Eurotrip Day 28: Sleepless in Spain

I keep typing entries in weird places. First it was Park Guell in Barcelona (I mean, how many people actually type a blog entry in a park?! Well, yours truly is definitely an unconventional weirdo in that aspect). And now, its between Barcelona and Madrid.

In keeping to my cheapo ways, I’m taking the overnight bus between these two cities, because the night bus costs the same as the day bus and I get to save on one night’s accomodation. Its a pretty good bus by European standards. European standards for buses are pretty low, by the way, as anyone who has taken a bus in Malaysia can attest to. I met a Malaysian couple in the Isle of Skye (probably one of the most far-flung places, so it feels surreal to meet literally our neighbours in such a remote corner of Scotland) and they just took an overnight bus from London-Edinburgh, and had horror stories to tell for it. Such a bus would be classified as a "school bus” in Malaysia. Its a 40-seater, and 40-seaters are the lowest class of buses in Malaysia. Strange, because Malaysia is obviously less developed than Europe, but in terms of long-distance coaches, Malaysia is definitely miles ahead. In a previous trip to Penang, I took a 24-seater bus with huge comfy seats and personal screens in front of each of them. Good memories!

So, back to the current moment. I’m on one of those 40-seater “school buses” between Barcelona and Madrid which costs 28 euros (about S$56), but this is marginally better than a school bus because it has a toilet and the seats can recline, albeit slightly.

Anyway, as I’ve said in my previous post, I’ve stopped couchsurfing for a bit. Half-true reason is because I crave the independence that comes with not having to arrange couches to sleep in through couchsurfing.com, and being able to go wherever I want to without having to plan so far ahead. 100% true reason is that I couldn’t find a couch in Spain.

The Spanish are a strange lot. They’re conservative yet liberal at the same time. Conservative, because they live with their parents (hence less couches available – but actually its mostly my fault for last-minute requests) and are as devout Catholics as you’d ever find outside of the Vatican. Liberal, because apparently gay marriage is legally permitted (according to an Italian I met in the hostel), the people apparently consume the second-highest amount of drugs in Europe (according to Daniel in Edinburgh; I bet 1st prize goes to The Netherlands) and the people are so refreshingly open and friendly compared to the dowdy, cold English. Well, let’s just say I can’t wait to see how rude the French supposedly are. Haha.

Spain is an exceedingly dangerous place for tourists. Just a mere hour after my arrogant boast in the previous post for pickpockets to "come forth”, I was fucking pickpocketed in Park Guell itself. Third time unlucky, I guess. After the incident I went online and realised I had met with the most common scam in Barcelona – the bird shit trick. Involves 3 accomplices. One guy sprays you with something foul resembling bird poo, and the other two help you to wipe it off, posing as helpful passer-bys. And before I know it, one of these ‘helpful passer-bys’ produces my wallet, which had hitherto been sitting snugly in my pocket. He said I dropped it on the floor, and should be more careful. Then both of them gave me a final pat-down and wiped off the bird shit, before departing, leaving me with one credit card less. And, because I only possess a single credit card, it effectively left me 100% credit card-less. Fortunately I realised my folly almost immediately and placed an expensive long-distance call to Citibank Singapore and voided the card, so no damage done except for the phone bill which might run to about S$10. So, for all their efforts, the thieves had effectively made off with one useless piece of plastic. Lesson learnt for me, and in future, I won’t be so trusting of ANYONE that speaks to me whom I don’t know.

The luckiest thing was that I actually had 150 euros (S$300) in one corner of my wallet, but I happened to have it folded up and stuck among a bunch of innocent receipts (if any thief is reading this right now, sorry mate, I don’t put so much money in my wallet anymore), so it escaped unscathed. Phew. I wonder why they didn’t take the entire wallet though. Whatever. They could have made off with my credit card, my ATM card, and 150 euros, a bountiful stash indeed.

I just know I’m going to need tons of coffee to keep me awake tomorrow.