Woke up to a local Sunday Market outside my hostels doorstep. #cheapstuff #boughtsomefruit #kotakinabalu #akinabaluyouthhostel #sundayfunday
With a class of over 160 I was only able to snap a few pictures with some of my kids. I’ll miss them so much but middle school awaits. I’m so sad!! 😩😭 #loveem #sixthgradersnomore #yeongwolelementaryschool
In Korea you get rice cakes for everything. Today’s reason being that a teachers baby is 100 days old. 👶🎉 “Thanks for coming to my party. It just wouldn’t have been as much fun without you. You know how to get the joint jumping. Thanks again.” #ricecakes #babyshowerthanks #southkorea #tteok
My mind can’t comprehend this right now. #malaysia #sixmoredays #solotrip2 #sunisfun #whyyousocoldkorea?
So I may have exaggerated a bit on the title but at the time it sure felt like a life or death situation. I’ll take you back to the start before that terrifying night in Cebu left my three friends and I lost for words.
To start of my winter vacation this year I went to Taiwan for 4 days 3 nights and I had a great time. I decided to try out solo traveling a bit and although it was a short trip it was definitely nice to do. It was my first time “surfing” as a couch surfer and I was a bit nervous to be staying at a complete strangers house (oh did I mention that he was a guy? Haha am I crazy? Possibly!). However, I didn’t feel like he was a stranger because my girlfriend Denise had just went to Taiwan and had met up with my host and met him in person. I also talked to him a lot on Facebook before heading out to Taipei. Denise gave me the green light and after reading several great reviews from other surfers I decided to send him a request. He turned out to be the best host I could’ve ever imagined. Granted he was my first I didn’t really know what to expect but he treated me like he’d known me forever. He was kind enough to take me to a bunch of different places in which I’m sure he is so over going to but it was still really sweet of him.
During my time in Taipei I had tons of bubble tea, delicious food, and even did a little bit of shopping. One thing I really liked is that I was able to go to a natural hot spring. The water was so nice and refreshing. I felt so out of place at first because majority of the people in the hot spring were elderly men and women but after a while I just didn’t care anymore and soaked in the sun and the mineral water. I think I felt more weird because there were other foreigners there. I know that sounds weird but for some reason since living abroad sometimes when I see other foreigners I feel awkward or I hide haha. I guess I’m used to being the only person around that speaks English or I’m forgetting how to interact with English speakers. Whatever the case I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that I’ve picked up.
While being in Taipei I managed to attend Mass (I know who goes to church while on vacation right? Me that’s who!), I had tried to attend an English Mass but I missed it and decided to attend Mass in Mandarin. Maybe I’m weird but I really enjoy hearing Mass in different languages and seeing the differences in cultures it’s just so interesting to me. Anyway, I overall had a great time in Taipei, and I’d love to go again sometime to explore a little more. Who knows maybe I’ll even end up teaching there someday.
After Taiwan I headed to Manila in the Philippines. I met up with one of my girlfriends (named Ness) and we just hit up the Mall of Asia and had some food. The next day we met up with another friend (named Gugu) after what seemed like forever. Gugu flew in on the 22nd and hadn’t told us any details of her flight and since our hotel had no Wi-Fi we were unable to send her any messages. After hours of searching for Gugu (because the airport wouldn’t page her) Ness and I decided to go to the terminal where our flight to Palawan was going to be departing to. We had less than an hour before it was departing and had spent over an hour and a half searching for Gugu. We luckily arrived and ran into her while she was waiting in line to check us in. It was so chaotic and it just proves that you really need to plan things better when you have friends flying in at different times. (P.S. the Manila airport sucks balls! Seriously the worst airport ever!) After re-uniting with Gugu we were off to Puerto Princessa where we spent a lovely couple days before heading out to Cebu to meet up with another friend named Nicole who we told to meet us at our hotel. We didn’t have the chance to go to El Nido or to see the Underground River but I hope to return sometime to hit up both places.
