The tall Dutch guy came running out of the darkness, ashen-faced and on the verge of tears.
He cried out, “Does anyone here speak Mandarin? My girlfriend is having breathing difficulties!”
We were in the middle of the Xilamuren Grasslands, about two hours’ drive away from the nearest hospital in Hohhot, capital of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
It was a cold autumn night – only a few degrees above freezing – and a group of us was standing around a fire to keep warm.
Being able to speak Mandarin, my friend and I approached the guy and asked if there was anything we could help.
This was the precursor to our two-hour journey across the dark steppes in an unheated van with the guy and his girlfriend, who was wheezing from a severe asthma attack.
When we finally arrived at the hospital in Hohhot at around midnight, the girl’s face had already turned pale, and she was unable to walk unassisted.
She was quickly assisted to a hospital bed and put on a drip (In China, drips are used not just for serious illnesses, but even for treating the common cold, and often as a first, not last, option).
In the next bed was a bloodied guy with a swollen face.
He was motionless.
If he had not started moaning, I would have thought that he’s dead.
It turned out that he had been involved in a fight.
Anyway, back to the girl.
She was still wheezing away and her eyes had rolled back into her head, showing only the whites.
She looked like she was in a grave condition.
The doctor came out to treat her, but was unable to communicate with her boyfriend, so my friend and I had to translate for the both of them.
In what seems like an eternity though it’s only two hours later, the girl’s condition started to improve and her breathing was no longer laboured.
Seeing that there was nothing more we could do, my friend and I headed back out into the frosty Inner Mongolian night for our return to Xilamuren Grasslands.
Though we never found out what happened to the girl as the tour ended the very next day and everyone went their separate ways, one thing’s for sure – her trip was ruined.
Fortunately, I’ve not been through such a traumatic experience, but I’ve had a bout of food poisoning in Anhui which ruined my trip.
I started having the runs when I was on the flight from Beijing.
Upon arrival in Tunxi, I headed straight to the hospital where the doctor suggested that I be warded.
I also declined the drip.
My next day was spent resting in bed, and I skipped a visit to Huangshan.
Thankfully, I had recovered enough to walk around two ancient towns – Hongcun and Xidi – the following day.
But holidays can also go wrong for non-medical reasons.
Like the time my luggage didn’t arrive with me to Xi’an and was left behind in Tianjin.
When I called the airline company, they said they’ll arrange for it to be sent to me the next day.
But all my belongings were in the luggage, so my first night in Xi’an was spent shopping for toiletries and clothes.
To my dismay, my luggage didn’t arrive the next day either.
The airline had cancelled all flights from Tianjin due to bad weather.
Eventually, I only saw my luggage again when I flew back to Tianjin.
So what about you? Have you had any holiday/s gone wrong?