The sun rays pierced their way through the glass and onto my closed eyes. I can feel the warmth and the irritation of the light. It is as if a over-excited little brother is jabbing me in the eye trying to wake me up. But I am so tired. My entire body feels heavy…and wet. I am sweating again on the upholstery of the back seat. I am heavy with sleep. Wet. And bothered by too much light. I was so happy in my deep state of sleep, and suddenly I am forced out of it. I just want to curl up and for it to be dark again in the car.
I crinkle my nose and squint my eyes open the tiniest bit to see if I can get away from the sunlight. As I do so, my mother pops her head around from the front seat and sees me. “Oh good! We’re here. Are you ready?” I immediately snap my eyes shut again. Maybe she didn’t notice. She did.
The car pulls over and she opens my door to undue my buckle and
pull me out. I start my whining. I am so annoyed. Nothing could be so special that I could not finish my nap. I don’t care! She pulls me to standing and now I am just bothered, grumpy, and more stubborn. She leads me over the dirt path. There are surprisingly a lot of people around us. My stepdad waves us over to a spot with his camera. As we come into the clear, the world just opens up before us. There is nothing as far as I can see but rock. A huge hole in the Earth of rock and sky. This is it. There is nothing else. It almost looks like the ends of the Earth. I try to look closer and my mother’s grip on my arm tightens so much that my arm turns red. She thinks I will fall in. My stepdad has his camera ready and is adjusting all the knobs and twisting the lens. My mother asks me what I think.
“Well its just a big hole in the ground.”
This is my mother’s favorite story of how I first saw the Grand Canyon, and then she adds at the end: “After that we headed to Vegas and Shannon was in total awe of Circus Circus.”
I guess we can’t all love the natural wonders even the Grand Canyon at first sight.
After starting my day with tea, my social media ritual, and then stumbling across a video of a busker in NYC being treated unjustly and then arrested, I have a bit of a fire in me. I have a background in performing. It talks a lot of…well….balls to be frank to perform. Not only perform but perform by yourself in front of numerous strangers.
Like other countries, you need a permit to perform on the streets in New York City. There are laws and very specific regulations to follow. This particular busker seems to have those laws memorized for some reason. You can never prepare for the corruption of the police anywhere you go. Remember that. Sometimes you can be doing absolutely nothing and still be harassed. Wrong cop on the wrong day.
When Elise and I decided to travel to Prague for a weekend, it was on a whim and one of our last weekends living overseas. Normally, I would have researched a place prior to going. This time I only had enough time to download some sights to go to while in the city.
We arrived from a 20 hour bus ride from London. It was long. At one point I needed to use the bathroom and there was no promise from the driver that he would wait for me while I went to find one.We finally got there. Exhausted. We also had to find our hostel. We
stumbled off the coach, grabbed our bags, and went for the restroom. You had to pay, so we went to an ATM nearby to get some of the currency, but once again I had not done my research so I wasn’t sure the exchange rate equivalencies with crowns to dollars. We just grabbed the minimum in order to use the restroom.
At this point we knew that we had to get on a train and go to the main train station, and then our hostel was in walking distance from there. With our duffel bags full and weighing us down, we staggered
through the train station. We were tired and were not necessarily trying to hide that we were definitely tourists. We pointed at signs, argued with one another, and studied signs in a foreign language we knew nothing about. Suddenly a man bumped into Elise and showed her something on his belt. She didn’t really look down because we were really trying to figure out how to get tickets to get on the train. We somehow felt like we were in the right place, but we didn’t have tickets yet. I suggested that maybe we buy them on the actual train. He then knocked into me right after Elise and said, “Tickets please.”
He was dressed in normal clothes and looked a bit intimidating. I didn’t get a good look at the badge on his belt because he flashed it so fast. Apparently he and his friend were the train police. I called back Elise saying that he wanted our tickets. I asked him where I could get some since we were lost. He then insisted on seeing our
passports. Elise took her’s out and handed it to him. Something was not right about this situation. He was odd and yet seemed like he knew what he was doing. I held onto mine and showed him. He tried to grab it from me and I told him “no.” That was when I stopped believing he was police. He said that they would arrest us “stupid Americans” since we were illegally on the train platform without tickets. I told him that we were lost and more than happy to purchase tickets, but we just could not find where. He then refused to give Elise her passport back until we gave him a thousand crowns. At this point after the bathroom purchase, I could figure out that was about maybe around $40-50. He kept on harassing us and calling us names.
