Hotel Limbo

copyright David Stewart

Hotel Limbo

At least two of the hotel’s 4 stars must have been photoshopped.

Towels worn, dirty bathroom, shampoo bottles refilled.

I sat on the bed, frantically searching flights. I had 36 hours to travel 2700 miles across Central Asia to make my next connection after my last flight had been cancelled.


Ugh, I’d need a new negative test. Mine expired in 24 hours.


No breakfast buffet here.


A knock on the door delivered a tray groaning with food, none of it remotely appetizing to my travel-frayed stomach.

A text arrived. My brother.

Hey buddy, how’s the ‘vacation’ going?

The Real Story

As you might know, the Friday Fictioneers is a weekly writing group where each week the participants write a 100-word story based on a picture. This week I had the honor of having one of my pictures used. Since the real story behind this picture is as crazy as any fiction, I thought I’d share it here.

This picture was taken in a hotel in Bishkek, in the country of Kyrgyzstan. I was there in October, 2021 on a work trip. My plan was to go from there to Kazakhstan for a few days, then over to Mongolia. However, when I got to the airport for my Kazakhstan flight, I found that you now needed a visa to go to Kazakhstan, something that was never the case before COVID. The upshot was that I was not going to Kazakhstan that night.

The problem was that my flight to Mongolia was going through Kazakhstan. As you can imagine, there are not a ton of flights from Kyrgyzstan to Mongolia, especially during COVID when there was only about one flight a week to Mongolia.

So I found this hotel based on its proximity to the airport (somehow considered a 4-star hotel) and tried to find another flight. I found one that went from Turkey to Qatar to South Korea and then to Mongolia. With layovers, it took about 54 hours total. Luckily, COVID tests were very fast in Kyrgyzstan, so I could get one that day with the results a few hours later.

Everything in the above story is true (except the canceled flight and the text at the end). This hotel had canceled their buffet breakfast because of COVID so they said they would bring it to the room. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn’t choose what to eat. Then they showed up with two helpings by mistake. I’d been feeling slightly sick for the last week, so I ate very little of it. It wasn’t a great experience, but it makes a good story.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. Miles Rost says:

    Geez, I didn’t even realize just how tough things were for you on this trip. Glad you made it through, though.


  2. neilmacdon says:

    That travel horror story beats anything I experienced in my globe-trotting work


  3. Iain Kelly says:

    I liked hearing the true story behind the photo. Travelling has become quite the ordeal now.


  4. trentpmcd says:

    Great back story. Figured it was a hotel in Asia, but didn’t think it was someplace as off the beaten track as Kyrgyzstan. Of course, might explain why I have a blog view from Kyrgyzstan and if you’ve done this in the past, why I have quite a few from Kazakhstan… Always wondered who was over their realign Friday Fictioneer posts 😉


  5. A perfect title for your frustrating experience.

    Thanks for providing the photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Danny James says:

    Indeed that is one great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. elmowrites says:

    COVID punctuates all travel experiences these days, and a lot fo other experiences too. I like how you literally punctuated it into your story the same way. Thanks for the prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if COVID will change anything about how we work or maybe it’ll just be a “back in my day” sort of story we tell to the next generation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. elmowrites says:

        I hope it will, but it’ll probably mostly change the things we don’t want it to!

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Bill says:

    Stories that went well are fine for the dinner table. Those travels with tribulations are more interesting. Well done and thanks for the photo prompt. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Margaret says:

    That soundalike a nightmare – I’m not surprised you had little appetite. You’re right – it makes a good story. And the cheery message from his brother at the end provides a nice ironic touch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Margaret. That was thrown in for all the people who think I’m basically on vacation when I travel, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Margaret says:

        Soundalike?? Just notice my typo there. Glad you could decipher.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Margaret says:

    ‘sounds like’ I meant to say.


  11. msjadeli says:

    I agree, well-titled story. I think the stars must have been for food quantity. And like someone else wrote about, no coffee in sight. I would probably thrown that tray at the wall lol


    1. Yeah, the missing coffee was conspicuous. When I travel, coffee, bread and yogurt and usually enough to keep me going in the morning.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Dear David,

    What a crazy and amazing life you lead. Thank you for sharing the fictionalized and non-fiction versions. And thank you for the…er…contribution…of your photo. 😉



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for choosing it. My life these days is more mundane, but just as crazy, which is why I’m just catching up on comments now. The good thing about bad experiences is that they do make good stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Sandra says:

    That sounds like a very fraught trip. And yes, room service is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. GHLearner says:

    They definitely tried hard, even if the quality seems to need some work. And if that is four stars, we really don’t want to see the lower rated hotels… Great story and Mongolia! That’s a place I’d like to see, too, before I get too old. Not very likely though.


    1. Mongolia is great, but go in the summer. I always go in October and it’s cold and brown then. It’s great to get out of the city and see the herds of horses and other animals, with the herders riding around on horses or motorbikes. I only go for work but I’d like to go and explore a bit sometime.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. GHLearner says:

        Oh yes, definitely early summer. I’d like to see wild camels… the horses… the yurts… the eagles… these interesting lakes and the steppe. Also the Gobi, but just a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

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