Travelers' Tales

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From our October issue: a sticky encounter on a hike in Vietnam, an Obamamobile in Uganda, a language mix-up in France, and more.

Next Prize:

IcelandThe best response we receive between Oct. 1, 2009, and Nov. 1, 2009, wins a two-night trip to Iceland for two—with economy flights from an Icelandair gateway, hotel, transfers, and tours—courtesy of Icelandair, Icelandair Hotels, Flybus, Reykjavík Excursions, Ishestar Riding Tours, and Blue Lagoon. For more info: 800/223-5500, icelandair.us.

How to enter: E-mail us at TrueStories@BudgetTravel.com or mail us at True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 7th Ave., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10018. Full guidelines: BudgetTravel.com/truestories.

Trip Winner October's winner is Marilyn Ackerman of Grand Junction, Colo. She won a three-night trip for two to Tulum, Mexico, courtesy of the Blue Tulum Resort & Spa.

Purple is the new brown
My mother wanted to have her hair done during our three-week stay on Caye Caulker, Belize. One of the locals styled hair out of her home, so my mother went to her and asked to have her hair cut and dyed. They decided that my mother might look good with a little bit of a tint in her medium-brown hair. Instead she ended up with bright-purple hair! She had a good laugh about it, and her purple hair was a great conversation starter for the rest of the trip.

Eww. Just eww.
Two friends and I went on a hike in Vietnam. When Neetu noticed a worm on her finger that she couldn't get off, our guide, Nam, pulled it off and told us it was a leech. Then Blakely screamed. She had leeches all over! We made it to our village, where there was an outdoor shower; we stripped to our underwear, and Nam searched us. Then we ran half naked to the house where we were staying. When the family saw us, their mouths dropped at the sight of three half-naked women with blood running down their legs. Karen Basu, New York, N.Y.

This dog had its day
While on St. John, U.S.V.I., my friends invited another friend to join us on a boat trip. She had a dog that we never had met, and she asked if she could bring it. We said that wouldn't be a good idea, but as we pulled the dinghy to shore to pick her up, a dog jumped in. We didn't say anything but thought it was rude that she had disregarded our wishes. We had a great day sailing, and the dog was well behaved. At the end of the day as we were reboarding the dinghy—the dog jumped right in again—my friend asked, "Whose dog is that?" We laughed and said, "We thought it was yours!" The dog then scurried off the dinghy and disappeared. Annie Caswell, Burlington, Vt.

Might want to practice your French
During a recent cruise, our ship docked at Villefranche, and my friend and I decided to take the train into Nice. After several attempts at using the ticket machine with our rusty high school French, we managed to buy tickets. More passengers from the ship arrived at the station and experienced the same frustration with the machine, so we helped them through the process. Once we were on the train, we learned that we had helped about 25 people purchase children's tickets. Oops! Even worse, because we had been helping the others, we were the last to board, and the only seats left faced the bathroom. During the beautiful ride along the coast, all we could see was the bath­room door. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess. Carole Stacy, Okemos, Mich.

Va va voom!
When I was a 30-year-old bachelor, I did a solo road trip in British Columbia in search of adventure, excitement, and romance. By the final night, which I spent at a bar in Vancouver, I had found plenty of the first two but very little of the last. Crowded around the next table was a group of Germans—two middle-aged couples and a tiny lady in her late 70s. I motioned for them to take my extra chair, but instead they sat grandma down across from me. She talked to me in German, and I smiled and nodded. When I was ready to go, I bowed my head graciously toward my table guest. Her companions stood up and each gave me an unexpected hug, until it was grandma's turn. She grabbed me by the shirt, pulled me down close, and gave me a long kiss...not on the cheek. Adventure, excitement—and romance! Craig Ives, Los Angeles, Calif.

We'd cower too, you brute
I was at Disney World with my boyfriend and his parents, and during Extra Magic Hours one evening we decided to go straight for Pirates of the Caribbean. I was determined to be the first in line, and there were a lot of people coming up behind me. As we made our way to the entrance, out of the corner of my eye I saw something pointy coming towards me. I reacted on instinct...little did I know that it was merely one of the cast members dressed as a pirate! I didn't mean to push him so hard that he fell over. After the ride, the poor pirate cowered when he saw me coming. Katy Van Every, Alexandria, Va.

Now that's hospitality
My husband and I took our sons to Europe to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Our first stop was Lamía, Greece. While we were still a block or so away from our hotel, we noticed a flurry of activity. The park in front of the hotel had been transformed into an arena, with huge speakers on either side of a stage, and there were television cameras and people everywhere. We thought they were going to have a concert, and all we wanted to do was sleep! We asked the hotel manager what all the commotion was about. He told us that elections were a week away and that the prime minister was coming to speak. Despite how exhausted we were, we couldn't pass up the party. Afterwards, my youngest son said, "Wow, Mom, you really know how to plan a vacation!" Mini Irwin, Durango, Colo.

Guess who's coming to lunch
We recently took a sailing cruise in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand and visited many deserted islands. One day, we were having a beach barbecue when some six-foot-long monitor lizards crawled out of the bushes. They scattered our plates and cans in their search for food. A slap of a tail was strong enough to bruise my husband's leg. A friend got a kiss on her bare back from a long, black, forked tongue! Needless to say, we kept a lookout for critters on each island after that. Ann Corless, Green Valley, Ariz.

We'll take a side order of health care with that
I traveled to Kampala, Uganda, shortly after our most recent presidential election, and I was amazed at how much Ugandans adored our new president. I saw key chains, flags, and T-shirts with Barack Obama's image, and I was frequently asked to say hi to the president on my return home. By far the most amusing Obama image I found was on the side of a fast-food delivery van. Ania Kujawska, Madison Heights, Mich.

Gives new meaning to the term "taken to the cleaners"
Studying in a rural Tuscan town and living in an ancient monastery can be rough for many reasons, one of which is that you have to wash your clothes by hand. After weeks of sore wrists, two friends and I decided to lug our backpacks for an hour to a train and travel to Arezzo in search of a laundromat. We found the fabled American-style laundry after hours of bad directions and language-barrier mishaps, only to realize we didn't have soap and all the stores were closed for the afternoon break. After the stores opened, we spent $12 on what turned out to be fabric softener, not detergent, and $35 on multiple loads in tiny, overpriced washers and dryers. We ran through the city lugging not-so-clean clothes and jumped on the last train back. It took 10 minutes for us to realize we were on the wrong train. After being yelled at by the agent (causing my friend to cry), paying a fine (causing me to cry), and buying new train tickets, we got back home near midnight, starving, each with about $230 less in our pockets. We went back to washing things by hand. Leigh Henderson, Fort Worth, Tex.

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