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Worst bus/train trips

  • Thaiman

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    We've had the most scenic trips in SE Asia[different section] but what about the worst.Most people have a pretty good time when travelling but occasionally a public transport trip just turns ordinary.For me one of the worst we've had was a bus trip from Udon Thani to Phitsanalok.Got the bus from the terminal[can't remember what company]but the bus had come from somewhere else so the thing was already full-standing room only. The A/C was only just working and the wife became sick.Fortunately some kind hearted soul gave up their seat for her.We had some water fortunately.We stuck it out for the full 5 and a half hours and I stood the whole way.Never been so glad to get off a bus.Anyway,that's life in the outpost.

    #1 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 15:23

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  • MADMAC

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    The worst is the damn night bus from Mukdahan to Bangkok. I've taken it many times - and hate it more every time.

    I took a bus during the day from Yasothon to Udon Thani. The AC was broken, the bus was WAY overloaded, I rode standing up the whole way and all of us were sweating buckets. That sucked a lot too but I got bonus points for giving up my seat to a little old lady. A squad from the Thai Army on the bus followed my example (after their squad leader oredered them to) so all the ladies could be seated. Bus ride sucked, but ego was massaged.

    #2 Posted: 18/8/2009 - 00:39

  • Tilapia

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    That bus from Udon Thani to Phitsanulok terminates in Uttradit, I believe. The trip is always sold out, and the buses used are not the best of the bunch. Unless you are ready to sharpen your elbows and battle for a seat you'll stand the whole way, and it SUCKS! The scenery is gorgeous and if you aren't sitting down you miss the whole show. I agree that this is one of the more difficult trips in Thailand.

    As a footnote, the first time I ever took this particular trip I went from Loei to Phitsanulok, and on the way our bus hit and killed a child on a bicycle while going through a village far too fast. The driver knew but kept going. There was a mob chasing the bus. It was eventually stopped at a roadblock ahead, the driver told what happened and then, with that in mind, he was allowed to continue. Everyone on the bus was silent and terrified.

    So, for me, this is a particularly bad stretch, and I think it's interesting that it was the first one posted.

    #3 Posted: 18/8/2009 - 22:36

  • Thaiman

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    That would be terrible,Tilapia, having to see that while on a bus.
    And,yeah,the scenery was pretty good.Seem to remember that in one area there was a lot of plant nurserys.Would have been interesting to get off the damn bus and have a look around them.
    Don't I'll do that particular trip again,not by bus anyway.

    #4 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 15:03

  • somtam2000

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    Minibus from Can Tho to Tra Vinh in the Mekong Delta.

    Heaving with rain, packed to the rafters, all the windows shut.

    Old dude sitting beside me was smoking rollies that smelt like wet rabbit and I ended up with a Vietnamese teenager sitting on my knees who politely vomited into little plastic baggies that she tied up and threw out the window.

    It was a very very long two hour ride.

    #5 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 15:24

  • SBE

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    Sounds like Burmese bus trips except they often last 24 hours not 2. Crossing Sumbawa on public transport (don't know about the tourist buses) isn't very comfortable either. Either you risk getting gangrene because you have ZERO leg room for 10 hours because of boxes etc shoved in between all the seats or you spend the entire journey standing up. I think the latter option is probably the least painful. I've only ever met one Indonesian male who didn't smoke so non smoking public transport hasn't really caught on in Indonesia yet. In Burma everyone smokes cheroots and chew beetle nut and spits.

    My last overnight bus trip in Thailand last trip was from Ranong to BKK on one of those 48 seater orange stripe jobs. Normally I avoid buses with orange stripes on them like the plague but all the other buses were full and I had a flight to catch. The hold was entirely filled with baskets of dried fish so everyone had to take their luggage on board....twelve rather cramped hours on a bus with the odor of putrid fish intermingled with (very) cheap air freshener. Ah the joys of travelling!

    #6 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 16:10

  • MADMAC

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    SBE never wait to the last minute... always get into Bangkok a couple of days early...

