Some of the finest moments that I experienced in Tunisia are some of the craziest. Take for example the time when all of us took a ride on an unmarked white van.
There were about 10 of us, who wanted to go to a nice restaurant in a place called Lac. Lac means lake literally, so the place has lots of nice restaurants by the lake. It was a 15 minute taxi ride from our house. But getting the taxi at night was extremely difficult. We need 3 taxis at least to get all of us there.
We approached one of the taxi drivers in the taxi station and he refused to take us. Just then a white van approached the taxi station and the driver of the that van chatted up with the taxi driver that we approached moments earlier. The driver of the van then approached us and offered to bring us there for a small fee.
Seriously an unmarked white van? Who the hell would want to go into that suspiciously looking unmarked white van? Rule number one when you are in a foreign place: Do not take a ride on suspicious vehicles. The price he offered was slightly higher than the usual fees we would pay for the same destination. We refused. It was super dodgy, suspicious. and dangerous. He then offered a lower price. It was actually almost the same as a typical taxi ride.
We all looked at each other for a long while. We did not know what to do. The offer was good. There were no taxis around and we were getting hungry. In the end, we relent. We decided to board the unmarked white van. All 10 of us could fit in. It was the most hilarious thing that happened to us. We were all telling each other that we were all going to die. That the driver is gonna take us to some dark alley and kidnap us all.
But we reached our destination safely. So kids, please do not try this when you are in a foreign place. Unless you have 10 other friends with out and you are hungry and desperate to get there, I highly suggest getting a legit taxi.
Or take another incident where we actually stayed at some random dude’s house.
We were on our way to El Jem. Its a small town, 3 hours from the capital of Tunisia, Tunis. We took a train in the afternoon at 1pm, and only reached El Jem at 4pm. We went there to look at the majestic Roman Coliseum, one of the finest and comparable to that of Rome. We walked around the town and even visited the coliseum. It was beautiful. By evening we went to have dinner at Restaurant Le Bonheur. It was listed in Lonely Planet guidebook. The food was ok. One of the guys who works in the restaurant happens to be part owner of the restaurant, since its a family establishment. As we got our food and we ate, the guy, whose name is Anis (22 years old if I am not wrong), started striking up a conversation with us. He seemed friendly enough and his english is quite good. We get to know him abit and he got to know us. We told him that we were waiting till nightfall so that we can attend the symphony concert that is to be held in the coliseum itself. It was going to be a remarkable night. Watching a concert outdoor in the coliseum is something I would never expect to experience in my lifetime. It is a chance we simply cannot pass up on.
He then started asking if we had any place to stay for the night, since the concert will end till midnight. We said we did not and we would try to catch the midnight train back to Tunis if possible. He then started offering his house for us to stay for the night if we were willing. Seriously? We dont even know you and you offered your house for us to stay for the night? Awkward!!
We decided to entertain him anyways. I mean, if we miss the train, then we would really have no where to go. The next train is hours away. So we exchanged numbers so that we can call him and he can at least pick us up and stay somewhere for the night.
The concert was awesome. It was one of the best I have ever attended. It ended at midnight and when we exited the coliseum, we stood in a circle to decide on our next course of action. Should we head to the train station and get the midnight train or should we risk it and call the person up so that we can sty the night? As we were discussing, out of nowhere, that same guy from the restaurant came up to us! He was apparently waiting for us outside the coliseum till the concert ended. It was the most surreal thing that happened to us. Here we were, discussing whether or not to stay at this random dude’s place, he actually appeared in front of us out of nowhere. It was getting a little creepy.
And since he was there, we didn’t want to be rude and refused his offer. Earlier his intention was that his sister has always been interested in meeting foreign people and that his house is always open to tourists and travellers who have no place to stay for the night. He told us that previously, his actually allowed a Korean family to stay at his house for a night and they had an incredible time. There were 11 of us. What could possibly go wrong. We werent afraid or anything, but the fact that we accepted this guy’s offer of hospitality, especially from a stranger is something most of us would not do.
So we followed him back to his home. Along the way we jokingly discussed our escape routes and emergency plans should something go wrong. Things started to get creepy when he led us to a dark alley with absolutely no lights. We did not know where he was leading us. In the end we told ourselves that there were 6 guys with us so we needn’t worry since it was just one person leading us to his house (hopefully it was his house). When we approached his house, there were more guys by the door. We did not know who they were. Soon we were almost outnumbered. There were more guys than we have in our group. We started to get a little nervous. Who are they? How are they related to Anis? He did not introduce to us yet. Things started to get chaotic. We then asked him where is his sister so that we can be sure that his story would hold true. Lo and behold, his sister of 19 years appeared in front of us and led us in to their house. What a relief!
It was a great experience. Most of us didnt sleep (we still wouldn’t let our guard down). We shared stories amongst us and between us and the hosts of the house. We met with his siblings, 6 of them all, sisters and brothers of various age and some of them were so shy to even speak to us, but keen to see us nonetheless. We felt a little bad that we had to woke up the entire family upon our arrival to their home just to accommodate us. The fact that everyone was up past midnight just to prepare drinks and snacks was a gratitude that we can never repay. It was one of the best evenings I have ever experienced. We even get to see sunrise, before heading to the train station to take the 6am train ride back to the capital. Sunrise in Tunisia is around 4am for your information.
By the time we got back, we recalled the events earlier and concluded we were crazy last night. First an unmarked white van, and now an unmarked white house.