A Bad Travel Day

*Please don’t read if you have an aversion to toilet humour*

So yesterday I told you all that I’d had a bad day, but a serious hotel review didn’t seem like quite the right place to write about it. So here is the full story, in all its disgusting, squat toilet glory. It’s embarrassing, up there with this one, but I think it’s important not just share the sitting watching the sunset side of travel, but the horrible, oh-gawd-is-this-really-actually-happening parts too!

It was the day I was getting the bus from Hpa-an back to Yangon. I’d tried to find a VIP bus, but there aren’t any running that route, so I had settled for a normal air-con bus.

I woke that morning with horrible stomach cramps, and had to spend a good fifteen minutes or so twiddling my thumbs on the loo.

I thought it had settled so tentatively went to get my bus, hopeful that it wouldn’t be too arduous of a ride. Yet I knew as soon as I got on this was not going to be the case. The floor of the bus was covered in long cardboard boxes, so I couldn’t put my feet down. I had to sit with my knees almost up to my ears. The TV at the front was blaring Buddhist chanting and singing, the same few lines repeated over and over again. BAH-bah-bah-bah. BAH-bah-bah-bah. And air-con? What air-con. There was nothing more than a puff of warm air from that thing above your head every few minutes.

And then the bus started to fill up. Every seat got taken, so they started sitting people in the pull-down seats in the aisle. It was cramped. It got hot. Then even hotter.

Then the chanting finally stopped. Ah sweet relief. But not for long. They pressed play on a tape of Burmese soap operas. A man yelled at a woman. A father yelled at his daughter. A woman threw a pot plant at a man. Someone hit someone else over the head. More yelling. More screaming. All at top volume. I tried to drown it out with Ed Sheeran. I couldn’t.

And then a baby started to cry. And kept on crying. FOR HOURS.

And all this while my stomach was cramping. I sat huddled in my seat willing for either it to stop, or for the sound to stop. Either one would make this journey bearable I thought. Neither happened.

We pulled into a service station for a break, and I ran off the bus towards the loo, grabbing some tissue from a restaurant table on my way. After having to queue for 5, increasingly painful minutes, I finally got into a squat toilet. It had been a while since I’d used one, and in my desperation, well, let’s just say… I misjudged, and leave it at that. And there was only a small amount of water in the bucket beside me to clean it up with.  Oh gawd. I did the best I could and then hurried out of cubicle, refusing to look the lady who was about to go in next in the eye. I wished, not for the first time this trip, but definitely the most fervently, that I wasn’t so conspicuously white-skinned.

This was definitely not a good day.

I got back on the bus. Another four hours of baby screaming / people shouting / hot sweaty hell.

We finally arrived in Yangon and yet again I ran off the bus to find a bathroom. In my haste I forgot to lock the door, and looked up startled when it was suddenly opened. A man in a military uniform stood there, his face aghast. I did’t know what to do. I shouted ‘occupied’, but it was very obviously far too late for that. He muttered what I assume were apologies and quickly retreated, leaving the door to bang open and shut in his place.

Yep. Definitely not a good day.

I wasn’t sure whether or not to tell this story, as it is, let’s be honest, a bit gross. I have a very high TMI (That’s ‘too much information’, Granny) threshold as most of my friends will testify to, and I’m aware that many people will find this far too much. But it’s done now, and I hope that if a similar thing has happened to anyone reading this they will feel a bit better about it!

10 Comments

  1. Anna March 27, 2015 / 1:26 pm

    This story brings me great joy! Not due to your discomfort, but knowing that it’s not all roses when I’m getting up in the dark to run in the rain and you’re on a magical beach somewhere… It sounds like you’re having an amazing time- were missing you xx

    • theveryhungrylondoner March 27, 2015 / 2:26 pm

      Ha! It definitely isn’t always wonderful. Next time I post a photo of a gorgeous beach just think that I’m probably covered in mossy bites, sunburnt, sweating, and suffering from a bout of the runs! Miss you too x

  2. Hannah (@AdventureHan) March 27, 2015 / 2:49 pm

    Oh God,

    I’ve been in similar situations. Extremely bad stomach whilst on a salt flat tour in Bolivia. There were no toilets anywhere, so I had to resort to crouching behind a rock. That definitely put mine and my boyfriend’s relationship on a new level…

    • theveryhungrylondoner March 27, 2015 / 2:50 pm

      Brilliant! I think every traveller has a similar story… and it they don’t then they just aren’t eating enough local food! x

  3. Emma March 27, 2015 / 8:05 pm

    Ahhh, the joys of travelling…! I think Kelly (Around the world in 80 pairs of shoes) can definitely commiserate!

  4. Robyn March 28, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    Oh god, I have hundreds of these stories!! You definitely need to share it as a reminder to those of us still in the gloomy UK that it’s not all sunshine and cocktails 😉 In China, the public squat toilets rarely even had doors (let alone locks) and on one memorable occasion, I was crouched over the squat toilet when a kid peered in at me an started shouting “FOREIGNER, FOREIGNER” in Mandarin . . . I had about 30 seconds to yank up my trousers before his entire family cam rushing over to stare at the white person weeing. Not ideal. At least on that occasion, I didn’t have the runs, so I sympathise entirely!

  5. jasmine April 13, 2015 / 10:06 am

    these stories make travelling solo sound very real! I hope you never ever find yourself in a similar situation. But if you do, try pulling your ear to make the cramp go away or pinch somewhere else to “transfer” the pain. And I believe there are some acupressure points you can apply some pressure on to make the pain better.
    Great story! and I hope your enjoyed the rest of the trip.

    • theveryhungrylondoner April 14, 2015 / 5:35 am

      Hi Jasmine,

      Thank you so much – that is such a good tip! And yes, fingers crossed it doesn’t happen again, but if it does I’ll give that a go.

      Fiona

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