    #7 Posted: 21/8/2009 - 16:14

  • hokasch

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    Sleeper VIP Pakse->Vientiane

    Boat trips were not mentioned by the OP, but I had one absolutely horrifying experience (11 hours seasick/big waves/tiny fisher boat/open sea/nightfall/no lights) in Palawan, Philipines...

    #8 Posted: 21/8/2009 - 18:53

  • hokasch

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    How do you set links in here?

    Sleeper VIP Pakse -> Vientiane
    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/laos/6922_sleeper-bus---vientiane-to-pakse#19

    #9 Posted: 21/8/2009 - 18:54

  • SBE

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    Links go live automatically when you've done enough posts ... it's to prevent spammers posting links.

    Can I ask you where exactly that open boat trip was? I'm guessing Peurta Princessa to/from Coron because it sounds somewhat familiar! When were you in the Philippines?

    #10 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 04:53

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  • BruceMoon

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    So, we're adding boat trips?

    The worst for me was from Lifou to I de Pin. It was an Australian made 40+m ali cat that did the daily run to the Loyalty's. The wind was howling and the seas over 6m. The captain had to slew over the rollers to avoid (as best he could) twisting the hull. One minute sliding down at an angle where one HAD to hold on to the seat or fall off, the next riding upwards with one's weight fully pinned to the back of the seat. The chuck bags were quickly filled, and everyone else got a big black rubbish bag as replacement.

    How it smelt.

    Midway through, when I asked the girl behind the counter for a filled bread roll, all she could do was chuck! Very uncivilised.

    Cheers

    #11 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 06:10

  • somsai

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    I too took the bus mentioned in the original post only in reverse, Phitsanolok /Udonthani. Id didn't help that I'd already come from Chang Mai, or that I'd gotten in Chang Mai very late the night or should I say morning before after traveling all day. Bus was already full, air con couldn't cope, I stood in the aisle for hours. But it wasn't that bad.

    When I got to Udonthani at 2 AM I got totaly turned around when I tried to walk out of the bus station and get a room at the Top Mansion Hotel. No hotel, long walk out of the station. Went back, walked out again. Thought I was loosing it.

    During the tuk tuk ride in an empty Udonthani, saw a swarm of young motorcyclists, perhaps a hundred all packed together laughing, shouting, and what not. Otherworldly, tuk tuk driver abruptly turned off street and drove around giving them a wide bearth.

    But that was in no way my longest or most tiring ride. Maybe on a later post.

    #12 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 06:30

  • fivesilver

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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    In no particular order, and in the space of 3 months - and people wonder why I bought a motorcycle to get through Vietnam. ^__^

    * The bus from Laem Ngop to Bangkok that never made it. The brakes failed early on, and the driver's tactic of slowing down 600m before intersections worked a few times before he had to steer into the concrete divider, wrecking the front of the bus.

    * Udomxai to Jinghong - first 80km took 4.5 hours, with the driver's assistant leaving the border papers behind in Udomxai - meaning we had to wait for a bloke on a motorcycle to catch up - then a wheel rim literally breaking in half.

    * Kunming to Lao Cai - broke down leaving the terminal gate, stuck for two hours; driver went like a maniac to make up time, jolting several people out of their berths on bad stretches of road; woke up to find passengers had been relieved of cameras, phones, laptop and jewellery.

    * Evening mini from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong: Killed a dog, a large bird and a rabbit in the space of a couple of hours; very narrow misses with a herd of water buffalo and a teenage boy.

    ** Honourable mention to the journey from Jinghong to Kunming, with several checkpoints manned by police who bullied the locals and left you with little illusions about the control-freakery that exists in the region.

