A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday
Eager but grammatically shaky signs are one of the quiet joys of travelling through Asia. From a Malaysian hotel that implores you to "Say hi to our friendly staffs", to an Indonesian restaurant with an unusual (and evidently historic) focus on potatoes — "the best potatoes dishes since 20 years" — bad signs have been a steady source of pleasure for me.
The one exception was in Laos back in 2010 when a couple of buddies and I set off in search of the Phou Kham Caves near Vang Vieng. Widely known for the unofficially named "Blue Lagoon" that sits at the bottom of the caves, we didn't know exactly where to go, but the basic plot of "cross the bridge, ride a couple of kilometres and follow the signs", seemed easy enough.
The heat was up in the mid-30s and the first of the monsoon rains had transformed parts of the track into a greasy mess of clay where our bicycle wheels couldn't always find traction. With soaring jungle-covered limestone peaks around us, however, we didn't overly mind that some of the time we were having to push our bikes on foot. Besides, soon we'd be at the Blue Lagoon.
Which at this point we knew little about, other than that fellow backpackers had told us it was stunning pool of fresh water at the foot of some caves. After cycling about 20 minutes, we came upon a fork in the road with a near all-caps sign that read as pictured above.
What a shame there were "too many stalac tiles". Nevertheless, we were sold on the "big swiming pool", not to mention the prospect of something resembling a tiger. So even though we recalled instructions to veer right at the first junction, we decided to "walk follow" the sign.
The 400m turned out to be more like a kilometre, but eventually we happened upon a little chap under an umbrella who sold us some entrance tickets to the cave. If it didn't look right it's because it wasn't. Sweat dripping off us, all we found was a claustrophobic, pin-prick of a cave with some knee-high water to wade through in the dark. Clearly not the Phou Khaftssm Caves and definitely not the Blue Lagoon. We'd been conned! And there weren't even artificial fish, let alone the promised "natural fish".
Back on the main road after a 2km round trip waste-of-time detour under our belts, we spotted a cafe where the owner warned us of the fake signs. "They are everywhere!" He explained the Blue Lagoon was further ahead on the right and to ignore any sign pointing left.
Finally, a kilo or three lighter, we made it to the Phou Kham Caves and the Blue Lagoon though not before passing more tempting signs of dubious truth-telling (namely "WELCOME to Fishing Heaven" and "NATURAL SVIMMING JUMPING").
It was worth it. Shaded by trees with over-hanging branches where you could leap into the water, the bright mineral-influenced teal of the lagoon was deserving of all the backpacker hype.
People who stand still on airport travelators
Very briefly, what's the deal with people who stand still on airport travelators? I understand if walking causes you physical pain, but if you're youngish and vaguely fit, why pass up the fun of superhuman speed walking?
I love travelators so much I always find myself wanting to bust out a 100m sprint to see what my time would be. Imagine Usain Bolt doing some sort of charity fundraiser by sprinting on an airport travelator! Genius.