Terrible Travel Guides Make Great Friends


We booked our trip to the west coast of South Korea for our very first weekend getaway. We saw stars illuminating the sky, sunrises creeping up over mountains, clear waters and tall trees; all things we were surrounded by on this magical weekend, (sometimes) under the sun. We can think of it as a positive memory, now that it’s been long enough to look back and laugh at the many hiccups we encountered. We had to, for sanity’s sake. Laugh that is. So, on our last night, surrounding a beautiful meal of crab stew, fresh fish and kimchi, our laughter reverberated around the supper room as we played our new favorite game about our off-the-wall travel guide called, “My favorite Hank story was…”

From A Studio Apartment in Daegu…

Lauren said to me, just days before we were scheduled to leave for Mokpo, “I don’t know if I want to go anymore… it seems so disorganized.” It could have had something to do with my first favorite “Hank story”:

The time he e-mailed us two days before our departure and asked if we would be willing to find our own way to our destination (5 hours away), as their bus was ‘getting full.’ We politely declined that ‘opportunity.’

Despite this very apparent red flag, my stubbornness would never let Lauren’s comment slide, “Alright, well I still really want to island hop. It’s going to be amazing. I’m going.”

As with every duo, there’s always a logical one, and in this instance it was OBVIOUSLY me. “What could possibly go wrong?” I thought. So much, actually… but we went anyways, because I’m a pain in the ass. We even recruited a group of friends to come along. We should have known from the beginning the possibility of further disarray.

EPIK English Teachers

Finally Arriving…

We made it to the first of three destinations, advertised on Facebook as follows:

“A large beautiful sand beach where there aren’t waves of people. Rather, we will pretty much have the whole beach to ourselves and swim. They have beach chairs where you may sun-bath under the burning sun. There will be a few beach lifeguards, they can guarantee our safety.”

We settled into some elevated mats on a beach that was clearly not expected to be windy or muggy or cold or just plain awful on this September day. There were no lifeguards, sun, or swimming, but there was takeout fried chicken and a lovely view. All these little ‘mis-communication’s,’ we’re quickly forgiven by the liters of beer we ordered, until we made it back to the dock to catch our ticket out of this place towards our final destination. It wasn’t long until it turned into… my next favorite “Hank Story”:

The time our ferry was canceled because of the weather and he was in a haste to find somewhere new for us to sleep. Staring at a group of unprepared foreigners standing in 45 degrees plus wind, with no blankets, tents, or pillows, he pointed at the outside gazebo with an absolutely straight face and said, “I was thinking we could just sleep… here.” Excuse me?

Mountain2On Pension Time

He, fortunately, found us a nice place to sleep that night, and a cabby to pick us up as quickly as possible. What a nice cabby he was! He even lead us to my third favorite Hank story…

The time we were stranded on an island for an extra night, so he offered us the opportunity to go hiking. He was “too tired” to come along, but of course pointed us to a “trail,” also known as a random bush, and a map written in Hongul with vague lines showing the path. “You see it right? Just take a picture so you don’t get lost. It should be pretty short. See you soon.” 5 hours later the hikers returned with stories of dangerous edges and inaccurate expectations…

Finally arriving at our pension, he redeemed himself by grilling pork and oysters. He even took a group of us to hunt for some much needed Soju; and then there was…

The time he asked us to watch his dog and left without so much as directing us towards a leash. We sat in our room with a yelping pup for 45 minutes…


Will I Live Through This?

But my ultimate, hands down, absolutely no questions asked favorite “Hank story” was…

The time we returned from our final hike, exhausted and dehydrated, so we asked for a place to buy water or fill up our bottles. He told us to use the hose outside because he didn’t know if we were allowed to use the filtered, cool water from inside, and that we’d be perfectly safe. In a state of desperation, we quickly filled our bottles and took five big swigs, only to hear, “hang on; actually… just go get water from inside. I’m not sure if this one will make you sick.”


We laughed so hard in that little supper room because of these stories; you’d forgive him too, right? Alright, maybe you just had to be there…

Have you had any awful, hilarious or just plain weird stories with travel guides? I wanna hear ’em!

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  1. October 23, 2014

    This was a pretty funny story. When we were in El Nido (Philippines) and on a boat tour, all was well except for the pouring rains. It was still a solid time and each time we’d stop, the guide would shout “snorkeling.” Well on one particular occasion, the boat actually broke down at an unintended stop. Sure enough, the guide shouted “snorkeling” but wasn’t serious this time. We’d have been eaten by sharks. Fun times though.

    Thanks for sharing this. Tour groups can be a mixed bag.

  2. October 24, 2014

    Bah! I wouldn’t even know where to start when it comes to travel mishap stories. At least everything seemed to work out in the end. In my experience, it always does!

  3. October 24, 2014

    Haha Oh My Goodness loved this post. Reminded me of so many bad travel stories of my own from misjudgments on my behalf. Trust your (or your friends’ gut) and don’t book with this guy again in the future. At least you got back safely!

  4. October 24, 2014

    Hahaha! That left me giggling for a while. My most recent travel drama was on my own steam. On my first solo trip to Seoul, I was on a bus and fell asleep. Missed my transfer and woke up on the other side of the city as the sun was setting. Decided to explore the area and not stress. Made for a great day! Might try a travel guide in the future as a test run. Great post otherwise!

  5. October 24, 2014

    Hahaha I actually laughed out loud on a few of these, what a horrible guide! Hilarious, though, so that counts for something ^^

    Props for laughing about it afterwards; with something that ridiculous I think it’s the only way to escape with a decent memory intact.

    Can’t say I’ve had that kind of experience with a guide, but I’ve had my fair share of experiences I just had to laugh about. Uzbek taxi drivers…. dear God in heaven, there are no people on this earth more ridiculously buffoonish. All you need to do is get in and wait for things to go awry 😛

  6. October 25, 2014

    This is what makes travel fun. If everything had gone how Hank had originally told you, it wouldn’t haven been anywhere near as fun I’m guessing. Now you have a story, right? I seek out circumstances like these. Well, not with a tour guide but on my own. Glad you ended up having a good time!

  7. October 26, 2014

    I also have not had any interesting experiences with guides yet. Yours sure does make for a good story, though! When I see those kinds of trips advertised on facebook groups, I have been both intrigued and unsure about going on one. Guess things can go either way!

  8. October 26, 2014

    LOL I love stories like this. In the moment, they can be so frustrating… But afterwards, they obviously provide for some great comic stories. Glad you lived to tell the tale!

  9. October 27, 2014

    Hilarious! Never a dull moment when you let a Korean man lead the way. Did you do this through a company? Just curious how you booked the trip?

  10. October 27, 2014

    Ha! This was a really fun read! I have never been on a group tour, but I am a huge fan of a good mis-adventure (as long as no one suffers too seriously…) Sounds like your trip to Mokpo will forever be etched into your memory…I am planning on checking out the west coast islands, but waiting until next year when the weather is warm again. Will have to make sure we steer clear of Hank, as strangely endearing as he sounds…

  11. October 27, 2014

    This is one of the downsides of all of these “tour groups” for foreigners popping up over the past year or two. It’s harder to tell which ones are legit, and not just some random person that wants to hang out with foreigners.

    BUT I’m glad that you guys stayed positive and are able to laugh about it now!
    Enjoyed the post. 🙂

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