Travelers' Tales


From our February issue: an extra-tall tale in Tokyo, getting revenge on a piranha in Ecuador, one way to score your own hot tub, and more.

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Moral: Don't fish for piranhas
January's winner was Julie Akey of Honolulu, Hawaii. She won a 10-night trip for two in Vietnam, courtesy of Intrepid Travel. Her story: Last summer, my family spent four days in Ecuador's Huaorani territory, by a tributary of the Amazon River. One day, our guide took us to a lagoon to fish for piranhas using chunks of bloody beef. I caught the first one. After reeling it in, I excitedly reached down to take the hook out. Suddenly, the fish jumped up and chomped down on two of my fingers! Thankfully, I didn't need any stitches. And I got my revenge by eating the piranha for dinner that night.

An extra-tall tale
As a 6'8" man, I always grill hotel clerks about the specifics of a room. Will the bed end at my knees? Will a low ceiling fan give me a haircut? Everything checked out on a trip to Tokyo. One ryokan owner even gave me extra-large towels and an extra-long kimono. Such service! I felt like I was 10 feet tall, even before I went to brush my teeth. Robert Neu, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Are you savvier than a monkey?
When I went to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Bali, my driver told me to empty my pockets and leave my valuables with him in the car. I consider myself a savvy traveler, so I smirked and switched my wallet and passport to my chest pocket. My driver warned me that I could be mugged in the forest and should really leave my wallet behind. In the woods, a monkey landed on my shoulders, reached around my neck, and robbed me blind. A guard came and scolded me for bringing my valuables and then went to get some treats. The monkey and I bartered. I gave him a peanut; he gave me a credit card. I gave him a piece of fruit; he gave me my passport. Finally, I had all my belongings back—and I went on to enjoy an amazing trek. Patrick Manson, Superior, Colo.

Not the first time we've heard this story
On a recent trip to Peru, I visited an open-air market. As a tea drinker, I am always on the lookout for exotic varieties. I found a vendor with the largest display of tea bags I'd ever seen. The packages were in Spanish, and I searched, trying to recognize an ingredient, until I came to the last item in the display. That's when I realized I was sorting through a big rack of condoms. Celia Gianoli, Reno, Nev.

Traveling with parents can be awkward
While I was working as an airline reservations agent, a woman called to report a lost suitcase. She was adamant that she needed the bag back immediately. When I began to explain the compensation for lost luggage, she screamed, "My mother is in that bag!" All I could imagine was a little old lady curled up in a suitcase. I repeated, "Your mother is in the bag?" And she explained, "It's her ashes." Without thinking, I blurted out, "Dear heaven, woman, she gave birth to you—couldn't you have put her in your carry-on?" Julie Donnelly, Conroe, Tex.

One way to score your own hot tub
Years ago, my parents went all-out and arranged for us to stay at a five-star resort at Walt Disney World. One night, we decided to take advantage of the pool and hot tubs. Quite a few other guests had the same idea, and they were crowded. My little brother and I, then 6 and 8, ran around, jumping in and out of the water. When my brother landed in the hot tub, Mom said, "This is for sitting; no swim-ming and no putting your head under-water." My brother replied, "Why? Will it kill lice?" Within seconds, the other guests excused themselves, and it was just our family in the tub. Mom asked my brother what he meant. Earlier in the week, we had been checked for head lice at school; neither of us had them, but the screening had apparently made quite the impression on my brother. Angela Saathoff, Ridgeland, Miss.

Brownie points for life
My husband and I went as newlyweds on a four-day hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We had just completed the most difficult portion and were enjoying the view at 13,780 feet. In the distance, I heard a Peruvian flute. Then I recognized the tune and teared up—it was "Happy Birthday," and it was for me. I had forgotten it was my birthday! My husband was behind the sweet surprise. Our cook even made me a birthday cake that evening, despite the fact that he had not planned for it—he just improvised. It was a birthday I'll never forget! Melanie Mapes, Chicago, Ill.

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