The Night From Hell: My Worst 24 Hours of Travel

horrible bug in laos

My slow boat journey to Luang Prabang can definitely be described as being less than amazing. I hadn’t been able to sleep for over 24 hours and then I found myself spending an entire day sitting next to a dead body.

So when we finally arrived in town, I was mentally and physically drained and I had decided I wanted to spend the next few days in an extremely fancy hotel. I needed to rest and recover and there was no way I was going to be able to do so in a 10 bed dorm room.

I needed some luxury travel in my life.

luang prabang temple

With this in mind, my friends and I made our first mistake when we stepped onto dry land and immediately decided to go with the first tout who met us off the boat. Big mistake.

These touts usually lead you to the crappiest and overpriced guesthouses in town. At the time we were unaware of this and just grateful to have found somewhere quickly and easily.

The guesthouse definitely wasn’t anything special but I splashed out on an incredibly overpriced room with air con and hot water to treat myself.

Or so I thought…

Returning back to my room after buying a bottle of water, I was confused to find that I could not get the door open. With visions of the last time I tried to force myself into an apartment and ended up snapping a key in half I was apprehensive about applying any kind of force to the lock. No, the safest thing to do would be to find the owner.

Except when I told him that I couldn’t get into my room, he started to chuckle loudly and pat me softly on the arm.

He had forgotten that the lock was broken and that nobody was meant to be staying there.

He had a few attempts at opening the door but remained unsuccessful and disappeared downstairs after just a few minutes.

Then he returned with his machete. 

hacking through a door with a machete
machete and door handle

He got to work aggressively hacking away at the door while I sheltered at the other end of the corridor, alternating between taking sneaky photos and thinking about how ridiculous my life is.

After much yelling and panting, he somehow managed to chop off the handle and find a way to get in. It was at this point that he told me he had no other rooms available for the night and I would have to stay here. I would have to stay in a room that I couldn’t lock.

“It’s ok – it’s very safe here”, he mumbled as I stared at him in frustration.

But I was too tired to argue, I needed sleep. I needed to forget about everything that had happened today. I pulled the door closed and anxiously tested the handle to see how easy it would be for anyone to get in.

I looked down in horror as the handle twisted uselessly in my hand.

I was now locked INSIDE my room.

You have got to be kidding me.

painting in luang prabang

I shook the door as hard as I could, I banged until my fists were numb. I yelled and screamed and wailed for help. For over two hours I stood helplessly by the door. Two hours.

And then, finally, somebody heard my cries and was able to let me out.

I was done.

I could not stay in this place any longer. I had to move. Within minutes my bags were packed and I was downstairs asking for a refund.

It was then that I found out that Luang Prabang has a curfew and that all other guesthouses would be closed at this time of night. The owner had gone home and I would not be able to get a refund until the morning.

I was stuck here.

Refusing to stay in my room, I was led outside to their “spare room”. One that had a perfectly functioning lock. And about 5000 cockroaches.

As I looked around the room, I bit down on my trembling lip, refusing to cry.

I can get through this – I’ve been through so much worse. It’s just one night. I know can do it.

I sat down weakly on the bed and immediately jumped up screaming when I saw an enormous cockroach run across my pillow. As my eyes anxiously scanned the room, I waited for them to adjust to the dim light. I noticed several more cockroaches crawling over the walls and floors. Running over my bag, towards my feet, on my bed. Mosquitos dived at me from every corner of the room. There were 7 cockroaches floating in the toilet. There was no air con, no windows.

Just me and the bugs. 

I hate bugs, I really do, but I was not about to become a whiny traveler who couldn’t man up and handle being in a bad room. I was going to stick it out for the night, even though I was on the verge of a breakdown. 

I lasted just 10 minutes.

I was lying in the dark, wrapped up in damp, dirty, smelly blankets. There were cockroaches and other creatures crawling over my body, my arms, my face. There were strange noises that I didn’t recognise, the sound of wings near my face, banging on the door, creaking in the bathroom.

