WARNING: This article makes no attempt to leave out graphic details. It is not for the faint of heart.
I do not think it fair to write only about the amazing experiences and fun times. As much as it pains me to do this, I must even the scale and tell my sad, sorry tale of my experience with montezuma’s revenge, the traveler’s trot, the Toltec two-step, Delhi belly, the runs, traveler’s tummy or the commonly accepted TD (for traveler’s diarrhea), while recovering helplessly and pathetically.
We were finalizing our plans for the next few days, which at the time, included being in three different countries in a little over three days (not by choice, but because of a slight oversight on flight dates). Long story short, we had to book a last minute train ride from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore in order to catch our flight out of Singapore to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
This is where it all started. I woke up with a fever and a heavy head. We checked out of our room that morning, and had tickets to catch the 10:30pm night train. We were homeless at this point, so we posted up in a Starbucks to kill some time.
Throughout the day, I progressively got worse. It was quite humbling — feeling helpless in a foreign country, with my head pounding, body sweating from the fever, curled up in a fetal position in a corner of Starbucks, with nowhere else to go.
We made it to the train station early as to not miss it, when my abdominal convulsions started. I laid down on the cold tile floor to try to keep my body cool from the fever, and sleep while we waited for the train that came over an hour late. I was dreading the train ride, as the sleeper train cars were already full.
My nights’ sleep was awakened every hour by either the strong jerk or noise of the train or by the knife cutting pain that I was now experiencing in my abdomen. I was continually switching positions on the uncomfortable semi-reclining seat, trying to close out the bright fluorescent lights that never shut off, and find warmth from the freezing cold air vent blowing right over my head.
We finally arrived in Singapore early the next morning, as did the back-door trots. Getting through customs, figuring out the bus and train systems, finding accommodation, and walking to it all was really miserable. Everything seemed so difficult and took so long. Hunched over and moving sluggishly brought our pace down to a mere crawl.
After trying four different hostels, we finally found one with a vacancy. I was so happy just to lay down, never mind the bright pink walls, blue carpet, bunk beds, and shared wet bathroom facilities.
We were up early the next morning to try to catch our flight. Thinking that nothing could be worse than the previous day, I insisted that I could make it through another day of travel.
The walk to the train station was close to torture. We were in Chinatown, walking along all the shops and restaurants to get to the train. The smells of the prepared food, raw fish, and smoked meats were too much. Now my stomach was pissed.
We made it to the train, even a few stops on the train, before I had to get off to lay down. Laying down on cold, hard, dirty tile floors in public places is now becoming a common occurrence.
Eventually, with plastic bag in hand, we made it out of the station to a coffee shop with wifi. Since we were going to miss our flight, we needed to figure out what to do next. We were again homeless, with no place to go. I pulled two chairs together and laid down in the corner of the coffee shop. Eventually getting up to run to the toilet, where I had now progressed to projectile vomiting.
Desperately needing to stay put for a few days, we booked a seemingly reasonable place for two nights. Once we checked in, the manager took an aerosol can and left for a good seven minutes before returning. He then brought us to the third floor, where I could feel the hot air just sitting stagnant. The mold, stale smells, along with the newly sprayed room was like poison. I curled up on the dirty bed with yellow-stained pillows, in the tiny, windowless, blue-walled room, trying not to die, as Thad negotiated us a different room.
Late that night, being my green apple nasties were what they were, I was desperate and dirty. Delhi belly was performing at top level, where in my desperation, I tried it. My first time ever doing it. I faced all my fears, concerns, doubts, and followed the instructions about the bum gun, written by a friend we met in Koh Tao several weeks prior. It worked well in cleaning myself up, and I may have never faced this fear if I was not delusional, feverish, and lethargic.
There is something to be said about having some level of comfort when you are at your worst. Normally, I could care less about where I sleep. Truly, anything to save money to get another day out of traveling. But right now, I am not normal, I am awful.
I would just really appreciate being able to wake up in the middle of the night to run to the toilet to do as much dry heaving as necessary, without chasing out a rat first.
I am sure the noises I was making scared away anything else lurking about. As I continued on with my business, the smell of the area was making me heave even more. Right when I tried to breath through my mouth, I literally inhaled a nat. I felt the nat hit the back of my throat, where I proceeded again to vomit.
It was at this moment, that reality started to hit. The luster of traveling and walking on clouds was starting to fade. I was so miserable. I had to try to think positively, since things could always be worse. At least I had the choice of using a regular toilet. I could not imagine doing the Toltec two-step squatting or correctly aiming my fast-moving regurgitation at a turkish toilet. These thoughts helped a little.
The following two days were spent in bed in our tiny little pre-paid room. I was a sad feverish pile, unable to do much more than sleep. I did everything in my power not to use the wet room facilities, as to not initiate any more undesired responses.
Slowly the days passed by, symptoms started to fade, and I started to believe that I would make it.