    #13 Posted: 22/8/2009 - 14:04

  • wanderingcat

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    worst train trip - Yichang to Wuhan in early 1990s.

    my family had a private 4-berth space but didn't sleep a wink. departure delayed, & along the way further delays - train had 'problems' leaving certain stations. through the night people kept banging on our door & shouting at us to get out & let them in. kept hearing scuffles outside the door. apparently tickets for all soft sleeper berths had been sold 'several times' to different parties. plenty of unhappy people who'd paid for berths already occupied forced their way on board at a few stations & fought with train staff. at one point they attempted to break down the doors of the private compartments & the 4 of us were pushing ourselves against our door, with train staff yelling at us & others in neighbouring compartments not to yield. eventually 'gong1 an1' (police) came on board at another station to sort things out. we understand Chinese, so we understood all the #&*?@!# being screamed at us, other passengers, the train staff & police :P

    on arrival, discovered that none of our luggage that had been stored in the train's cargo carriage could be opened. all bags had been broken into & then 'sealed' either with padlocks that weren't ours, or wired shut with really thick wire. a bag or two was missing too. had to get hotel staff to help us find a wire cutter/something to break the locks with. had all our valuables on us, so only gifts for friends were lost. all those forum posts about thefts from Khao San Road buses remind me of this incident :P

    one of my worst plane rides was also on that same trip (i know Thaiman asked for bus/train rides...). flight delayed 8h, all were each given one cup of instant noodles as bfast+lunch & kettles of boiling water were passed around in the old Guangzhou Baiyun airport (smoking allowed everywhere within terminal, floor carpeted with sputum & cigarette butts). was one of those little Chinese domestic airlines, Fokker plane still had Aeroflot painted on it. none of the seats were upright, had to lift the backrest up like lifting a toilet bowl cover, & once you stood up it'd collapse on you, so you had to either hold it back yourself as you stood up or get fellow passengers to help :P

    belted up, readied for take-off...& then someone discovered that his seatbelt couldn't be undone - trapped in his seat. so a stewardess came by with a large pair of scissors & cut the belt, problem solved. 'seatbelt-free' for take-off & rest of flight...& i suspect likewise for future passengers assigned to that particular seat :P

    sis & i were kids at that time, though we were more amused than frightened by most of the stuff that happened (everything that could go wrong went wrong on that trip). picked up quite a bit that came in useful when we grew up & started travelling on our own. note to parents on this forum: young kids can notice a lot more about your behaviour & reaction to such unexpected circumstances than you think!

    #14 Posted: 25/8/2009 - 01:14

  • hokasch

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    wow, rough stories in here...

    @SBE:
    the boat trip was from Sabang to Coron, september 08. We got talked into it by other travellers - totally lunatic to go out that day, but the fishermen took us anyway because (for them) we probably paid very well. Stupidity on our side there.

    #15 Posted: 25/8/2009 - 04:14

  • hokasch

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    sabang --> el nido I meant. You said that sounds familiar, did you enjoy a similar ride?

    #16 Posted: 25/8/2009 - 04:19

  • Tilapia

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    For guaranteed, daily drudgery, and scenery that is sure to numb the mind and soul alike, it is very difficult to beat the train or bus journey between Oshawa and Scarborough, Ontario. Had it existed at the time, Dante would surely have made this area the entrance to ****, rather than Florence, in the Divine Comedy.

    #17 Posted: 25/8/2009 - 09:19

  • Tilapia

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    Hey, what's with the ****? Can't a feller say ****? How about H*ll?

    #18 Posted: 25/8/2009 - 09:20

  • SBE

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    New censorship crackdown Tilapia. People were saying lots of rude words on a thread a few days ago!

    hokasch, not a personal experience but I met a couple in Coron who told me about their 16 hour trip on an open banca from Peurta Princessa which sounded very similar. They were seasick the whole way and arrived in the dark with nowhere to stay. I found Coron surprisingly busy and most GHs in the Philippines seemed to expect you to reserve in advance. Not at all like other countries in SE Asia!

    #19 Posted: 27/8/2009 - 17:14

  • hokasch

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    16 hours... Jesus. I can imagine it must have been horrifying.
    We were all constantly thinking about the best things to do for staying alive if this thing would flip - like which of this tiny islands looks nearer? should I try to build a floating device from my backpack and the airtight backs? and so on... When the sun started to go down, and after some 6/7 hours, we asked the fishermen how long to go. The reply "4 hours!" made my stomach cramp. Asked about the missing lights (one had a small flashlight, though), they just laughed and pointed upwards: full moon! hmm, it was cloudy, and the moon was not nearly half full.
    Obviously, give boat, crew, weather, and sea condition a good check-up before jumping in a banca!