There is no way I can spend the night in this room.

I grabbed my laptop and ran. I would spend the night on the ground outside.

horrible bug in laos

It was close to two in the morning when I was surprised by two Dutch guys creeping through the guesthouse gate. I think they were more surprised to see me lying on the ground crying. After chatting for a while and finding out they’d been at a late-night bowling alley while I had been locked out, locked in and attacked by cockroaches, the conversation dried up.

They refused to let me stay outside on my own for the entire night and insisted I stay in their room for the night. I was so exhausted, so drained, so desperate for sleep that I didn’t even bother trying to argue with them. It was only when I got to their room that I realised this felt oddly familiar.

Yes, I was now back in my old room.

The room that I cannot open from the inside. 

I started to feel very nervous…

I refused to let any of the boys sleep on the floor as they offered and laid down, curled up next to the door. A few minutes later I was fast asleep although I didn’t stay sleeping for long…

I was absolutely horrified and disgusted to wake up and find one of the guys crouched over me with one hand on my chest and the other on my butt.

Oh. My. God.

broken door handle

I could NOT believe it.

What type of person, after finding me crying on the ground, and after hearing about all that had just happened to me, would see this as an opportunity to take advantage of me?

I ran towards the door, trying not to break down in tears, only too aware that I wasn’t going to be able to leave. The second guy somehow managed to open the door with a credit card.

Thank god.

It was 3am. I wasn’t going to be getting any sleep that night. 

The next few hours passed by in a blur: Sitting on the ground with my head on my knees trying not to cry, staring at stupid videos on Youtube, watching the clock, leaving terrible reviews about the hotel on TripAdvisor, forcing myself to stay awake (with no sleep the night before, I had managed to stay awake for over 50 hours straight!)

The owner arrived and I was surprised to see that he gave me a refund with no questions asked and I practically ran away from the place.

I’d spent a few hours searching online for amazing places to stay in Luang Prabang and Villa Champa is probably the most expensive place I’ve stayed in during my time in Asia.

villa champa luang prabang

It was SO worth it!

I had a hot shower, ate an amazing cheese baguette and slept for 18 hours. I awoke energised, refreshed and ready to give Luang Prabang another go. Surprisingly, I loved the rest of my time there and I even left knowing that it was one of my favourite places in the world. But those first 24 hours?


I was seriously starting to believe I was cursed.

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  1. cashflowmantra
    July 9, 2012

    I read these stories of yours and think it would be awesome to travel until you post something like this. Thanks for being honest about all the ups and downs. Glad things got better for you.

    • Lauren
      July 9, 2012

      Oh no, I don’t want to put you off travelling! The good times outweigh the bad BY FAR!

  2. CeCe
    July 9, 2012

    Wow….that really is the worst travel experience….you handled it better than I ever could have! The bugs alone would have been enough for me!!

    • Lauren
      July 9, 2012

      The bugs were horrific… I really wish I’d taken more photos but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

  3. Ava Apollo
    July 9, 2012

    I would have cried for sure. Hopefully this is one of those horrific stories you remember ten years from now and can laugh about! Sucks to go through it, though.

    • Lauren
      July 9, 2012

      I’m half-laughing now when I remember it! It was terrible at the time but I can definitely see the funny side now :)

  4. Amanda
    July 9, 2012

    Oh geez, Lauren. You should have a movie made about you and all your crazy experiences.

    • Lauren
      July 9, 2012

      Hahahahaha! It would need to be a 400 part thriller.

  5. George
    July 9, 2012

    Why is it always you! I mean it does leave for some interesting blog writing but my lord are you unlucky! I don’t know what I would have done. At least you kept your chin up. Well done girl x

    • Lauren
      July 9, 2012

      I know! My whole life has been like this! ;) Whenever it happens I think of the post I can write about it!

  6. July 9, 2012

    Can’t decide what’s more horrifying, the cockroaches or the creepy dude! That hotel room at the end looks gorgeous though.