Once in Cebu and all 4 of us were settled in we decided to book an island hopping tour with a “friendly” taxi driver. This is where the fun story begins. Our taxi driver was named Lito. He seemed like a nice honest guy but after our fun day of island hopping ended he tried to rip us off dirty. He had given us a set price for the whole day which included transportation round trip, boat rental, snorkeling gear, entrance fees, and lunch/drinks. We agreed to this set price the night before and in the morning before the trip started so we only brought enough money to pay and tip. At the end of the trip he told us that another driver was going to take us to our hotel and it would be on meter so we would have to pay when we arrived. We argued that we thought the price included roundtrip transportation and he told us that it didn’t. He then got out of the taxi and left so we just left it at that and didn’t tip him. When we arrived at the hotel the taxi driver tried to charge us 1,500pp (about $33USD) when the meter had only said about 300-400pp (about $6-8USD). We told him how Lito had his money and we weren’t going to pay because Lito had told us that the transportation was included. The taxi driver grew impatient and wanted us to pay him so we told him to call Lito. He said he didn’t have minutes on his phone and at that point drove us to a market where he bought some minutes so he could call Lito. When he did get a hold of him he seemed pretty angry and was yelling but we weren’t sure if he was in on it with Lito or if he was honestly being screwed out of his money. My friend Gugu talked to Lito on the phone who expressed that it wasn’t his problem and how “we” were going to solve the problem. We told him that “he” needed to go back to the boat people and collect the money for the driver because we didn’t have the extra money that he was asking for. Lito didn’t give a crap and kept telling us that we needed to figure it out and we needed to pay. At that point I was over it and I jumped out of the car and went to a security guard at our hotel. I purposely left the car door open and spoke extremely loudly so he could hear me telling the entire story and how we were being cheated out of our money. The security guards came over to the car and while I was talking to them the driver just kept watching me talk to the guards. I think he became nervous (or so my friends say) and he told them it was fine and that we didn’t need to pay. My friends then got out of the car and he drove away. The security guards at the hotel were really nice and told us to be careful because that type of stuff does happen. They also told us next time to not come and leave like we did because the taxi might have taken us somewhere and robbed us. Lesson learnt never trust a taxi driver.
The day after the “Lito” situation we decided that we would just book any other tours through actual tour companies. We had two options, either save a couple bucks and get nearly screwed out of our money OR just pay up and get exactly what we are paying for no strings attached with a tour company. So the next day we booked a swimming with whale sharks trip and it was so much fun! Those sharks definitely don’t ask for permission as my friend Ness kept saying haha. But it was super cool and fun to do. Later on that night we decided to celebrate our friends last night because she was leaving to go to Vietnam to continue her travels. We asked our hotel for a nice area to dine and grab some drinks and she recommend an area called Mango Square. We got a taxi and headed about 15-20mins from our hotel at about 10 or 11pm. While we were eating on the patio at a restaurant my friends went to buy a pack of cigarets. I was watching them as they walked back and I saw a man following them he then asked them where they were from and one of my friends responded that we were American. The guy seemed disinterested and then turned around and walked away. We thought it was odd but then we realized throughout the night that he was definitely watching us.
THIS is where shit starts to get scary!
So while eating and having a few drinks we decide to get one last drink and then head out back to our hotel since we’d been up since 4 something in the morning. Still noticing that the guy had been watching us and driving around the parking lot on his motorcycle we asked a waiter to go to the street to call us a taxi. We hopped in and were headed towards the exit of the parking lot when I turned around to see the motorcycle guy right behind us. I turned around and started telling my friends who are aware but were pretending to be oblivious. We weren’t sure if the taxi driver was in on it or not so I started speaking in Spanish about what we should do to my friend Ness who also speaks Spanish. Both of us were freaking out while Gugu was trying to act nonchalant about it in the front seat. Nicole on the other hand was knocked out on the seat next to me. How she fell asleep in the midst of all the madness still amazes me but I guess it was better with just three girls freaking out instead of four.
