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Bangkok Blues

THAILAND | Tuesday, 14 May 2013 | Views [228]

Before getting on the plane to Thailand I begged every crew member not to let me on. Sniffling and coughing, trying to force my way through the language barrier, I'd explain just how bad an idea it was to trap 80 or so other people in an enclosed airspace with me. Sadly it was
not to be - so I sickly drifted from Singapore to Thailand. Taking the train out from the airport there were no seats, so I stood in the middle of the train coughing, wheezing and swaying limply with the rocking of the train, no doubt causing several passengers to wish they'd brought their face masks that day.


Upon arriving at my hostel the woman working the front desk took one look at me and said, "You need a doctor." I waved her off, saying I was fine. "You need to see a doctor," she insisted. Again, I told her no - "fine, but if you change your mind I'll take you to one."
An hour or two later, lying in bed with chills, a fever and vertigo, I decided I might indeed need a doctor. Dragging myself back downstairs,
I spoke to a different woman behind the front desk, "Doctor tomorrow; not tonight, tomorrow morning 7 o'clock."

 

So I staggered back upstairs, each step forcing me to realize my legs had been remade from some slurry of concrete, lead and wet noodle.
Upstairs I layer up with every article of clothing I have and a second blanket. Laying down, I tried to put the spinning and melting
sensations out of my head, and eventually passed out. A few hours later the lights click on and the first woman is standing over me as
awareness gradually trickles in. She's saying something, but it takes a couple tries before the words filter through: "Do you need doctor
now?"

 

No, no, I murmur, weakly pawing at the air, I'll last til tomorrow morning. Though not at all sure of the truth of the words, I want to
end this confrontation as quickly as possible, feeling six sets of bleary eyes arrowing down on me from the other bunks in the room.
The next morning I wake up feeling somehow worse, but 100% ready to let a foreign doctor take a crack at treating me. I go downstairs to
find a man behind the counter. Repeating the instructions I had received, I told him I wanted to see a doctor and that the ladies had
promised to accompany me. He rejoins that they are both off shift and have gone home, and that he can't leave the front desk - but the
hospital is down the street, on the other side of the main road.

 

This is my first true interaction with crazy Asian traffic. Bali's pretty wild, but the streets you have to cross are never that wide.
Vietnam is just about as intense, but you're more assured that the motorists will break around you like a water 'round a boulder in a
stream. Weaving slightly, at once ten times my normal weight and weightless, I waft gently across a busy two lanes of stop and go traffic. Pausing at the median, I take a minute to gather myself before plunging through the next two - unlike the previous lanes there's no stop. Cars are humming past at 60 MPH. There's a brief break and I throw myself across the street, turning to see a car barrel down upon me as I cross the last five feet, life flashing before my eyes, memorial services beginning to write themselves and then I'm off on to the safety of the
sidewalk.


The actual doctor's visit was pretty uneventful. They laughed at my insurance, asked me repeatedly if I was allergic to anything and just
how bad my reaction was ("but what happens when you take sulfa?" "I don't know, were you going to give it to me?" "No, no... but do you get a rash), and made me take out cash from an ATM that charged me $5 for the transaction (later I would find this to be standard in Bangkok).
Five days later, having finished my course of antibiotics, I was well and truly sick of Bangkok. Admittedly somewhat unfairly, I had written
it off as a crappy place where people go to feel miserable. On probably the lowest note of the trip I was ready to get the hell out
of the country.


Though I had, I never gave Thailand a chance to recover.

Tags: backpacking, healthcare, sick

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