    • Lauren
      July 9, 2012

      Both were pretty terrible!! The hotel room was amazing and one of the highlights of my time in Laos haha! Sometimes we just need to splurge :)

  7. July 9, 2012

    Crazy story! Glad everything worked out at the end. Finding a place to stay when arriving at night is tough.

    • July 10, 2012

      Ugh, it’s the worst! I always try to pay extra to arrive at a decent time.

  8. July 9, 2012

    That’s crazy story! If that good place that you stayed at was only $25 what does a cheap room cost. I think I need to visit this area.

    • July 10, 2012

      I don’t usually pay more than about $2-$5 a night. You can find rooms for 50 cents. This is all over southeast Asia.

  9. Katherine - Kapcha The World
    July 9, 2012

    Holy shit – I’m so sorry you had such a horrible time! But so glad you got out the other end alive and well ish. I’ve had similar things happen when I travel. I was sat in a bar in Korea once asking why these things seem to happen to me all the time – I am one of those people that manage to always get out alive though I must point out. Anyway a friend of mine made a very good point. Some people travel, they go somewhere, maybe teach english for a bit, see a part of the world, go home. Travel story yes, but sometimes not too different from everyone else. People like us however, have these ‘adventures’ when we travel and although sometimes it SUCKS big style at the time, in 3 months time, we’ll be retelling the story and laughing our arses off about it. This was my nightmare time when…….. He just reminded me how many awesome stories I would have compared to most people. I think of that every time something happens now.

    • July 10, 2012

      Exactly – I love that! I love having my crazy stories… I just hate them at the time!

  10. July 9, 2012

    That photo of the guy hacking into your room is great… not so comforting on the security side, but a great photo.

    Although your day sounds like it was pretty terrible, it sure makes for a fantastic story!

    • July 10, 2012

      I know, it was absolutely insane!! I could not believe what was happening when he raced up the stairs with an enormous machete in his hand! :D

  11. Kieu
    July 10, 2012

    I would’ve slepted with the machete in my arms – those bastards. Glad you’re ok and went for luxury. Totally deserved it.

    • July 10, 2012

      Plan! I should have thought of that… Although I’m sure I’d still be pretty useless anyway. I’d probably end up cutting my own arm off.

  12. Jaime
    July 10, 2012

    How do all these crazy things happen to you??? I mean really… it’s tooooo much. I am sorry you had to go through this. With all this happening to you I don’t understand how you love SEA so much…lol!!!

    • July 10, 2012

      I KNOW! Although the same thing happened to you in India! ;)

      I think it’s more the fact that it’s so much easier to write about things like this than how I spent 3 weeks lying on the beach drinking beer… So it makes my travels sound far more traumatic than they really are! :)

  13. July 10, 2012

    I’m in WTF mode right now. As in WTF. The room was bad enough, but being felt up by a perfect stranger after what you’d been through? People amaze me.

    • July 10, 2012

      I know! I kind of wish I’d waited around that morning for him to wake up so I could yell at him, but I was far too tired…

  14. Ian [EagerExistence]
    July 10, 2012

    I’m starting to believe you’re cursed too!

    The best bit is, although you might be in a fetal position at the time, rocking back-and-forth crying… in a few weeks you only remember the stories.

    Except… it just keeps happening to you! :)

    • July 10, 2012

      Yes! See! Hahahahaha, amazingly nothing more traumatic has happened to me since then.

  15. Waegook Tom
    July 10, 2012

    Ohmygod Lauren, I’d have totally cried if they’d have put me in that second cockroach room. Crawling all over your body…blearrrgh! And that guy – shame on him. What an absolute dickhead. I’m glad that the situation didn’t deteriorate and that your credit card came in handy.

    Ending on a positive, the room that you ended up staying in looks AMAZING.

    • July 10, 2012

      It was sooooo awful! I just kept telling myself to man up but it was too hard! UGH.

