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Mistakes I Have Learnt From While Traveling in Asia

Mistakes happen in all the time, but they can pack a punch when you’re on the road. I made a few bad mistakes while traveling in Asia, some of them could have been prevented and others were just stupid. It is very important for me to learn from my mistakes and if I commit them again, shame on me.  Without further ado, here are the crimes I committed while traveling in Asia.


No Full Face Helmet and a Mouth Guard While Riding a Scooter

I guess it’s time to talk about the worst mistake I made while traveling in Asia. The toll of this mistake I will pay until the day I die.

I have great reflexes on a bicycle as I ride every day. I know how to fall from it without hurting myself. I’m not a good scooter rider. I do not know how to fall from a scooter, so when I lost control of my scooter on a quiet mountain road in Jogjakarta I stopped the fall with my chin. I ended up with a gaping wound on my chin and two broken teeth. This is not only the worst mistake I ever committed, it was just the worst thing I ever did to myself. This was the worst day of my life.

Next time: I will not stop riding a scooter, hours before my kiss of death with the pavement we rode our scooters to Borobudur temple and it was so much fun. So I will seek out a full faced helmet and bring a mouth guard for my next trip

2012-09-17 08.39.48

Thinking Traveler’s Insurance is for Suckers

It’s not. Accidents happen. I could have saved hundreds of dollars on hospital bills.

Next time: I’m getting the stupid insurance

Going to the Local Shaman and Instead of a Real Hospital

I got better treatment in hospitals in Indonesia than I could have ever gotten in Canada. When I came into a dodgy looking hospital in Jogjakarta to get stitches I was seen immediately. And yes, the stitches could have been done better, but the care of the nurses and doctors was incredible. They did the best with what they had.

When I had to get my stitches taken out in Labuan Bajo, I went to see some local “doctor” who cut one stitch and proceeded to poke my chin with rusty scissors. Her excuse? She didn’t have her glasses. Oh yeah and I had to pay 10 dollars for a bandage and the rusty scissor poke. She didn’t even take out the stitch she cut.

Next time: If you are in Labuan Bajo, do not visit Doctor Monica. There is a clinic nearby.

2012-09-17 12.36.20

Missing Out on Diving in Flores

Vanity got in the way and I didn’t want to risk my wound not healing properly. Looking back on it now, the wound was dry enough and I could have dove in one of the best places in the world.  Jonathan dove while I fiddled my thumbs on dry land.  When am I going to be in Flores again? 🙁

Next time: Vanity is not getting in the way of diving

Rushing When Climbing Out of Dive Boat

Silly of me to think that I could easily carry fins, a waterproof bag and a BCD while climbing down a precariously balanced ladder. Well, one of my legs slid off and went on the inside of the ladder. I ended up with an awesome bruise that was four inches in diameter.

Next time: Jonathan is the designated carrier of heavy things.

Drinking Unfiltered Mountain Water

While climbing Mount Kinabalu we had no choice but to drink water that was in giant cisterns along the trail. That water and possibly badly cooked food at one of the restaurants gave Jon and me severe food poisoning. We are very careful with water while traveling in Asia. This was the only lapse in our judgement and it did not go unnoticed.

Next time: Drink the mountain water and pray? There isn’t a way in hell I’m carrying liters of water up a mountain for 4 hours.

2012-08-29 12.39.41

Eating Raw Seafood in Questionable Places

After doing some research I found out that badly cooked seafood is one of the big culprits of food poisoning. The day before my birthday, Jonathan and I indulged in some raw oysters from Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan and a sushi tray from Costco. Let’s just say that I had the worst birthday that year. I blamed it on the sushi and vowed never to eat sushi from Costco again. Couple of months later we and our friends had oysters while at Jagalchi. The only friend who did not participate in raw oyster feast came out unscathed. At last, the connection was made in our tiny little brains.

Next time: No raw oysters, no raw seafood on any trip for me


My plan is not to do anything so stupid ever again… until the next crazy idea pops in our heads and we are compelled to act on it. I’ll let you know how that pans out. 😛  There are definitely worse mistakes one can make, but I still would not wish any of the ones above on anyone. I will try not repeat my mistakes, however I am bound to make new ones. It is, after all, in our nature.

