2010′s Weirdest Travel Experiences

2010 was quite the travel year for me! 8 countries, 10 U.S. states, 37 bus journeys, 16 flights and 2 train rides. Somewhere in those figures are a whole lot of weird experiences. Here are some of my favorites:

The Temple of the Divine Madman

Phallus Alert!

A walk through Bhutan’sVillage of Phalluses” gives way to a seemingly ordinary Buddhist temple, named for a man who was famous for his sexual exploits. Childless couples hike to this temple to get a fertility blessing from the monks, who place a wooden phallus, a bone phallus and the Divine Madman’s bow on your forehead as they chant prayers! After, a name is drawn from a stack which dictates the child’s gender and what the child should be named. Of course, the alternative is to name your child after the Divine Madman himself Kunley. Strangely, that’s one of the most popular names in Bhutan

Cabbages and Condoms

"Sorry, We Have No Mints Please Take a Condom Instead"

This Bangkok restaurant gets its name from its mission, to promote family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. So why not raise money by opening a restaurant and replacing the after dinner mint with, what else? Condoms! In Republican or Democrat size… It’s certainly one of the strangest restaurants I’ve ever been to!

Digging Out the Bus

Digging Out the Road!

The backroads of China’s Sichaun province that brush up against the Tibetan border are rough. As soon as you leave the famed Sichuan-Tibet Highway (which is no walk in the park itself) for points south, you find yourself traversing twisty unpaved roads at mind blowing altitudes. Those altitudes would explain snow in May and I mean lots of snow…like 2 feet (0.6 meters), which, of course, my non-4-wheel drive bus drove right into. Next thing I knew, we were all out in the cold digging out the bus, which came prepared with plenty of shovels and pick-axes for all!

The Trough Toilet

Chinese bathroom trough

You’ve all heard of a squat toilet, right? Well enter China’s oh-so-lovely variation. The trough toilet! A long, waterless trough runs the length of the bathroom below door-less stalls while you squat there in plain view doing your business. And since there’s no flush, it’s a doozie to watch the workers brush that out…

The Chinatown Bus

Plant Hero Balloon Lesson

A cheap way to traverse the East Coast of the U.S., which also gains an insight into a completley different culture, is to take one of the many buses that run between the Chinatown’s in various cities. I tried this once…and what happened? The bus broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike and we were stranded for a couple hours! When another bus passed through with a few empty seats, our group suddenly became “Lord of the Flies.” Little did we all know what great entertainment and bonding would await? I mean, what’s better therapy than making balloon flowers on the side of the highway??

The Takin

Takin

Folklore says this animal, that is unique to Bhutan, was created by fusing a goat’s head onto a cow’s body! All I know is that the Takin is by far, the weirdest animal I have ever seen! Check them out at Bhutan’s national Takin Preserve, just outside of the capital, Thimphu.

So there you have it! 6 of the weirdest experiences in travel I had this year! But what about you? Have you had any weird experiences this year?

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22 Responses to 2010′s Weirdest Travel Experiences

  1. Bryan Haines December 31, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Great post – I love the The Trough Toilet. Well, I guess I
    don’t “love” the toilet – in terms of wanting my own. I’ a fan of
    running water to take away – you know – the stuff.

    • Aaron December 31, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

      Hehe, yeah…it was by far one of the most alarming things I’ve ever seen. Take the trough urinal found around the world and turn it into… well nevermind!

  2. Lisa E @chickybus December 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    I really loved this–what a weird/wild assortment of photos! I love the one of the condoms and I really related to the one of the…um….crappy toilet in China. I recall using some like that. A bit unpleasant.

    I had some weird experiences this year, including the time I got lost with a Japanese couple in a Crusader castle in Syria. It was beautiful there, but a little creepy. We ended up eating bad hummus with a night watchmen who grunted a few words in English. And then, we somehow got lost. Thought we might have to spend the night. Weird place, but sort of cool, too. :)

    • Aaron December 31, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

      This is starting to sound like something straight out of a horror movie…

      Those crazy travel experiences always make the best stories though!

  3. Natalie - Turkish Travel Blog January 1, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    I love the mints and condom pictures. That is definitely a
    weird moment.

    • Aaron January 1, 2011 at 2:24 am #

      Hehe thanks!