He finally took us to an ATM and I agreed on about half the amount and he had to show us where to buy tickets. Elise put her card in and
the ATM wouldn’t work. I then put my card in and it wouldn’t work. We tried once more then I turned to the ugly, mean man, and I said “Well looks like your stupid Prague machines don’t work!” He tried then and I demanded the passport back. He wouldn’t. Elise tried once more and it did work. We gave him the money and he gave us the passport and the direction of where to buy tickets. It was so annoying and not the greatest welcome from such a beautiful city.
Morale of the story: Try not to look like tourists and in turn bringing attention to yourself, but mostly NEVER LET ANYONE HAVE YOUR PASSPORT. NEVER EVER!
Police or not…they are corrupt everywhere. Hang on to your passport!
I visited Australia at the beginning of my Around the World trip. I knew a few Aussie’s at the time and they all told me to buy a beat up old car to get around Australia in. Not to bother to rent a car. First of all, I was alone and know nothing about cars. Odds were: I was going to breakdown in the middle of the outback without a cellphone
signal and trapped. The intention was reasonable on their part. With a car, I could not pay for transportation, go wherever I pleased and whenever I wanted, and I could even use it as a place to sleep when I needed. It just was not an option that I saw beneficial for myself. After Australia, I flew into Malaysia.
Malaysia is quite small. It never occurred to me to even consider to rent a car or buy a car here. I even went to Singapore on an overnight train for 8 USD from KL! Can’t get much better. However. Let’s talk about public transportation in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur was fine. I had a better experience walking around the city than I did with the monorail though. Everyone jams onto it (like any Asian city I suppose), and you have to be very careful of your pockets. But to travel to beaches and outside of the city?
My English friend Martin, who had just spent a lot of time traveling around Asia (including Malaysia), kept insisting that I should take the time to go up to Penang and enjoy the town and neighboring fisherman villages there. He said it was beautiful and delicious, after all it is noted as the “food capital of Malaysia.” How could I not go?
After I figured out how to take a train outside of the city center to the bus depot area. The bus “station” was basically a massive dirt lot with a hundred buses. None of the buses were on and no one near them. I found out, after doing a couple of circles around the building structure, which bus was the one to Penang with only a few stops. They told me it was leaving in 15 minutes! Great! I paid and got on the bus. It was actually a nice interior and clean-ish. I sat there and waited. I wrote in my journal. Looked through my pictures on my camera. Read about Penang in my travel book. 40 minutes
had passed. I inquired about the depart of the bus again. The man who looked like he was going to drive it said about 15 more minutes. Ok. Cool. I people watched out the window and read a little more of my book. 30 minutes later (about an hour after original departure time) I inquired again. I didn’t want to miss out on my day in Penang. He assured me “really” 10-15 minutes this time. OK. I was a little anxious at this point because I was missing out on my time up there. 35 more minutes later there were more people on the bus and no signs of leaving. This time I told them that I really couldn’t be waiting that much longer or else I would only be in Penang for 2 hours. They then told me that the buses will leave once they are full. Ohhhh!!! Ok so…2 hours of waiting later….now they tell me.
So…I had to get off. It just wasn’t the best means for me to go. I should have found another way, but it would not have been a good use of my time. I then asked for my money back and they refused. They told me that I was a “stupid girl,” and that it was my fault for giving them money. Over and over again they told me to get out and “go away.” I told them that I would appreciate my money back and I wasn’t leaving without out it. A group of drivers stood around me laughing at me. They kept on calling me “stupid.” I was so embarrassed, but the more they kept on, the more stubborn I was to get my money back.
The man with the cash box tried to walk away and I followed him. He was getting annoyed. Finally they gave in. A couple of them followed me to the entrance of the bus depot shouting at me. Who knew that my morning/day would’ve ended so terribly. I was in tears from the whole ordeal, because it was just a lot to experience and very high tensioned.
I never made it to Penang on this trip. Never went to any beaches or small fishing villages like I wanted to. But I would still like to go back again and see all of Malaysia. Next time I will rent a car for certain, without any hesitation. The waiting is just not worth it.