By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
(Editor’s note: This is a continuation of Publisher Assunta Ng’s blog post from last week’s issue — the unique things she does while traveling around the world.)
7. Everything is negotiable
Did you know that hotel room rates and its services are negotiable? Once, we booked a hotel at a certain rate, and later found on its website that its rate dropped two weeks later. (When the hotel projection for its rooms is wrong, it might reduce their rates.) My husband called the hotel. The clerk said, “You didn’t ask (for the low rate).” That’s outrageous!
So if you don’t ask, you don’t get it! The hotel clerk said he couldn’t voluntarily give us the lower rate.
If you stay in the hotel for more nights, you should ask if it comes with breakfast. Or you should ask if they offer discounts for other services. What’s the best deal you can give me?
Once, we asked if we could upgrade to a room with the best view during check-in. Surprisingly, the hotel gave us the sweeping-view room on the second day, at no extra charge.
8. Outrageous deals
I used to squeeze every dollar from shop owners when I traveled, and felt like I won something. Now that I am older, I prefer bargaining with a win-win attitude.
Several years ago, my husband and I visited Turkey on a cruise. Turkey is famous for its beautiful hand-woven carpets. My friend’s advice was, don’t buy it at the capital, Istanbul. Buy it at Kusadasi, a small coastal town. The carpet in Istanbul cost $6,000 — way over my budget.
At Kusadasi, I spotted a beautiful 8 foot-by-10 foot carpet with a green and brown pattern. The list price was over $2,000. Those remarkable designs in America were rare, then and now.
“Give me a good deal,” I said. The owner knew I was from America because of the cruise.
“$1,000,” he said. Actually, it’s still cheaper than buying in America.
“$600,” I countered.
“Madam, you have to let me make some money, too,” he said. That sounds reasonable.
I looked at dozens more. I found an elegant gold-colored 7 foot-by-10 foot carpet.
“Ok, $1,200 for both,” I said.
We closed the deal. The price included packing and two different suitcases. But the real surprise was that two guys carried the suitcases, and walked us back to our ship. We didn’t even need a taxi.
We travel with only one hand-carry luggage each. Those two suitcases of carpet fit the requirement for each passenger’s check-in at the airport. All of our shipmates who bought carpets had to pay for additional luggage, at $400 each.
9. Using my trump card
“(Blue Lagoon tickets) sold out,” a hotel clerk told us when we were in Iceland last year. Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in a lava field, is one of the top tourist spots in Iceland.
I learned in life that if I stay home, nothing will happen. I don’t just give up easily.
The hotel clerk begged us not to go to the Blue Lagoon since there were no tickets left.. We didn’t know that tickets could be sold in advance. It’s about an hour-long drive from the hotel. If we didn’t take the chance, we would have missed seeing one of the 25 wonders of the world.
Most people use money to get what they want during their travels. Mine is my media credential. Sometimes, it works like magic in America. Outside Seattle, no one cares about the Northwest Asian Weekly, a tiny newspaper!
After arriving at the Lagoon, there were long lines of people with tickets, waiting to get in. And there was another line for people without tickets.
My husband showed our credentials at the counter. The Lagoon staff consulted several managers.
After 20 minutes, the staff told us we could go to a different aisle to buy tickets. We were so grateful!
The Lagoon was as beautiful as the guidebooks depicted. I was so glad that I bought a new swimsuit for this occasion, even though I had not swam for 40 years.
10. To eat or not eat strange foods
Several years ago, I was in China, passing by a Chinese barbecue restaurant. Something fishy was hanging on the glass window and I couldn’t figure it out. It didn’t look like duck head, chicken, or roast pig. I realized later that it was a dog’s head. I felt like vomiting. It’s legal to eat dogs and cats in China.
Since then, I decided that I won’t eat anything if it looked suspicious. My advice is to stay away from street foods (no matter how delicious they look) because it’s hard for tourists to know what they really are.
This is the rule I impose on myself. My friends said my discipline is ridiculous. I don’t give in to peer pressure, I just step aside watching others eat.
My son got sick from eating street food in Vietnam. Getting sick while you’re traveling takes all the fun away.
11. A “life-saving” box
As evidenced by number 10, any illness during travel can make you miserable. So the last night of my Hawaii trip, I had strep throat due to eating deep-fried and hot spicy foods. I had everything in my medicine box to fight colds,
diarrhea, constipation, insomnia, headache, stomachache, and more, except the cure for a nasty throat attack. Even after taking in Vitamin C, I felt like someone was punching my throat and I could hardly breathe.
In the middle of the night, I had no choice but to wake my husband up to get me a bottle of salt from the hotel restaurant. I rinsed my mouth with warm salt water. It worked. Salt kills germs. I was then able to sleep.
My friend always googles the types of medicine he needs when visiting foreign countries. It makes sense to consult your doctor, too. Now, my vital box of pills for my trips will include cough drops and throat medicine.
12. Mosques, temples, and churches
My friend is an ardent Catholic. Yet, when we visited a temple in Asia, she prayed and put money in its charity box.
“Did you convert to be Buddhist?” I asked out of curiosity.
“No, I just want to make sure I’m covered,” she said. What she did was inspiring.
Since 9/11, Muslims have suffered backlash. As educated professionals, we have to recognize there are good, as well as bad, Muslims. We need to realize that ISIS doesn’t represent all the Muslims in this world. When I visited mosques in Morocco, Turkey, and Malaysia, I paid my respects, too.
That’s what traveling is all about, to learn about other cultures and open your heart and mind to new and different lifestyles and outlooks. Comparing cultures and countries will help you discover insights and understanding, not only about the world, but yourself.
Every time I travel, I realize how lucky I am and I’m so grateful to my son and staff who allow me to have the time off to travel. Thank you readers for allowing me to bring you the world through my eyes and ears.
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.