Emily Ding is a freelance writer based in Malaysia. She’s interested in slow and experiential travel, with a dash of adventure mixed in, and the hidden histories of places. Follow her at instagram.com/edjournomad and emilyding.me

What’s your worst travel experience?

I’m not sure about worst, but in terms of something that was particularly funny and illuminative: back in 2008 when I was travelling in Cuba, I chose to stayed at a “rustic” beach hostel owned by the state because it was the cheapest. When I arrived the bathroom was in a mess. The toilet flush was broken, the sink tap was broken, and there was no water. I was told that by the time I returned in the evening it would all be fixed – and of course, it wasn’t, and then it was too late to do anything but make do.

The next morning upon checking out, I asked to see the manager for a partial refund. The surly receptionist said to me, “You want to see our manager? Why don’t you go talk to Fidel then?” And all the while I’m staring at a plaque on the counter extolling the importance of consumer rights and a complaint number to call.

What’s your best travel experience?

That’s a tough one, but if I take best to mean epic, then it’ll have to be either cage-diving with great white sharks in South Australia (just be prepared to be very, very seasick), or spending 10 days in the Peruvian Amazon, in the northern Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, during the rainy season when the jungle was flooded, with eerily still riverscapes reminiscent of J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World.

What’s your top travel destination and why?

I have quite a few favourites—Cuba, Peru, Spain… I guess you can see a trend there. But my favourite of all time (at least, of the countries I’ve been to) is probably Italy. Just something about its blend of ancient history, good food and sunkissed landscapes.

My Top Travel Tip

A lot of people go to Peru and the main image they have in their heads is Macchu Picchu, so most travel south of Lima and don’t pay attention to the north. One of Peru’s most surprising destinations, in my humble opinion, is Huaraz: a base for many variations of hikes for adventurers in the Ancash region. There are basically all kinds of landscapes throughout Peru—deserts, beaches, mountains, jungle… and glaciers and impossibly blue high-altitude lakes in Peru. Just be aware of altitude sickness.