HOW I VISITED A THAI DOCTOR WITH BRACES
HOW ERIK TOOK ONE FOR THE TEAM
*warning! some details of our being unwell may be somewhat unsavoury, though I’ll try not to go into too much detail.
When we woke up to get to the boat from Koh Tao, one of the first things Erik said to me was that he felt nauseous. I didn’t feel too good myself, but attributed it to an early morning and perhaps an empty stomach. About five hours later, as we were disembarking from the boat at Donsak I was singing a different tune.
By then, I had been trowing up almost every hour and was feeling really woozy. Standing on firm ground seemed to help though. As I was falling asleep in the nicely air-conditioned van that would take us to an office where we could drop off our bags before going to our home stay, I was still hoping it had simply been motion sickness that got to me.
Getting out of the cool van and into the humid heat of a Thai midday changed that as almost immediately I felt faint and started to throw up – again. Erik went to get some water and we still have a way to go so I’ve no choice but to get cleaned up and carry on. We have the taxi driver take us to the village to meet our host of the day.
We meet our English speaking host Chuenjit at a local shop where we are given some soda and a demonstration of how an old blind family member crafts toys. Afterwards, we are driven to the local temple and market. The temple is just being renovated and sports some gruelling depictions of what hell is like and for whom. The market is tiny, but we manage to buy some bananas – gifts start eating again – and a stick smelling of menthol to reduce my very obvious light-headedness.
After sitting in the shade for a bit, we cross the small – slightly scary – bridge that overlooks a heart-shaped formation of rocks (picture time!) and then finally make our way to the place we’ll be spending the night.
Apparently I’m not looking too good – I certainly don’t feel it – because the women there urge me to go have a rest. They get me a milky drink that tastes like menthol, lay me down on a thin mattress (with Satan’s passport on it) and proceed to wash my head, arms, legs and chest with a cold cloth. For a few moments I feel utterly ashamed to arrive in such a state, but the maternal air of these women soon sooths me and I am able to sleep for some two hours.
One for the team
Meanwhile, Erik is not feeling to good either, but somehow manages to eat the very salty fish and eggs that have been put in front of them. He also goes off to fish and pluck some fruits – all through sheer willpower – and basically does all the things we were supposed to do during our homestay. His reward when getting back? Finding me throwing up AGAIN.
I feel a little better for a little while, but soon I began to feel the tell tale signs of becoming sick, again. By now, the women (and men) who are taking care of are me getting visibly concerned for my health and it is decided I need to go see a doctor. The whole compound gets into action and there we go.
Thai doctor in braces
Erik grabs our passports and we are wisked off on two motorcycles and iron sidecars. Erik is being driven at breakneck speed by a 10-year old boy and I follow a bit slower while Chuenjit won’t let go of my hand. We transfer to a jeep-taxi and finally make our way to what looks like a hospital.
We are greeted by a girl who smiles shyly at us and I can see she is still wearing braces. I assume she is the receptionist, but a Chuenjit starts to explain what is wrong with me and she asks me a few questions I realise that this is the doctor. She gives me two types of medication – and asks me to write down the dosage in English. All in all it costs about 1 euro and we leave again in five minutes.
The worried taxi driver takes us back to where the bikes are parked and then we drive back to the home. I take the first pill and try to eat some off the rice and broth our host has made me and then proceed to throw that up as well – right in front of the worried taxi driver who came to check on me. The worried family now feeds me some warmed up Fanta that mercifull stays in my stomach and put me to bed so I can just sleep.
The next morning I wake up feeling light-headed but at least the nausea has dissipated. The only thing thing ailing me now – and Erik even more – is that my bowls seem to have decided to simply flush everything out. I just hope with a few calm days and bland food we’ll soon be right as rain again.
We are welcomed by Chuenjit and our host and have a quiet morning. We eat some rice with vegetables – no salty fish or eggs this time – and I can keep it down easily. After breakfast I’m taken for some fruit picking and a view of the river. The rest of the morning we spend trying to communicate a bit with our Thais host and playing with an adorable girl who seems to think the paleness of my cheeks and hands is hilarious.
After our quiet morning we are taken to a taxi and then to a boat to take us to our next stay: floating houses on Khao Sok Lake. We’ve been looking forward to this night for months and are pretty excited.
Khao Sok Lake was created in the early ’80s when the Ratchapraphadam was build. This resulted in a huge lake with small islands and bays showcasing the remains of a rainforest that is older than the Amazon. We can see misty mountains that remind me of the Chinese paintings I saw as a child, with the closest ones almost black and the further ones ever lighter hues of grey. Although the boat trip in a long tale boat and tropical rain soon have us completely drenched, these views are amazing!
We make it to the floating houses in time for you lunch – that we just about manage to eat. Afterwards there is the possibility of going on a two-hour hike, but as neither Erik nor I have much energy left we decide to sleep for a bit and then have a swim in the lovely cool water. Later we get so see the group return, completely soaked and muddy again and as much as we usually would have enjoyed a hike like that, today we are very happy with our choice.
After dinner – that I manage a small portion off and Erik even less – we can go on a night safari – animals NOT guaranteed! Erik decides to just go to sleep, but I am curious and feeling somewhat ok, so when it gets dark I get on the boat with the rest of the group and we take of into the dark. With rumbling engine. Like, a really really loud engine. And one big flash light to flood the banks with light that ensures any animal that wasn’t scared away yet will flee immediately. Needless to say, we don’t see any animals other than two owls the guide manages to spot somehow.
I get back to our little floating house to find Erik fast asleep. I continue us reading the wild truth a little longer and than I to fall asleep.
The next morning we wake up early and get to see the mist slowly creeping up the mountains while the almost black and completely still lake reflects back both the churning sky and the mountains. I take in this peaceful and beautiful moment before our well-off Belgian neighbour starts to complain again – as she has been doing without stop – and nearly ruins my mood. I guess I should just laugh at people who cannot be grateful for the travel experiences they have the good fortune to come across.
After breakfast we leave for a two part boat ride with another hike in between. We get drenched again. At some point the lack of care by the driver and guide about rain or spray becomes hilarious and I cannot help but exclaim that I am having THE BEST time. And truth be told, a part of me is. Yes, I still feel weak, we are by now both battling diarrhoea, we are wet and I am cold, but I am also finally seeing this part of Thailand, finally travelling again and surrounded by some of the most stunning – if rain soaked – scenery so far.
Instead of going on the second hike, Erik and I get dry, read a bit and chat a while with a recently married woman who is on her honeymoon. She seems like a bit shallow but she is kind and very entertaining to talk to. It’s a good time to have before we get back on shore and back to the office where we left our bags.
The people running the office ask me how I am doing and tell me that the whole village was talking about how sick I got. I guess there are worse reasons to be talked about, but I feel ashamed nonetheless. Still, these things happen when you are are travelling and I just hope the worst is behind us. We just have to get through the ride to Surat Thani, stay in a dank, cheap but functional hotelroom for about 10 hours and then it is off on another night train to Malaysia where hopefully we’ll leave the illness behind!