They Never Came

In my many months of pre-trip arrangements, reading guidebook upon library-borrowed guidebook, I took copious notes and readied myself to heed the repetitive warnings of dangers and scams and touts and annoyances. But …

They never came.

I went to the bank before my departure and attempted to load myself up with crisp, clean new bills. Bring any other kind, I had read, and they won’t be accepted when you try to change them and then you’ll have a big problem. But the bank in Hawaii didn’t have all fresh new bills, so I took what that gave me and hoped for the best, nervous that I would meet bank tellers refusing to make the exchange. But …

They never came.

I painstakingly packed papers and valuables to be hidden away in secret compartments, lest I come upon some untoward people. But …

They never came.

I even heard the voice of my mother speaking to me from the other side, worried as she was in life, telling me she wished I didn’t have to go to these dangerous places, warning that they are filled with perilous people and traveling there alone is sure to bring me into harm’s way. But …

They never came.

I purchased prescriptions and brought first aid supplies just in case I encountered some awful disease or accident. But …

They never came.

I found and read scores of travelers’ blogs, describing in excruciating details their tales of woe, disappointment, worries and fears. But …

They never came.

I bought and made room for a security wallet and a locking steel cord to wrap around my backpack so intruders or thieves could not get away with my goods. But …

They never came.

“Watch out for the bottled water. Check the seals. Sometimes they refill the bottles with tap water and resell them as purified water. The stuff’ll kill you. You really don’t want to get the diseases that are rampant in the water.” I listened and checked the bottle tops, careful to avoid the dreaded diseases. But …

They never came.

In Thailand on my way to Laos, I was warned about the border scams and bribes and I was ready for the potential showdowns. But …

They never came.

Then in Lao, the same refrain. “The border agents in Cambodia are notorious for long delays and ripping off tourists – be careful!” So I did, I paid attention and I was careful to watch out for these dreaded guys. But …

They never came.

I heard the well-intentioned worry in my sister’s voice, in her early emails and our skype calls – where was I? How was I? Would the latest violence at the Thai/Cambodian border threaten me? I heard her concern when she said she just couldn’t help but worry about me, out here, alone, lest some frightening fates befall me. But …

They never came.

Still in Lao, the conversations with other travelers about my onward trip to Cambodia brought the big, threatening guns of warnings. “The Khmer Rouge is still there. Be careful! The poverty is staggering – people are desperate – watch out for them! Ohhhh, you’re going to Battambang? Yikes! It’s one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge – watch your step there! Sihanoukville too? Well, be prepared for ugly beaches and wall-to-wall umbrellas. Oh, and minefields, there are still plenty of minefields in Cambodia and they’re not all underground – some of them are the people waiting to take advantage of you!” All these dire warnings of the potential perils that awaited me. But …

They never came.

I heard traveler after traveler, local after local express their concern about me traveling alone and alerting me of the many cautions I should take to avoid the miseries sure to cloud my adventure. But …

They never came.

Then in Cambodia – ohsure, maybe it’s been fine until now, but you’re going to Vietnam? Practically every tourist who had traveled there shared with me their extreme dislike of the country and its people. “They’re all out to rip you off and at every turn! You can’t trust any of them – all they want is your money! They’re rude and mean and they don’t like tourists. And it’s not even pretty there – it has nothing on the beauty of Lao and Cambodia!” So I braced myself, took my New York attitude out of my back pocket, squared my shoulders broadly and headed in to meet the potential disappointments and pitfalls of this least favorite country on nearly everyone’s list. I had my one unfortunate experience there that I’ve chosen to put behind me. But . . .

They never came.

From there, onto northern Laos and Luang Prabang. Many spoke of its beauty, but most complained of how over-touristed and Disneyland-like it had become. It was expensive and not Lao-like at all, I was told. No one is friendly; no one is interested in anything but the tourist dollar. So I arrived, waiting for these untoward locals to show their unfriendliness and their lack of interest in anything but my wallet. But . . .

They never came.

Then it was time to find my way to the beach to close out my journey. All the islands are too expensive these days, I read. They’re over-developed, clogged with tourists and not worth the time to get to them. You’ll be disappointed, for sure. So I read and I researched and I wondered if I would meet those disappointments even here on Koh Chang. But …

They never came.

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