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Koh Phi Phi and the Dengue Fever

INDIA | Monday, 22 June 2009 | Views [2500]

We arrived at Krabi from Bangkok by way of bus.  this bus wreaked to high hell, so much so that Alex couldn't sleep, consequently nor I ( i was recruited for entertainment purposes).  it's amazing what kind of bodily outrages people can commit in the most unseeming of places.

Krabi, a climbing mecca of sorts, is located a few kilometers frmo the pier.  There's always a catch.  We found the cheapest means of transprotation and made our way by back of a truck to the pier, just in time for the last boat to the island.  the boat ride lasted a few hours, some of which was fairly standard harbor viewing, but the last leg of which was beautiful blue coastal waters punctuated by the occasional green-hooded mountain-top, peaking out of its quilt of waves.  as we pulled into the harbor, we snapped a few shots and had bandit-like smiles on our faces as if we had just robbed a bank and were crossing state lines.

we were accosted by numerous sellers of things immediately upon setting foot on the pier.  we dodged and denied and made our way down the planks to the town which, conveniently, began immediately - no extra jeeps, taxis or tuk tuk's necessary.  we spoke with a few travel places, procured a map and headed to the beach front.  we explored a cheap place first, but Alex wanted to be by the beach so we ventured further on.  finding everything to be quite expensive, we gave in and rented a beach bungalow for a week for about 12 dollars a night.

the main beach of the island, in fact the entire development, is located on an isthmus that connects 2 mountain peaks.  the peaks curve in to create a bowl shaped, nearly enclosed bay.  it seems that the infrastructure and beach makes up the relic of a volcano caldera.  we climbed up one peak for some spectacular views and photos.  we also boated around to another island, the island that was used in movie "the beach" with DiCaprio - we read and watched said book and movie while here.

the sand is not as soft as one would like and the bay water way too warm.  it was a bit dirty as well with no real waves.  sun bathing was the primary use during the day and beach parties by night, every night.  the town was really a British getaway, somewhat like paradise island although not nearly as built up, but definitely as drunk.  tons of vacationers and college students out to get drunk and hook up.  great if you like that sort of thing.  we settled into a routine of eating at a local place - we quickly realized that, not only did it have the best food, but it was also the cheapest.  so far, best fried rice of the trip. 

things to do: there was some snorkeling around, which we did a little of, but nothing too great. on our boat trip to the "beach" island we visited a few others as well, the last of which we were nearly left behind.  we kayaked to shore and took a walk down the beach, perhaps a little longer than wold be wise but certainly not longer than the time allotted.  when we returned to find our kayak gone we grew worried.  looking out to sea, about 200 yards off shore, our boat was turning to leave as it unmoored.  i tried to swim out a bit and wave my arms and shout. al waved and shouted and recruited some locals to help us from the safety of the sand.  we were spotted, luckily. someone stole my sunglasses that my dad gave me the loss of which annoyed.  the boatmen denied.  they obviously lied.  i cried and died a little inside. someone also may have accidentally swapped sandals with me because, i realized back on shore, my feet were too big for them.  oh well.

scary incident:  we went for a walk into the locals part of town, found a soccer court and kicked the ball around.  we took some photos.  we saw some snails and lizards.  then we spied a troop of monkeys.  they were with their young feeding in between some local houses.  we saw the babies first with their mothers, but soon became dangerously aware of a patrolling male.  he looked mean.  he showed me his teeth and moved toward me aggressively, i quickened my pace and looked ahead, not wanting to make eye contact and provoke him.  he turned back and we were seemingly in the clear until he suddenly about-faced and made the same motions at alexalex stared him down, an act that which must have really aggravated the guy because he took off at us, bearing the long sharp teeth that evolution saw fit to extract from us.  "Run! Al Run!" i yelled, as i motioned forward and high stepped it out of there.  "ans!" a pitiful scared voice called after me, "ans!".  I looked back: the monkey had chosen to lunge for al, scaring the shit out of her so much so that she turned randomly to run and collided, after 2 steps, into a tree.  i ran back aggressively and the monkey backed off.  it seemed to have been satisfied with scaring the wits out of al and once she fell, it lost interest.  Al had a good cry then, after we were safe and things were put into perspective, she and I had a hardy laugh.  scary business, but, in retrospect, it was one of the funniest things that happened.