    It was pretty easy to find free rooms when we have been there, may be it depends a lot on high/low season. Coron has some rather "pragmatic" dive schools when it comes to safety, I could go on with similar stories about wreck dives... hmm, and the snake bite...

    I also found the Philippines quite different from other SE Asian countries. Just everyone speaks english, and it felt more like a Caribbean island had drifted to Asia some time ago...

    #20 Posted: 30/8/2009 - 23:47

  • SBE

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    Ah yes, it was around Chinese New Year so maybe that made a difference. I sometimes had to try several places to get cheaper accommodation but it wasn't the case everywhere. I found accommodation (with one notable exception) were generally less value for money than similar accommodation in say, Thailand, anyway. Far more expensive than Indonesia and the diving etc in Indonesia is better too. But I might go back for a second look next year if I have time.

    Did you like Palawan or Busuanga best? I didn't go to Peurta Princessa as I'd originally planned because the price they were asking for being seasick on a banca for hours on end seemed rather a rip off. Might be OK on a nice day though.

    What snake?

    #21 Posted: 31/8/2009 - 00:48

  • hokasch

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    Actually, I was only in Palawan. But I liked it a lot... Made me want to go back to the Philippines, to see some other islands. Really beautiful places! Diving was not that great, although if you are into wrecks Coron is considered a really good spot. But snorkelling was amazing! We did not spend much time in Puerta. Not overly impressive, but we were also more heading for the smaller places, nature and beaches...

    We took a superferry from Coron to PP, was quite cheap - fun to hang around on the deck, the lower ones are not recommended for claustrophobic people. You can imagine why not many people make it out when these ferries sink. With the open bancas, I heard that it can also be quite a nice trip, if (and only when) the weather is right!

    The roads between PP and El Nido are rough, especially around the rainy season, but it was totally worth it. After some time you pretty much new all tourists on the island by sight at least... El Nido should be really touristic on season, still the surrounding is amazingly beautiful. You can rent a small kayak and go for one of the many beach-forest-rock-islands. Have you been there? If not, try a google image search for "el nido"!

    I even learned to like Manila the second stayover, there is a place called "friendly guesthouse". This is meant literally. When we have been there, the owner invited anyone into a small club, where a band (friends of him, I guess) played - he totally rocked. He made us all totally drunk, too, handing out more drinks and food in passing by than we could handle.

    The snake, ah I told so many "weird experiences" here already, it managed to bite me in the ankle when we nearly ran over it with a motorbike. I did not even notice it until the evening, but the marks were quite distinctive... I was totally fine, but if it had properly bit me, I would have been screwed - totally out in sticks, 2 hours from coron on a dirtpatch. It was rather thin and long, bright green with some white in it.

    I would love to here about Busuanga, but maybe I should open a new topic...?

    #22 Posted: 31/8/2009 - 03:09

  • MADMAC

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    Took the bus last night from Bangkok to Mukdahan again. I sat at the entrance tunnel to the bus terminal that services almost all of Isaan for two hours. Thousands of people walked by me, but not one, signle white person. Kind of strange. Either no one is going to Isaan, OR they are getting there by another means of travel.

    #23 Posted: 31/8/2009 - 09:51

  • SBE

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    @ hokasch

    Sure open a new topic if you like but I'm not sure whereabouts on the forum you'd put it. I only spent three weeks in the Philippines and it was my first trip there so I'm no expert!

    #24 Posted: 31/8/2009 - 15:06

  • MADMAC

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    I had a snake strike at me while riding my bike (on a hard ball road). He missed me and bite the bike instead. Bike was OK.