  16. Kelly
    July 10, 2012

    Wow, I am so sorry you had to experience this, that truly sucks. I can’t believe those dudes. What arseholes. You are so brave for handling it all so well, good on you!!

    • July 10, 2012

      Thanks, Kelly! :) I know, I wish I could find those guys now…!

  17. July 10, 2012

    Wow — it just kept getting worse and worse, didn’t it? I can’t believe all these things happen to you, and I can’t believe the nerve of that guy!

    On a positive note, I love your temple photo. It’s so colourful!

    • July 10, 2012

      It really did! I was so close to flying back home at one point! “IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HAAARRRDDDDDDD” haha.

  18. Juliann
    July 10, 2012

    Oh my gosh. I was stressed out just reading about it. I truly hope this was the worst 24 hours of your life and that you never have to go through something like that again. How horrible!!

  19. Jen
    July 10, 2012

    This is literally the worst night ever – you poor thing. AND WHAT A HORRIBLE PERVERT!! xxx

  20. Lucie
    July 10, 2012

    This is my favorite travel blog post of all time. And gets an honorable mention for greatest story of all time. Well done!

  21. Steve Whitty
    July 10, 2012

    Wow, the joys of travelling. At least you are over it now. Enjoy the rest of your travels in Laos.

  22. July 11, 2012

    Holy crap! That’s an F’d up story. I can’t believe that second hotel is only $25 a night too!!!

  23. Emily in Chile
    July 11, 2012

    What a hellish day! I can’t even imagine going through any of that, let alone all of it at once. You definitely earned that luxe room!

  24. July 12, 2012

    Well that’s twice in a week that I’ve just sat here and gone :O at my screen at your posts.

    I hope the universe is dishing up some soaring peaks to follow this dingy trough…

  25. Ali
    July 13, 2012

    Seriously, WTF?! I don’t even know what else to say, this is just horrible in so many ways! I’m glad those guys didn’t do anything worse to you, and I’m glad you made it through until the morning. Absolutely insane.

  26. Katie
    July 14, 2012

    Oh my god Lauren! That, ALL OF THAT, sounds just terrible! What was the second worst hostel/hotel you’ve ever stayed at? Because obviously that has to be the worst, hands down!

  27. Hilarye
    July 14, 2012 LITERALLY HELL! Maybe, MAYBE someday you’ll laugh at all of this? ….probably not.

  28. Elle
    July 15, 2012

    Jesus God Almighty! That sounds like a freaking rough day girl :( Everything from creepy men, to machetes and roaches. What a shitty day

  29. July 17, 2012

    Nobody would’ve blamed you for throwing in the towel after something like this…but good on you for sticking it out :)

  30. July 17, 2012

    Oh man, that SUCKS! I was also groped in Laos, though under entirely different circumstances that were certainly less scary, though not exactly “fun”.

  31. Ronald
    July 23, 2012

    Thanks for this post and I am thinking I will become a fan of your site. Life is hard, even when doing things you love. It is truly amazing grace that allows us to not only go on but love life. I never traveled much and it is one of those old guy regrets. I think I have a few adventures left in this old body and you have inspired me.
    Thanks Ron

  32. Noah Lederman
    July 26, 2012

    I just left Luang Prabang and gladly, I didn’t have that experience. But I did run into endless awful experiences from Vientiane to Hanoi to Halong Bay to Sapa. Looking forward to getting back to the Luang Prabang flow. Maybe you’ll get that next time.

  33. Robin
    August 9, 2012

    I would have kicked the guy in the nuts!! How did you manage not to strangle him!?

    • August 10, 2012

      Because I was locked in his room and had no way of getting away from him?

  34. Carol
    February 14, 2013

    I think that most budget travellers have horror experiences at one time or another, but for some reason are reluctant to share them…at least on a public blog!
    Maybe they think that it will make them look naive or inexperienced…who knows?
    Jolly well done, to share the good AND bad of your travels!

