With an abundance of almost-perfect pictures of travelers drinking cocktails on white-powdery beaches, trekking with apparent ease through thick jungles and posing flawlessly in front of historical monuments, it’s easy to believe that traveling is always wonderful and worry-free.
But, truth be told, traveling isn’t always pretty. It can get dirty and messy and uncomfortable; it’s also been known to induce a few tears and the occasional tantrum.
Before sharing my numerous mishaps during my travels in South East Asia, I’d like to state that I’ve traveled to 35 countries (including India) and have only been sick once (in Egypt). I’ve never had anything stolen, broken or lost. I’ve never been harmed in any way. I’ve never feared for my life. But, for whatever reason, SEA took it upon itself to change all of that. SEA kicked my travel ass.
MISHAP #1: SOYA FEEL SICK (THAILAND)
When I travel I try to get enough protein to sustain me throughout the day so I was delighted to find a really good soya beverage in Thailand – it was the perfect accompaniment to my breakfast (I don’t drink milk, coffee or tea). The day we headed to Pai was no exception; I was ready and energized for the 4 hour ride.
Or so I thought.
We hurriedly chose our seats in the mini-van to make sure we weren’t stuck in the back – success! But not long after we hit the road, I started to feel nauseous. I was hot. I was cold. I couldn’t breathe. I felt weak. This was very unusual for me as I don’t normally get car sick so I figured I simply caught a cold.
How wrong I was.
The road to Pai winded endlessly making my stomach churn with every turn. And churn it did. Shamelessly, unapologetically and unannounced. I had just enough time to open the tiny window to hurl the contents of my breakfast into the open air (and unto passing cars)! I hurled and gagged. Hurled and gagged. Again and again and again.
(I even let out a very audible toot – you know for good measure). Out the window it went, a veil of vomit carried by the wind. My hair violently flew in the wind catching chunks of vomit, some deposited oh so casually on my face (good thing I always carry wet wipes). I felt so bad for the guys sitting in back of me who had VIP seats to my vomiting fest. And I was so embarrassed!
After that lovely joy ride, I bade farewell to my short-lived love affair with my soya beverage – the instigator of my not-so-glamorous moment vomiting out the window of a mini-van in the Land of Smiles.
MISHAP #2: BLAME IT ON THE MOTORBIKE (THAILAND)
After my fiasco on our way to Pai, I was looking forward to exploring this little hippie-esque town surrounded by mountains and the best way to do that was by motorbike. Riding carefree on the back with my boyfriend driving, it was easy for me to relax and take in the breath-taking views of the valleys. Life in Pai was a piece of pie.
That is, until that dreadful moment when we were in town waiting to take a right turn at the main junction. Once my boyfriend saw an opportunity to pass, he did so swiftly yet carefully but for some reason still managed to skid on some loose gravel. He lost control and we both lost our balance. We fell to the ground with a loud bang, our skin painfully skidding against the gravel. I got up from under the motorbike and tears immediately swelled my eyes. My left arm was a mess of oozing blood and deep cuts covered in gravel. My left hand was badly scraped and bleeding profusely.
We headed to the nearby hospital where the nurse disinfected our wounds and prescribed antibiotics to prevent any infections from spreading. Fortunately, nothing was broken and we didn’t need any stitches but we had to wear bandages, change them on a daily basis and disinfect the wounds for about 10 days until they healed.
MISHAP #3: WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SOUND? (LAOS)
It was our second night in Laos and we managed to find a really quaint guesthouse. The bed sheets were clean and crispy white, the pillows were fluffy and the duvet was warm and fuzzy all promising a very pleasant night’s sleep.
But wait. What the fuck is that sound? Snoring from the next room? The whistling wind? The bed cracking? Crazy birds? Buzzing mosquitoes? I couldn’t figure it out so I asked my boyfriend if he also heard it. He said he thought I was making the noise (huh?). Now I started to worry. It sounded very….wild. My boyfriend checked to see if we had forgotten to close the windows but they were tightly shut. I stayed tucked in bed, not moving, hardly breathing while he opened the lights.
Two bats were frantically flying above our bed! While I quickly and completely immersed myself under the bed cover, my boyfriend grabbed an umbrella trying to persuade the little creatures out the window. Of course, the more he tried the crazier the bats got. The ceiling fan was swirling at full speed and I dreaded thinking what would happen if one of the bats flew right into the blades. *insert disgusted face here*
After several failed attempts of trying to lead them safely out the window, my boyfriend finally whacked one of them with the umbrella. It fell to the floor with an audible thump. We both felt really bad but relieved at the same time. We felt even worse when we noticed the dead bat was actually quite small and, well, kind of cute. *insert sad face here*
It seemed the sudden death of its friend finally convinced the other bat that it had to get out of there before facing the same demise. It conceded by flying right out the window and into the night. My boyfriend promptly closed the window. While trying to figure out how the bats managed to come inside our room, he noticed some vents were left open (who would’ve thought?!).
I don’t have any pictures (because I was too busy hiding under the covers) but here is a video depicting the sound bats make.
MISHAP #4: CHASING WATERFAAAALLS (LAOS)
Khonepasoi Waterfall is located on the island of Don Khong in Laos. The unstable foot bridge was a worrisome compilation of wooden slats loosely and sporadically put together allowing uneven gaps between each slat – but off I went anyways.
When I arrived in the middle of the foot bridge, I decided to capture the stunning scenery on my
camera phone. Without a second thought, I turned sideways to face the waterfall and in a flash I fell through the gap between the slats. Within seconds I swiftly got up, shaking and shaken. At that moment, I realized the only thing that stopped me from falling into the gushing waters below was my knee (and, miraculously, I managed to hang on to my Iphone).