    #25 Posted: 31/8/2009 - 23:12

  • scottyheath-
    er

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    My worst trip was in southern Sumatra. It was a 150km train trip but it took us over 12 hours as the bloody train broke down in the middle of the jungle and we all had to get off it. We were the only foreigners on the train and just about every single person was practically lining up to practice their English on us which after 10 hours became tiresome ;) To top the lot off, someone was playing Kylie Minogue's crappy song "I should be so lucky" on a loop and what with that and the heat, I thought I was going insane. Then when we eventually got to our destination we were met at the station by soldiers, guns at the ready as apparently there were 'insurgents' on the train.......

    Still, those are the things that make a trip memorable..... :)

    #26 Posted: 3/12/2009 - 07:55

  • Thaiman

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    'playing Kylie Minogue's crappy song "I should be so lucky"

    Think I'd have probably started walking.

    #27 Posted: 3/12/2009 - 15:56

  • scottyheath-
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    LOL - actually walking might have been quicker anyway ;)

    #28 Posted: 4/12/2009 - 06:10

  • MADMAC

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    I can't make up my mind whether it's the 5 hours of standing room only from Yaso to Udon with no AC and a guy puking in the bus, or the ten hour ride from Muk to BKK on the nightbus. One was more horrible, but shorter. One just never ends...

    #29 Posted: 5/12/2009 - 13:27

  • Gorey

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    probably the sleeper train from KL to Kota Bharu, everyone else in my carriage was part of either of two rival football teams with several break downs to boot. The 19 hour bus that followed with constant karaoke or concert dvds playing at full volume for the entire trip kind of topped it off. Got myself to that hysterical phase when your so tired.

    #30 Posted: 5/12/2009 - 18:39

  • MADMAC

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    Gorey
    You reminded me of the sleeper train from Nairobi to Mombassa that I took so long ago. It was old, nice, good meal, cute Kikuyu woman to share my cabin with... ahhhh those were the days.

    #31 Posted: 6/12/2009 - 08:26

  • Saphir

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    Could do without the movies shown on Malaysian trains and buses.......

    #32 Posted: 8/12/2009 - 18:19

  • scottyheath-
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    Well, we've got a 16 hour bus trip from Luang Prabang to Sam Neua coming up ...... not sure how that's going to go - apparently it's a pretty scary journey. I might just have to take a sleeping tablet to get through it ;)

    #33 Posted: 9/12/2009 - 14:50

  • KazAussie

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    Worst and best trip combined into one... Cairo to Luxor on the train, sitting knee to knee with the passengers across from us, it was something like 14 hours, no food, no water and raw sewerage washing down the isle.

    The good bit was sitting across from some recent Sudanese medical graduates who were fantastic, had escaped sudan at the height of the crisis, got their medical degrees in Cairo and were then heading back to the Sudan to try and help (it was then, as now, a very dangerous place).

    I learn't more about international issues in that trip than I every have before or since.

    So environment ... horrible, people fantastic.

    #34 Posted: 9/12/2009 - 15:19

  • MADMAC

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    I hope the Sudanese medical students going back to "try and help" were armed. I lived in East Africa for two years and always carried a side arm. I love the place, but it's not safe.

    #35 Posted: 9/12/2009 - 22:18

  • Sophia_India

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    My worst one was in India where my friend paid for a bus sleeper seat and he got double booked so the driver made him sleep on his bed above him. We were going up into the Himyalayas going up windy roads and the bus driver took a really sharp corner. My friend (still asleep) fell on the driver and he crashed into a motorbike. the bus driver then started trying to get my friend to pay for the damage when he shoudlnt have been sitting in that seat in the 1st place as he had paid a lot of money for a proper bed.

    #36 Posted: 2/6/2010 - 19:19

  • marky83

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    My worst and best as loved every second of it, as well as being scared was from Delhi to Kashmir in the north of India. Was told it would take 24 hours, it took 30 hours but hey, it is India. It was along narrow, winding roads, barely big enough for 1 bus let alone two, 300/400 feet drop if you fell off the road. Parts of buses and lorries lay along the hillside from where they had fallen off and memorials to the people who had died attempting this road were every few hundred yards. Plus i had a sleeper, so could not sit up for the entire journey :) It was brilliant!!