Mosquitoes:  The night after the island-hopping boat ride I fell ill.  The next morning, i could hardly move; i was achy and feverish, somewhat delirious as I lay contemplating the fever-induced hysteria evidenced in my dreams the night before.  I managed to get some food, but i was miserable, so I left al and went back to the squalid smelling bungalow where a weak fan barely pushed stale hot air through the mosquito netting.  I had a high fever. higher than i've had in a long time, perhaps only once ever.  It felt around 104F. After taking the medicine that Al thankfully procured, i felt much better, my fever reduced to an only simmering 102.  Later, it increased again and showed no signs of weakening, even after more pills.  I decided to visit the island hospital.  Al walked with me the 1.2 km and, soon after arriving, I was examined and given a preliminary diagnosis: Dengue.

the doctor examined me and gave me the preliminary run through of the disease and what I could expect.  He sent me to lie down in the patient section so the nurses could care for me in the immediate before we discussed our options.  he left to eat pizza. it smelled better than it probably tasted, but the smell reminded me of my lack of appetite and in me awoke an intense nausea. I barely held down the medicines provided and standing was a risk.  With an IV in my arm the doctor returned to discuss my options, at which point the nausea had temporarily abated.  I could stay here over night or go back to the bungalow.  I elected to stay to be on the safe side.  Dengue sounded bad. It is a virus contracted through mosquito bites with an incubation period of 3-14 days.  It is passed by the Aedes mosquito that bites during the day - the bastards.  Once the fever begins, it is important to be monitored closely from day 2 to day 7, after which the fever breaks and the white blood cell count begins to return to normal.   In addition to a drop in white blood cells (the most dangerous aspect of the fever, distinguishing it from malaria) the symptoms include: fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle aches, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite and more.  Info here.  The diagnosis depends on blood tests, so it's not always easy to confirm.

Secondly, we spoke of moving me to hospitals on the mainland where they were supposed to be better equipped to handle dengue cases.  looking back, i think the doctor was just lazy or didn't want to waste his resources on me.  in addition, i think he was connected to the private hospital in Phuket, since he lauded that one and denigrated the public option.  Needless to say, when the doctor says go to the private hospital you go.  when he suggests you jump through hoops with marmalade on your head wearing a tutu, you do it.

The next morning, i was well enough to travel.  A nurse accompanied me and Alex on a boat to Phuket where an ambulance picked me up.  I had never ridden in an ambulance so it was somewhat exciting despite the circumstances.  i think it was a bit overkill, but it was allegedly free so i consented to it.  At the hospital, i was placed in quarantine for over an hour where a doctor dressed in outbreak gear examined me to check for swine flu.  Finally i was brought to my room that resembled that of a really nice hotel.  IN fact, the hospital was basically a glorified hotel for the recently sliced and diced, for plastic surgery patients.  The hospital served mainly westerns at a fraction of the price of their own countries.  It was well known for sex alterations.  Because of this I feared the wrong diagnosis by a lazy nurse.  No worry, Alex was their to fight for my interest and yell at everyone, keep them on their toes and keep chance in my favor.  She also brought me somewhat edible food as the hospital food was atrocious when they listened, and full of fish when they didn't.  It didn't matter too much since i couldn't eat, but i ought to have edible food if I'm paying a lot for it.  Despite being a fraction of the cost of western hospitals, it was 6 times more expensive than the public option.  2 days of private hospital was enough for me when i saw the bill.  I paid and requested a transfer to the public one.  They transferred me for free.

I cant laud the service and care i received at the public hospital enough.  Maybe they were excited to show off for a westerner - the public relations manager visited me daily after all.  Nevertheless, at a fraction of the cost of the private institution, i was cared for with much more concern by nicer staff who spoke better English.  The room was not nearly as nice, but it was clean enough, private and air-conditioned.  The tv only had one movie channel and a few less English-speaking channels. It's ok. i occupied myself with playing scrabble against myself and watching every movie that there was to see.  I spent 6 days in the public hospital and 2.5 in the private.  The bill for those 6 days did not exceed the cost of one day at the private.  At the hospital, my state remained the same, mild fever, low platelets, little to no appetite, IV in arm, fatigued when standing, but otherwise lucid and not in too much pain.

After the 7-10 days of fever, dengue sufferers recover slowly but steadily for a month.  We rested in a resort at Patong Beach, Phuket, passing the time watching more movies and reading on the beach.  By the end of the  week I was well enough to travel and we left for Koh Phangan.

Thanks to Al for taking good care of me and to my parents for calling every day, sometimes twice.


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