Getting Sick on the Road

I thought I’d finish telling about my trip to Myanmar by giving you a story about the highlights of Mandalay. Or about the beautiful sunset seen from the longest teak bridge in the world, where we met a monk who told us about how he once got pushed off that bridge by tourists and then had to spend two months in a hospital.

But instead, as I’m writing this from the comfort of my own couch, I’m taking deep breaths and trying to ignore the squeamish feeling around my stomach. It’s been a couple of days since I returned and I’m still not feeling completely well.

It started the night before the cooking class at Inle Lake. I woke up from spasms in my abdomen that hurt so much, I could barely breath. The pain passed, I took some medication and was able to get on as usual. Back then, I thought it was just a normal upsetting of the stomach, the kind you sometimes get on the road. I blamed the seagrass salad, the only food I hadn’t shared with my friend, and was glad the symptoms had passed so quickly.

Two days later, on my last day in Myanmar that my friend and I spent in Mandalay, I got stomach cramps. They got better after eating some plain rice but that was when I started to feel sick. I was still able to ignore the feeling and it was my last day so instead of going back to the hotel, I had the brilliant idea of climbing Mandalay Hill.

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At least, the view was pretty.

Climbing up went surprisingly well. We took a lot of breaks on the way (I’m sure it usually wouldn’t have taken us an hour and a half) but once we were at the top, I was starting to feel worse. No problem, I thought. We’ll just take a taxi back to our hotel.

And that was when the problems started. The only available taxis were motorcycle taxis and since I am terribly afraid of them, there was no way I would get on one. Plus, I was feeling more and more sick and I just wanted to sit somewhere and be comfortable. So we had to walk all those steps back down from where we finally got a taxi.

I have never been so glad to be back in the hotel room, where I started shivering despite the heat. The night was hell. At two in the morning, I realised that if my condition didn’t improve, I wouldn’t be able to catch the plane. Eventually, I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up, I felt slightly better. Maybe going home wouldn’t be so bad, after all.

My enthusiasm lasted until the airport, where I made the mistake of eating a small chickpea snack. The last food I’d have in a very long time. I dozed off on the chairs, always having a plastic bag nearby because I felt sick. And yet, I never managed to throw up, which made matters even worse.

The fellow passengers on the plain were very nice and someone switched seats with me so I could sit near the aisle. The symptoms came and went. For a moment, when we had to run through Bangkok Airport to catch our connecting flight, I felt better. Then, while we were thousands of feet above India, far away from any medical help, I suddenly couldn’t breathe. It only lasted ten minutes, thank god, but it scared me immensely.

We had one night in Abu Dhabi during which I slept and rested. It helped, at least to a point where I was able to get on the plane the next morning. I know I could have stopped the journey at any moment and gone to a hospital and in Abu Dhabi, I was very close to doing so. Instead, I lasted until we got home and my friend dropped me off at the emergency room.

Two days, some infusions and antibiotics later, I am now finally home. I am incredibly exhausted. They never found out what it was that got me. Some bacteria, I imagine, since the antibiotics worked very well. At least, it wasn’t malaria or dengue. How annoying would it be to catch dengue just before the vaccination comes out?

I am still planning on writing a post about Mandalay. Despite everything, I loved the city. I just need a couple of days to recover. And when I’m not that tired anymore, I will get to it.

And just for the record, I would always travel to Myanmar again. It is a beautiful country. I just wouldn’t eat seagrass salad anymore.

So what about you? Have you ever gotten really sick while travelling?

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