2012-09-26 16.48.08

What I will continue doing

Renting motorbikes

Tap water is just for showers  – While we had no trouble with tap water in Busan, in seedier places don’t even trust it with your teeth. The only reason we drank milkshakes in the Philippines was because they were sterilized with Rum and we were assured it was filtered water safe for our weak foreign bodies.

Go with the flow, not book things ahead of time unless absolutely necessary

Bring a 4G device – because the world is awesome and better than Canada at being connected

Travel with a 6’1” man because I don’t like the look of some of these people.



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'21 Responses to “Mistakes I Have Learnt From While Traveling in Asia”'
  1. Colleen Middleton says:

    Hey Natalia,

    I really liked this one. Thanks for sharing.

    Despite loving seafood, I will only eat it cooked. I will try not to be vain (though that is tricky). And on the plus side I will bring my 3G phone (when I traveled by myself in Spain a few years ago, I could have really used a phone in some sticky situations).

    It sucks that you took a face-dive while on a scooter. Bikes are dangerous!! I am one who never (well, rarely) wears a helmet while learning to longboard, or rollerblade through Toronto, or hit high speeds on my snowboard. This is probably because I’ve never broken anything or had stitches. I will try to remember from your mistake. I hope it healed up well.

    I look forward to my next trip! My man is 6’4″ so at least I got that part covered 😉

    • Natalia says:

      Thanks for reading, Colleen!

      I think next time I’m actually going to bring a laptop. I really see the benefits in bringing one, except it can be stolen or be a heavy thing to carry. Sometimes you can change your itinerary mid trip so it’s really nice to have the ability to easily research your next destination. The availability of wifi makes things much easier.

      I never really wore a helmet while biking in Canada or Korea. I didn’t really wear a hard hat that was given to me in the Philippines. What happened made me realize that I’m not invincible, although a helmet doesn’t help much in a serious accident anyway. Now I’m actually wearing a helmet biking around Toronto, just because I feel better about it. If it helps sometime, which I guess is better than never.

      • Rob says:

        I traveled to Australia/NZ with my toshiba netbook, it was small enough to fit in my 15L daypack along with enough summer gear for a week, but still a bit bulky so some “I wish I hads” got excluded. Some of the new tablets are phenomenal, and if you get a waterproof pack and a good screenguard would hide in a pocket pretty smoothly.

        Stitches are something you get used to, next time around you’ll get your own scissors and pop them out on your own. No sweat!

        Colleens man ;D

        • Natalia says:

          Said like a real man.

          I’m not into the tablets. I’m playing with one currently and it’s not for me. I just don’t think it’s comfortable enough to hold and browsing is worse than on a real computer.

  2. Nico says:

    Ouch, the face plant from a bike sounds awful. Must say I’ve done something pretty stupid requiring stitches (diving into a shallow pool while drunk). While the hospital in Jakarta was great at putting the stitches in, I got my friend to take the stitches out (newly bought scissors, iodine and tweezers and the problem was sorted).

    • Natalia says:

      Hmmm…alcohol mixes really well with many things like diving and playing ultimate. Diving in a shallow, not so much.

  3. I always ask for a full helmet when renting a motorbike, but if they don’t have one I just go without. I know it’s stupid, but when I have to choose between riding with no helmet or not going at all, I choose no helmet. Luckily I haven’t yet had to pay for my stupidity…
    Daniel McBane recently posted…Braving the Jungles of Koh Phangan to Discover a Secluded BeachMy Profile

    • Jonathan says:

      I’m with you. If they even have a helmet it will likely be nearly worthless. I like to be a little reckless at times but definitely ride within your means. I also think that knowing how to fall helps a lot. I’ve had my share of falls on my MTB and it helps a little when doing things like motorbiking up a wet, steep and rocky road. Fingers crossed.
      Jonathan recently posted…Mistakes I Have Learnt From While Traveling in AsiaMy Profile

  4. I can really relate to this article, although I did pretty well of avoiding all these things I got dysentery through taking a shower (the water wasn’t any better than sewer water, although I didn’t know it at the time).
    Becky Padmore recently posted…In pictures: the people of Mozambique by Goats on the RoadMy Profile

    • Natalia says:

      Woah! Dysentery? That’s quite hardcore. I don’t know what’s worse than that. The guinea worm?