The next day my knee swelled up to the size of a grapefruit. Strangely, though, it wasn’t bruised, scraped or broken. With each step I took it felt like a ball and chain was attached to my knee – it was heavy and uncomfortable (and disturbingly unattractive). I took an anti-inflammatory pill and rested the whole day. Once the swelling went down, a nasty mishmash of purple and blue bruises (and a few scratches) started to appear on my knee, tibia, ankle and foot. Luckily, it didn’t prevent me from walking so I was able to enjoy the rest of my travels.
Here I am after the incident. I was so happy to have made it nearly unscathed and unharmed but little did I know the worst was yet to come.
MISHAP #5: I LOST THE ABILITY TO SPEAK (CAMBODIA)
Senmonorom in the province of Mondulkiri is home to a few minority groups namely the Bunong. We wanted to familiarize ourselves with this little-known culture so we hopped on our motorbike and headed to the very small village of Dak Dam nestled high up in the hills. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with open arms and toothless smiles. But Dak Dam village was hiding a dirty little secret.
It was basking in thick, ochre-colored dust. None of the roads were paved and the strong gusts of wind swept up the dust creating swirls and clouds impossible to avoid. The dust was vicious and merciless clinging relentlessly to our clothes and settling in my tangled hair. And in my throat. Despite wearing a mask, I still managed to inhale a lot of dust subsequently losing the ability to speak.
Beware the evil dust of Cambodia. You’ve been warned.
MISHAP #6: IN THE WOODS I LEFT MY MARK (CAMBODIA)
Still in Senmonorom, we made the best of our stay and our rented motorbike by exploring a few of the surrounding villages. The paved road was closed forcing us to take a bumpy, dusty (evil was everywhere), rugged road that was carved through the woods.
On the way back, I started to feel uneasy. My stomach was a little upset but I figured (hoped) it would pass. With each bump (and there were many), it got worse. Once we got about halfway on the rugged road (in the middle of nowhere in the woods) and still far from our guesthouse, my stomach got out of control; it completely retaliated against me. Awful gurgling sounds. Stinging cramps. Something was desperately trying to get out. And fast.
The time came for me to voice my urgency; to openly admit defeat. I couldn’t keep it in anymore (both my urgency and whatever wanted to get out). I yelled unceremoniously at my boyfriend to stop the motorbike NOW (!!!). Distraught, I struggled to find the necessities I needed: toilet paper and wet wipes (I didn’t lie – I really do always have some). My boyfriend finally understood what was happening and immediately let out a burst of laughter which echoed mockingly throughout the woods.
Leaving my boyfriend bent over in a state of hilarity with tears rolling down his face, I ran to the woods and, like a dog, frantically searched for a place far enough from the road so no one would see me. Sweating profusely, swearing heavily (in English and in French) and begging (to whom?) – please, please, please don’t let me crap my pants – I managed to crouch ungracefully behind a small mound of sand and proceeded to leave my mark in the woods while still wearing my helmet (safety first).
The moral of the story is: always, always, always carry toilet paper when you’re traveling.
MISHAP #7: NOW WHAT? (CAMBODIA)
On the island of Koh Rong we stayed in one of the guesthouses on the beach tightly squeezed among an exaggerated number of bars and restaurants. The room was a typical beach construction with flimsy bamboo walls but it also had a certain kind of charm….and an uninvited guest. A strange sound was coming from inside the wall. I already knew what a bat sounded like but this was a whole new guttural sound. And of course the sound promptly made itself heard as soon as we closed the lights and settled into bed.
The following scene took place:
Me tightly seeking refuge under the covers.
My boyfriend stick in hand.
Flashlight in another.
Scouring the room to find the source of the noise.
Behind the flimsy bamboo wall.
A huge gecko.
My boyfriend tried to scare it away but it seemed quite content with spending the night with us. After a bit of coercing (no deadly umbrella this time), it finally decided to leave the comfort of our wall. But not for long.
The next morning it cheekily accompanied me while I took my shower (I didn’t see it but I could here it). The following nights, it came back and serenaded us once again with its clicking symphony. We knew it was harmless so we willingly let it share our room with us (free of charge).
MISHAP #8: IN MANDALAY I LAY (MYANMAR)
Stepping off the bus, we both instantly took a liking to the non-descript city of Mandalay. It was small enough to easily get around but big enough to offer a bit of unfamiliar chaos. We borrowed some bicycles from our hotel and rode around Mandalay enjoying the everyday scenes that surrounded us. Despite the relentless sun and the ever-rising heat (mid-40’s Celsius), we continued our explorations.
But that was the extent of my visit in Mandalay.
I spent the whole night tossing and turning in a pool of my own sweat. High fever and cold chills kept me awake. I could hardly eat anything (except for some refreshing watermelon). I thought it would pass within one day but much to my dismay I spent FIVE (!!) whole days in bed drenched in sweat. The fever was very deceiving; at times it was dangerously high and other times it was conveniently absent giving me enough respite to shower.
As the days went by, I constantly wavered between several emotions. Impatience. Self-pity. Frustration. Anxiety. Confusion. Sadness. Exhaustion. I took some pain relief medication which helped to control the fever but it always came back seemingly fiercer and fiercer (and so was my sobbing). After five days, the fever finally subsided and I got my strength back. I didn’t go to the hospital for an official diagnosis but I most likely suffered from a heat stroke.
HOW TO PREVENT A HEAT STROKE:
- Drink lots of water
- Cover your head with a scarf or wear a hat
- Stay in the shade as much as possible
- Avoid going outdoors when the sun/heat is at its peak (usually from noon – 2 p.m.)
So there you have it! Traveling may not always be pretty but it will always make your life more beautiful – mishaps and all!
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