  35. Colin Jeffcoat
    July 18, 2013

    I have been perusing all the various blog entries and am amazed at just how many . . . challenging situations you have been through. Over all your shared experiences are entertaining and educational and I appreciate your blog.

    Ninety percent of my travel experiences have been through the U.S. military, and while not as coincidentally bedeviled as yours have been, they never really felt like travelling for vacation. Some of my experiences, of course, were no fun at all, but then again that’s sort of what you get when travelling on the government’s check book.

    Keep up the blog.

    Wishing you better “luck” in the future. :D

    • July 19, 2013

      Thank you so much, Colin! :-) It’s certainly been interesting…

  36. January 19, 2014

    I’ve stayed in some crappy places, but nothing like that–there’s no way I’d last a night like that. This is why I’m booking at least my first night in any new place in a respectable hotel (after that I can scope out more budget-friendly accommodations.

    • January 21, 2014

      Yeah, the downside to doing that is that you’re booked somewhere and the friends you meet on the journey might choose to stay somewhere else — or at least that was my thinking this time around. I definitely book my first night when I’m travelling with my boyfriend, though.

  37. January 22, 2014

    I thought of you today when a girl got locked inside her room at our Guesthouse in Luang Prabang, thankfully we were able to get her out quickly and without the use of a machete.

    • January 22, 2014

      Hahahaha, oh no! I’m glad you were able to get her out and I think it’s hilarious you thought of me when it happened! :-)

  38. Hannah
    April 17, 2014

    I’ve been reading your blog posts and although some of your experiences must have been terrible I can’t help but laugh out loud whilst reading each one! This one and the dead lady on a boat are by far the funniest! I can’t wait till I can travel as you do, but hopefully I won’t have so many horror stories to tell :)

    • November 22, 2015

      It was traumatising to experience!

  39. Cherri
    July 21, 2014

    You are a talented writer! I know that this must of been a nightmare to live through, but you have worded it in such a funny way. I laughed and felt dismay at the same time. Good luck on the rest of your travels!

    • July 21, 2014

      Thanks, Cherri! :-)

  40. September 19, 2014

    Wow! They say travel turns one into a great storyteller… it’s true! Reading your posts make me feel like I was going through what you went through. All the best to you on the rest of your travels!

    • September 22, 2014

      Thank you so much! :-)

  41. Wow that is awful from start to finish. I don’t even know if I could have survived that, I think my will to live would have been gone once a cockroach crawled across my face! I always say the worst travel experiences make for the best stories and that seems to be true! I’m loving your blog :-)

    • March 20, 2015

      Thanks, Katrina! It was some of the most traumatising travel experiences I’ve had but as you say, it makes for a good story.

  42. April 15, 2015

    Oh my God Lauren! I’ve stumbled on this old post of yours. usually I can giggle at your mishaps, but this is just traumatic….and that’s just the part with the cockroaches. If you ever doubt your capacity for bravery then this story proves who strong you are.

    • November 22, 2015

      Thanks so much, Francesca. It was probably the most challenging experience yet. So much going wrong in such a short amount of time!

  43. Vivek
    April 21, 2015

    Hey Lauren,

    It’s me again . I have been reading your post one after the another back to back since morning.

    I don’t know if you are cursed or not, but I sure do know and believe that you have been blessed with one of a strong soul. Leaving and sustaining in such odd…high;y odd situation, fighting back your tears and nervousness and your FEAR, could not be a trait of a normal girl…may be of some supergirl or wonderwomen :D :D .

    You, Miss, is one the of the bravest of the Guys (Men, Women,and others ) I have known in real or virtual( as in your case).

    May be the bravest and strongest of them all.

    Stay Blessed [ :D :)) ], Stay Smiling

    • June 30, 2015

      That’s so kind of you to say, Vivek! Thank you! :-)

  44. Michael Dembenski
    January 23, 2016

    That sounds awful, I hope you treated and pampered your self after.

    • January 29, 2016

      I did! :-)