Our writers are travel experts who have travelled far and wide. And when you travel, weird things happen. Most times they’re weird and wonderful. Other times they’re just… well, read about their weirdest travel experiences and see for yourselves.

Sarah Billington on Getting Picked Up in a Red-Light District

shinjuku-red-light-districtMoyan Brenn

Being propositioned in Tokyo’s red-light district was a strange experience. Having just left a robot cabaret restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo (an absolutely insane must-do for tourists), I was standing beside a subway entrance, tablet in hand, attempting to Skype with my elderly parents back in Australia. A man walked past and asked if I’d like to… erm… do something rather indiscreet to him.

I said no thank you and continued staring at my tablet, mortified. He came back a couple of minutes later to check if I was sure I didn’t want to.

I was sure.


Nick Measures on Living Dangerously in the Desert


Without question, one of the strangest travel experiences I’ve ever had was when I found myself driving a 10-wheeler truck through The Karoo desert in South Africa. I was 18 and hitch-hiking with my friend – he sat on the dashboard operating the enormous gearbox – while our erstwhile driver was sleeping off the contents of a bottle of whisky in the back of the cab.

My desperation to get to Johannesburg for a flight had initially meant ignoring the stupidity of accepting the drunk driver’s invitation to take the wheel. However, spending 30 nerve-wracking minutes trying to steer the huge vehicle and a close call with a police car was enough to make me realise that getting there alive was far more important than catching any flight.

I pulled off into the next truck park, much to the surprise of the other drivers already there.


Anusha K. on Facing Off With a Bull Elephant


I was 11 when I first experienced the African bush. We were on safari and our tour van usually stopped to allow animals to cross the road. One time we stopped for a family of elephants. A lone bull elephant stayed behind, not moving.

We waited; he didn’t move.

So we inched forward and he abruptly turned. Suddenly this huge elephant was running straight at us, ears flapping and trumpeting loudly. We reversed the van and after about 200 metres, the bull abruptly stopped and retreated into the bush.

It was just incredible and I’ve been in awe of these animals ever since.


Gillian Birch on Busking by Sydney Harbour


A busker on the Sydney Harbour (Not me!)

As a Brit on my first visit to Sydney, the strangest character I’ve ever met and interacted with was a revered Aboriginal elder.

He wore next to no clothing and was coated in traditional body paint. He was accompanied by a younger Aborigine playing a didgeridoo. I ended up sitting with them on a tree trunk outside of the train station by the harbour and started playing the clapsticks for a gathering crowd, while the older man regaled me with tales (and photos) of when he met Prince Charles and the Queen.

For me the honour was meeting him!


Karen Tee on Tibetan Reality TV 101

When my boyfriend and I went on a camping trip in the remote Tibetan mountains, we noticed something peculiar – Tibetans would periodically stop and stare as we went about our mundane business. It was only when a father and daughter duo squatted down on the ground to get comfortable while we were reading books and sipping tea in our tent that I scurried over to our guide to ask for help.

tibet-lhasaGöran Höglund (Kartläsarn)

Our Tibetan guide laughed and said, “You guys look like foreigners, but are not doing the typical photo taking or travelling in a tour bus, so they’re watching you like a television show!” In a land known for its stunning landscapes and unique culture, it was at once amusing and humbling that regular city dwellers like us could be deemed interesting by such exotic people.

To me, that is why I travel.


Mikolai Napieralski on Getting Lost in Translation

I was in Tokyo a few years back, trying to find Memory Lane in Shinjuku. This narrow backstreet has its origins in 1950s, post-war Japan and is basically a series of shanty bars selling beer and yakitori skewers late into the night.

I got totally lost en route and ducked into a tiny whisky bar to ask for directions and ended up making friends with a couple of the locals inside. These guys took me down to the laneway, bought me dinner and drinks and we spent the rest of the night chatting – despite the fact I didn’t speak a word of Japanese, and their English was almost as bad.



Rebecca on Barenaked Bunkmates

On my last night in New Zealand, I was running out of backpacker $$, so I stayed in the cheapeast room in the dorm. There was about 10 people in this tiny mixed-dorm room. After I’d gone to bed for the night, there was a knock on the door and one of the other people in the dorm got up to answer it. I peeled my eyes open in the dark only to see an crinkley butt. It was an old lady, holding a little towel to her chest as she opened the door. Nice.

5 minutes later I heard rustling. I looked up again from my lower bunk. She was standing next to me, slowly drying herself with her towel, making little attempt to cover anything. I closed my eyes shut again, wondering why someone would be so naked in a shared room. Ignoring her was difficult when I could hear every brush of the towel against her skin in the dead silence of the room. Oh my word, please stop! I rummaged desperately for my earplugs and finally fell asleep.

I had a chuckle a little later when the two young men returned from the Foo Fighters concert. They were whispering in the dark. I asked them sleepily if they could help shut the curtains. He said in a Spanish accent, “Oh, wow. You’re so beautiful, for you I’d do anything.” Sat there in frumpy long-johns, I genuinely blushed, surprised by his (probably drunken) compliment.

The next morning, the happy memory was quickly overshadowed when Madam Barenaked eagerly chatted with me from the bunk above. She was complaining about the boys whispering, calling them inconsiderate. (?!!) When I climbed out of the bed and looked up at her, it took all I had to keep my jaw from dropping. This lady, somewhere between 55 and old-years-old, was STILL completely naked. Now I had a full view of her boobs in bright daylight as she gesticulated in lively conversation.

I gulped, replied politely while avoiding all eye contact, and shuffled out of there as quickly as I could.



Image Credits: Getty Images, images licensed under Creative Commons 2.0


What strange encounters have you had while travelling?