  4. Brett January 2, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    Best thing about Cabbages and Condoms is that the food is pretty darned good, too! As for the first, the only thing we can compare from this year is going to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village…an amusement park for children, with a tribal display complete with sexual totems, including a six-foot tall phallus!

    • Aaron January 2, 2011 at 2:03 am #

      That’s appropriate for children? Well, cultural differences I suppose!

      And yes, the food at Cabbages and Condoms is really damn good! Sure, it’s totally geared towards foreigners, but they do make some mean Thai food…

  5. Caz Makepeace January 3, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    These are really great and weird travel moments. I can’t believe the bus drove through all that snow and you had to help dig it out! China is a place that will bring out amazing stories to tell, especially the toilets. It took me some time to get used to squatting openly in front of a line of waiting women.

    • Aaron January 3, 2011 at 8:24 am #

      Thanks Caz!

      Regarding the bus, perhaps it was a fit of “machismo,” which seems alive and kicking in China. He’d already put chains on the tires, so what else could possibly happen… Of course, there were buses (and subways) that got stuck in the snow during the blizzard we just had in NYC. Yet somehow, we can manage to dig ourselves out in China and in the U.S. you’re stuck for many, many hours…

      I have absolutely no problem with traditional squat toilets. That said, trough toilets make me VERY happy I’m not a woman… I feel for ya!

      And yes, China is….interesting in that regard!

  6. Connie January 3, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    Oh, the trough toilet…There is nothing more unappealing than doing your business in front of very curious and unbashful Chinese ladies. I know, because I’ve had to try! Seriously, what’s the issue with just hanging a door up?

    Great post!

    • Aaron January 3, 2011 at 8:18 am #

      Ah yes the infamous trought toilet that seemed to defy all logic! Though, when thinking about the lack of door, I can’t help but remember how many parents just have their kids go right on the sidewalk (in fact I even saw a mom having her kid do this at the Shanghai World Expo where there was a bathroom within spitting distance!

      With this kind of shame-less upbringing, who cares about a door!

  7. Erica January 3, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    Cannot… divert.. eyes… from… the Takan. Definitely an interesting looking animal.

    • Aaron January 3, 2011 at 8:10 am #

      I know! Isn’t is weird looking?? Our guide kept referring
      to it as “ugly.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s
      certainly unique and kind of cute (in an endearing sort of
      way)!

  8. Globetrottergirls January 3, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Hilarious!! You’ve come across some pretty weird things!
    Especially the trough toilet & the temple! We can’t wait to
    go to Asia ;-) Central America is full of weird things, it’s hard
    to pick one, but the Honduran woman with the chicken on her lap on
    the bus the other day was quite a sight ;-)

    • Aaron January 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

      Love the locals traveling with animals! I used to live in Ecuador when I was pretty young and I remember they used to tie livestock to the roof of the bus!

  9. Ayngelina January 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    Laughed all through this post but the Cabbage and Condoms photo is by far the best – serious message but really made me laugh.

    • Aaron January 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

      I know! It’s certainly one hell of a name for a restaurant and that’s definitely one of my favorite signs ever! I still don’t know which one is bigger though…Democrat or Republican size…Have any ideas?

  10. Maria Pavel January 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    Hi Aaron,

    Very funny photos, you really did saw some weird things this year. The Takin is such a sweet animal, so cute and innocent. Your adventures are way too cool, you should try making a movie. Congratulations for all your journeys, especially for your 2010 full of travelling year. Can’t wait to see 2011 weirdest things.
    Oh, and to answer your question:
    But what about you? Have you had any weird experiences this year?
    - Well.. this year I’ve got lost in the city and walked 4 hours to get home.
    It was extremely hilarious, I still laugh when recall this memory, hehe.

    Best regards,

    Maria

    • Aaron March 1, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

      Getting lost is actually one of my favorite activities! When I travel to big cities, I arm myself with a map and then take the metro or bus to some random station and find my way back to hostel. If all else fails, you can always take a taxi back!

      Thanks! 2010 was a pretty spectacular year! And yes, the Takin did seem incredibly sweet! I mean, how can you not love that face! :-)

  11. Jade Johnston July 16, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    The trough toilet is just mad!!! I have no problem with squat toilets, but I could definitely NOT use a toilet without a bit of privacy. Good on you for the courage. I would have just held it.

    • Aaron July 16, 2011 at 12:18 am #

      Hahaha well it is a slightly different experience for guys than it is for girls. I don’t think I could have done it if I were in your shoes… :-P

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