    • CurlyTraveller says:

      Wow, through showering. Never imagined that to be possible! Know you can get legionella from showering; very dangerous! But dysentery? Terrible!

  5. Red Hunt says:

    Some good lessons learned here! I have yet to master scooter driving either, but heed your safety warning! I think we all end up having some travel ‘regrets’ for things we skipped or missed along the way…just focus on all the awesome stuff you did do!
    Red Hunt recently posted…The Caves of Gunung MuluMy Profile

    • Jonathan says:

      I am lucky and have a cool mom that rented scooters with me when I was as young as 14 but watching my friends and Natalia get on their bikes for the first time was pretty entertaining for me. The fact that some of the rentals had mechanical problems made it that much more fun. My friend Kris had trouble starting his scooter and gave it a good shot of gas while pushing the starter. A few seconds later it sprang to life and boosted straight into a guard-rail! No injuries and no damage, just a few good laughs!
      Jonathan recently posted…Accidentally on Purpose – Engrish in Korea My Profile

  6. What an unfortunate accidents and adventures, Natalia! Wow!
    Yes, in hindsight it is always easy to say: I wish I had…..or: next time I will….but as you say yourself: it’s in our nature. And also: it is impossible to be prepared for all dangers.
    But I agree that it is good to try at least;-)
    Hope your future travels will be safe and fun!
    Curly Traveller recently posted…10 Things I Hate About TravellingMy Profile

    • Jonathan says:

      Luckily, the bruised leg was something we could laugh about almost immediately afterwards. The scooter crash was quite an adventure and a freak accident. We had previously navigated wet rocky paths and ultra-busy avenues with hardly a problem and yet a quiet paved road was where it happened. I agree that it’s impossible to prepare for everything. Sometimes it takes a little risk to have the most fun. The amount of freedom that a rented motorbike gives while on vacation makes it totally worth the risk in my opinion. Owning one in Korea was also the best decision I made while there. Fingers crossed that this was the one “hard lesson” learnt.
      Jonathan recently posted…Accidentally on Purpose – Engrish in Korea My Profile

  7. I think we have all learned lessons like these the hard way.. some more than others – Ouch! I guess sits all part of the adventure and at least our mishaps give us something to write about 🙂
    Nicole @ Suitcase Stories recently posted…Jaguar Rescue Center in Costa Rica – Photo EssayMy Profile

  8. Suzy says:

    Ouch! That bike injury doesn’t sound like a picnic. Sounds like most of your mistakes were of the physical injury variety. Knock on wood, but I haven never had a bad injury while traveling, aside from a parasite from eating questionable food in Portugal. You definitely have to watch what you eat to avoid food poisoning.
    Suzy recently posted…Lincoln Travelogues: Notes on Traveling to the Famous for the Unknown JourneyMy Profile

  9. Arianwen says:

    Ouch! Yes, it’s always a good idea to get insurance. It’s tough when you’ve forked out hundreds or thousands over the years and never seen a penny back, but when that accident finally happens, it’s all worthwhile. I’ve taken a couple of chances, but I won’t again.
    Arianwen recently posted…Scared Britless: High-adrenaline New ZealandMy Profile

  10. […] motorbikes and plan to climb the mountain the next evening. Unfortunately the next day turned into the worst day of my life and the climb had to be postponed indefinitely. We did eventually climb Mount Merapi the day […]

  11. […] finally got back on the ol’ motorbike for the first time after I ran myself into the pavement. This time there were no causalities. There was just incredibly scenery, washed out roads, dodgy […]

  12. Andrea says:

    Though you made some “mistakes”, they make for some incredible travel stories! The hospital looks a bit sketchy, but I’m sure their hospitality made up for their lack of resources! Can’t wait to read more on your blog!
    Andrea recently posted…A-Z: Where You’ll (Probably) Find Me in 2015My Profile

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