Anyway we are being driven down the street and the guy is definitely following us. About midway to our hotel he branches off out of sight down another street. We think maybe just maybe we are safe but then about five minutes later we see a headlight coming from behind us. The guy is back and this time he has brought company. On the back of his bike are two other men that seemed to be grinning as they pulled up next to our taxi. I don’t know what our driver was thinking but the idiot slows down! As soon as I see the three guys I knew we were in deep shit. I mean seriously I thought we were going to be freaking kidnapped and taken to the jungle or trafficked or something much worse (I mean 4 girls at the mercy of a taxi driver being followed by three guys on a bike at two something in the morning that just screams disaster). Due to the taxi slowing down the motorcycle guy sped up ahead of us and the two guys on the back managed to jump off quickly. One of the men ran across the street while the other stayed on the right side, while the motorcyclist stayed on his bike just straight chillin’. As we drove past it appeared as if the guy on the right was either going to try and jump in front or was trying to stop the taxi. At any means something finally clicked in the taxi drivers head and he sped up quickly passing all three of the men. As we drove away and gained some distance the solo motorcyclist started following us again.
At this point we were very close to our hotel. I had not wanted to go to our hotel because I didn’t want the guy to see where we were staying but luckily all the hotels we’d stayed at had had security guards so rather than be dropped off somewhere where we’d be vulnerable we decided on our hotel. As we approached we realized that it was a one way street. The taxi driver who was either working with the guys or just stupid told us that he couldn’t turn on the street because it was a one way. As soon as he said that we all started screaming at him that he needed to turn now or we were going to jump out right there. So at that point he had no other choice but to turn and as soon as he did we threw the money at him and jumped out of the taxi. Ness, Gugu and Nicole all ran up the steps and I ran to the security guard who was asleep at the top of the stairs. I started telling him how we were being followed and that we didn’t know what to do. He went down and took down the taxi drivers information as he was still parked out front. As he was taking down his info the creep that had been following us turned on our street and drive right by. I started yelling at the security guard that it was him who was following us (which was probably pointless but I didn’t know what else to do). After that we all went up to the cafe in our hotel and since we had been so nervous and frightened we forgot to get the key. I went down to grab the key and the receptionist was just smiling like we were stupid for being scared. Apparently when my friend had told the receptionist about what had happened she just simply responded very coldly and unconcerned, “Oh.” Which explains why she was almost laughing when I went to get the room key.
After this event we were all shaken up and I was ready to switch hotels because the guy knew where we were staying. My friends and I decided to just stay since we only had one more night in that area. We decided we would only go out during the day and would be back before it was dark. The following day we were more or less paranoid. Every motorcycle that drove by we would joke that it was one of “Lito’s” people. So we created a back story to why this whole ordeal happened to us. We decided as a group that Lito was upset because we didn’t pay his taxi driver friend from the day we went island hopping so to make us pay he had the motorcycle guy follow us to collect payment. The story was priceless and made us laugh instead of being scared.
The next few days anything bad that would happen to us or between us would be blamed on Lito. You didn’t have enough change? That was Lito’s fault. You didn’t sleep well? That was Lito too. Anything and everything was Lito’s fault. It became quite ridiculous really but highly entertaining. After that the highlight was when we went to sight see at the local San Pedro Fort and while walking around we stopped to take some pictures. Written on a wall was “Lito loves…” we instantly began creating a story saying that he was watching us and he knew we’d stop to take pictures because he saw us taking so many on our island hopping trip. It was priceless.
Lucky for us we never had a run in again with Lito or his people (seriously thank God) and the rest of our trip was guarded but still fun. I guess what I learned from this experience besides that it was terrifying and that I’d hope to never experience it again, is that I should always (as I usually do) stay alert to my surroundings, not get drunk in an unfamiliar place (thank goodness none of us did), and be ready to fight or flight!
Although I was shaken up by this experience I won’t let it hinder me from my future travels. I still want to travel whether it be alone or with company. When I told my parents they were worried as they should be but my mom wanted me to cancel my upcoming trip to Malaysia since I’m going solo and I had to reassure my dad that it’s relatively safe (or so I’ve heard). Needless to say I didn’t cancel and I’m excited to be going in a couple of weeks. I plan to meet up with my cousin and I’m going to stay in hostels so I’ll never really be alone. Life has a funny way of teaching you things that’s for sure.
Anyway I’m safe, alive and far from Lito and his minions. I also think ice rambled enough here for today so until next time lovelies!
The ladies ready to do some work and we mean on our butts, thighs, and abs! ❄️🏂🎿🇰🇷 #skiing #snowboarding #fun @danniedoodles