Joel of Freedonia Post recently tagged me in Tripbase’s My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets chain which has been making its rounds on the #rtwsoon and #rtwnow tweets. The chain started out with location tips but now includes anything you should know, including Joel’s cautionary 3 Travel Secrets They They Do Not Want You to Know.
In addition to Joel’s post I’ve read so many great tips that it was a bit challenging to find three things that experienced travelers may not know but I think I found three that may be news for some of you:
1) Montreal Drum Circle at Mount Royal
The past three years I’ve partied at the Montreal Jazz Festival but last year was the first time I experienced the Drum Circle which is run by Tam Tams Montreal.
Imagine a modern day hippie festival occurring every Sunday from Spring through Fall. Hundreds congregate on the grass with blankets, food and plastic cups filled with arbitrary alcohol to listen to the bongos and djembes that surround the angel statue, also known as the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument.
If you want to lounge around for the afternoon, buy some cheap reggae inspired trinkets and dance to the rhymn you should not miss this event.
2) Take the Train from Bangkok to Cambodia with the locals.
Traveling from Bangkok to Siem Reap is a long road of avoiding scams. After hearing all the horror stories my traveling companion Geof (aka Curious George’s owner) and I decided to take the train to the Aranyaprathet, Thailand/Poipet, Cambodia border.
At first it doesn’t appear appealing as it’s a 6am start on a third-class, 5 hour long train but you cannot beat the price of 48 Baht.
This is my second travel secret as it was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. Although we were the only non-local, English-speaking travelers it didn’t stop others from sitting with us, offering us food, insisting that we hold their babies.
They wanted to look at our passports and were excited that we were Canadian.
Somehow we communicated without a common language.
This is tip 2B if you choose this path: it may be wise to contact Two Dragons Guesthouse which is run by an American/Thai couple. It’s much pricier than the other hostels but they give very specific instructions on how to cross the border without getting scammed and will even arrange a taxi from the Cambodian border to Siem Reap.
It’s a good deal.
This was one of the more stressful border crossings and we were so happy everything was arranged in advance. Unfortunately the other travelers crossing were not as lucky as paid double the visa price and spent the remainder of their patience negotiating a fair taxi price.
3) Termini Station – find the yellow validation machine.
My mother says I could fall into a bucket of poo and come out smelling like roses. What she means is that I’m incredibly lucky. Somehow when I travel alone people want to take care of me.
I arrived solo in Rome and went to Termini station to buy a one-way second class to Florence for $30. While waiting for the train a middle-aged woman approached me frantically speaking Italian. I had no idea what she said but she kept pointing to her ticket so I showed her mine.
There was a look of shock on the woman’s face and with flailing arm motions she summoned me to come with her. I wasn’t sure what was happening, thought she trying to scam me and followed her with hesitation.
That was until we found the yellow validation machine that she was looking for and what I needed to find as well.
For some reason, no one tells you that you have to get your ticket stamped before boarding the train, otherwise it’s useless. That crazy Italian woman just saved me a hefty penalty.
I boarded the the train and met a lovely American couple on their honeymoon and told them about how I didn’t know about this validation machine.
Apparently they didn’t either.
Security came through to look at our passports and tickets and the Americans were slapped with a $75 fine. I’ve heard that this happens all the time to travelers, yet no one passes along this tip.