Beach bungalow fright

Something incredibly creepy was bound to happen at some point during my several months abroad. I’m surprised that it’s taken this long. I also hope that it’s the one and only time I get goosebumps like this …

Let me reiterate this first and foremost: Traveling alone has tremendous advantages, especially as a solo female. You just need to be aware, alert and practical about situations. Terrible things that can happen abroad are just as likely to happen back homeĀ if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings and follow your instinct. Fear of what could happen is a terrible, upsetting, frustrating excuse for women not to take the plunge and try traveling solo — at least once — if it’s something that their spirit calls them to do. Plus, females tend to have stronger intuition than males, which gives us (in my opinion) a leg up in solo traveling and many other life scenarios …

All that said, there are certain situations that still have me biting my nails, even after 15 years of solo traveling. Spending the night alone in a remote beach bungalow such as this is one of those things:

This was my crash pad last night in Ao Nang, Thailand, a beach community about 30 minutes from the Krabi airport — where I am due to fly out this afternoon. It’s a far cry from Ritz-Carlton’s and Westins that Le Meridiens that I so adore. Sigh, sigh, sigh. When you’re traveling for several months like I am, however, staying at high-end places is cost-prohibitive if you’re trying to stick to a backpacker-type budget. This bungalow cost me 500 Thai baht, which equates to roughly US$15. I had a bed, a mosquito net, a squat toilet and a rusty shower head that dribbled out cold water.

Here is my primitive sleeping nest:

For security, I had a thin bamboo stick. It slid into strategically carved holes in the door and door frame. I did not feel very secure. But at US$15, I wasn’t going to complain. This was a laid-back beach community, and I was just exuding a little Chicago neuroticism …

Turns out, it may have been that strong female intuition I referred to earlier.

At about 4 a.m. I woke up in my bed. The lights were already on — I kept them on so I didn’t have to sleep in the dark-dark. I had a little burst of energy and decided to pull out my iPad and jot down some notes about the Thai islands. Nothing like a little early morning journaling in a Thai bungalow near the beach. As I write this, it actually sounds romantic.

At about 4:30 a.m., I heard some footsteps crunching around the front of my bungalow. Someone coughed. It was a male cough. The footsteps came around the corner, near the bed where I was lying. I stopped typing.

“Who’s there?” I shouted firmly.

A man’s voice, laced in an Eastern European accent, responded: “It’s just me. Don’t be scared.” Then he tried talking to me through the bamboo walls. Talking to me. At 4:30 a.m. “My name is Nick, what is yours?”

Like hell was I putting up with this. I summoned up my best “Get the F away” energy and gave him a few choice words. In a sugar-coated summary, I told him to scram. He sauntered off, crunch-crunch-crunching away from my bungalow, still trying to make conversation. The last thing I remember him saying was this: “I am not scary. I like football, I like the beach.”

Was he seriously scripting an online dating profile at 4:30 a.m.? Or sincerely trying to make me feel unthreatened? Perhaps this Nick decided to go for an early-morning walk or smoke that led him near my bungalow? Perhaps it was a completely innocent encounter?

I eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, I decided to see if the dirt path leading to my bungalow perhaps continued on to anything special — thinking that maybe I overreacted at 4:30 a.m., and this Nick was actually just on his way elsewhere.

I hadn’t overreacted. And thank goodness I was awake.

The dirt path dead-ended to my bungalow. There as nowhere else to go, nothing else to see, beyond my bungalow. It sat at the end of a string of five bungalows. A small wooded area hugged the side of my bungalow — not the type of wooded area you’d want to leisurely “explore” at 4:30 a.m.

This guy deliberately came down to my bungalow. I am not sure why. And I don’t want my mind to go there, as the possibilities are really … not good.

All I know is that, once again, someone special was looking out for me. Something prompted me awake at an odd hour and fueled me with creative energy to stay up and write. I have tremendous gratitude for this.

Tonight, I am staying at the Le Meridien in Chiang Mai.

Fluffy bed, warm shower, concierge service … and, hopefully, no creepy voyeurs speaking in Eastern European accents lurking about.

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