    #37 Posted: 9/6/2010 - 23:19

  • Breggs

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    I have so many good ones! Here's one that I consider my 3rd to worst one, but was very interesting, it's an excerpt from my blog:

    "For some reason the Great Mekong River hit a record low while we were at the elephant festival in Hongsa, in Laos, and the only realistic way of getting back to Luang Prabang is by boat so we needed to find an alternative. We found out we could rent a car, which was great. The car turned out to be a pickup truck and the 4 of us turned out to be 15 of us. So 9 of us packed into the rear with several of the packs. That's 4 on each bench and 1 guy lying across the middle atop a couple bags. It was a 6 hour dirt-road, cliff-side thrillfest/scarefest, that even if you weren't scared took every ounce of muscle strength you could muster to not fall out of the back of the truck at each curve. To give you an example of the terrain, on more than one occasion the truck started to slip back downhill towards a cliff, so we had to jump out and push the truck uphill and every time we drove through a river we had to stop in the water to cool down the brakes. It was so dusty that we actually spent 6 hours in direct sunlight without sunscreen and nobody burned."

    Good Times!

    Rob Breger

    #38 Posted: 23/6/2010 - 03:56

  • eivind3

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    hokasch wrote:Boat trips were not mentioned by the OP, but I had one absolutely horrifying experience (11 hours seasick/big waves/tiny fisher boat/open sea/nightfall/no lights) in Palawan, Philipines...

    What company was this? and what time of the year was it? We consider the El Nido - Coron tour with TAO Philipines in late june and wonder if anyone have been there at that time?

    #39 Posted: 13/4/2011 - 21:26

  • hokasch

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    No worries - we did not use any company back then, just two fishermen not speaking any English in a rather smallish boat. It was autumn in Europe I think.

    #40 Posted: 14/4/2011 - 06:34

  • busylizzy

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    This story might rank as the 'worst bus trip ever' for those on the bus:

    "Dozens of deadly snakes were found crawling around in a bus traveling from Da Nang to Binh Dinh in central Vietnam Wednesday."

    http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120613-deadly-snakes-crawling-freely-on-vietnam-central-bus.aspx

    #41 Posted: 14/6/2012 - 14:49

  • rledez1990

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    Just to add to the 'worst boat trip ever' stories...

    We took the ferry from Samui to the mainland in June 2011... I still get chills thinking about the experience!

    The sky was very grey when we got on the boat but apart from that it was the same as any other day of the trip. We boarded the boat and took seats near the front outside the cabin like we had done many many times before, with our legs dangling over the side of the boat about four or five meters from the surface of the water. About 15 minutes into the journey the boat started to tack really violently from side to side, to the point that our feet were actually in the water!!! We clambered to our feet and slipped and slid our way to the back of the boat so that we could get into the cabin and find a seat - it was at this point that I looked forward and saw waves literally crashing over the top of the boat and I had an "Oh my god, I'm going to die" moment.

    We fell over about three times trying to get inside. I was a quivering wreck at this point so the boyfriend told me to go and sit down while he brought the bags. I sat down, then saw that he was seriously struggling to even stand up, let alone carry the bags in through the door. I walked back down the aisle towards him and JUST as I got close enough he was thrown across the boat and through the window into the cabin (the one next to the door). The four inch thick pane of glass was pushed right out of the frame and it would have landed on the heads of two young girls had I not been in the right place at exactly that moment. I stuck my hand out and caught it!! The boyfriend just stood there in shock, and NO ONE got up to help!! After about sixty seconds of everyone just staring open-mouthed at the scene, someone finally leapt into action and helped me put the heavy pane of glass down.

    I helped the very embarassed boyfriend to the seats and we sat there, absolutely paralysed by fear and sickness! We both ended up closing our eyes and I distinctly remember playing out an episode of Eastenders in my head to keep from having a panic attack.

    All in all, not the best day of our lives!

    #42 Posted: 5/6/2013 - 08:27

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