hairdryer (une sèche-cheveux), she had requested a hot goat (un chèvre chaud). Sandra Wolters, Atlanta, Ga.

We can't believe it either
My husband and I took a cruise to Cozumel, and on the last night, we put our luggage in the hall—everything but what we would need the next day. We awoke the following morning and began to dress. I had a three-piece outfit: pants, top, jacket. I pulled on my top; after looking for my pants, I realized that I didn't have them. What to do? The ship's gift shop was closed. I considered wrapping myself in a sheet, but how dumb would that be? Then it hit me. I held up my black jersey jacket and slowly put my legs in the sleeves. My husband gave me one of those "I can't believe it" looks, but it worked. After breakfast and socializing, we went to disembark. At that point, my jacket began to slip downward, but my husband found our luggage and got me my pants. A few minutes and a trip to the ladies' room later, I was dressed properly. Linda Sears, Winston-Salem, N.C.

A brand-new BFF?
While touring Cartagena last summer, we happened upon a local with an exotic pet: a sloth. Most of our family was repelled by the sight of this creature. The sloth had long, gangly limbs and big claws and moved with a creepy slowness. Before we could escape, the freaky creature reached for our animal-loving 8-year-old daughter, Julie. We were horrified when Julie welcomed it into her arms! The sloth was clearly well trained. It readily posed for a photo and then proceeded to hold her "ransom" so we would pay an exorbitant fee to its owner. After a bit of back-and-forth, we got it down to $5 and beat a hasty retreat. Catherine Bartz, Newport Beach, Calif.

That is so not tempting
We spent most of our time in China in a rural province, where we seemed to be the only Westerners. We ate the local fare, and it was delicious, but more often than not we didn't recognize most of what we were eating. After nearly two weeks of unusual and often unidentifiable food, we moved on to a larger city and checked in to a beautiful five-star Western-style hotel. Much to our surprise, the strangest food of our trip was listed in English on the hotel's enormous room-service menu: a dessert called Chocolate Puke. We passed, of course. Sarah Thornhill, Pawleys Island, S.C.

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