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Q. What are the worst travel experiences you have ever encountered?

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I joined an adventure race last 2011 which required us to travel from one province to another, from one island to the next. Of course, traveling needed budget so we had to maximise all means to save and that meant asking support from friends, friends of friends of friends, relatives (though rare because they didn't understand what we're doing), and random strangers. It came to a point where we had to knock at random homes or at police stations for a night's stay. If we're not lucky, the sidewalk -- it taught us how it felt to be homeless.

So there's this one incident we had to cross borders in the Southern provinces of the country. Our support team arranged accommodations for us and he got us a friend o a friend of a friend's house as a host. The good thing was it's free and we can leave our stuff making us a bit lighter. Our support team told us that the host lived alone and would be happy to make new friends.

From where I am, it's a common expression for hosts to say, "I apologise, the house is a mess" even if the house is squeaky-clean perfection and like the typical local that he is, he said the sentence, which served as a warning.

Now, I don't have Ernest Hemmingway's prowess in describing perfectly how devastatingly horrible the place was but I'll state in bullet points the things I can't unsee:

  • Unwashed dishes for days already infested with maggots (the sink already became a breeding ground for flies)
  • Sofa infested with bed bugs and ticks and dog piss marks
  • Roaches of different sizes and colours (I swear, I saw an Albino cockroach and a pink one) crawling everywhere.

I have this habit of inspecting the bathroom whenever I visit new houses because bathrooms are my deciding point of whether the host is a good host. I don't even know why I did it after meeting our "house mates." But I still did. The restroom looked decent by the host's standard. I never knew he was practicing the art of taxidermy when I saw a foot-long decomposing black rat on the floor.

When everyone in the team came in, they were shocked. Someone shouted, "CHEEZUZ" the awkwardly smiled. The host asked us if we wanted to eat anything because he can cook us dinner. We said we're full (actually we're hungry). I went outside and made an excuse that I need credits for my prepaid mobile phone but actually I want to leave ASAP. Someone from the team joined me. One wanted to join as well. We all made eye contact as if sending telepathic messages to tell each other not go out all at once. The member of our team who was good at rapport and sugar-coating unleashed his best lies to make the host comfortable. He was the last to leave.

And guess what? The host lives in a suburb!

I found a 24-hour chicken-roast pub some 500 meters away. I sent everyone a text message the address of the pub. One by one they came and all we could talk about that night was how horrible the place was. It was so horrible that we already didn't mind eating while talking about what we've seen because feeling and seeing the place was more intense than thinking about it. One team mate said, "I don't care if I have to pay a grand as long as albino cockroaches won't crawl on me."

Since the place was open 24-hours, our excuse was we were drinking. We went back early morning and told the host we needed to go as so and so's cousin-in-law's friend's neighbour 's relative (yes, lies) had a relative nearby. They (I brought my bag) got their bags but inspected them first for "friends" who might join.

We took a cab to the city and booked a room at a 5-star hotel just to feel happy about ourselves and forget the horrid experience. After all, we're tired.