Beaten by buses, bacteria, and a bad attitude
Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
42Trip End Feb 27, 2013
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I haven't written anything lately because frankly, I am still trying to get ahead of this sickness. I stayed an extra day in Thakhek hoping sleep and rest would mend me. It seemed to work....until about 3 1/2 hours into a 6 hour bus ride today. My neck and back were just aching and nausea was circling like an eager buzzard. Shockingly, the VIP bus was sweltering. (dripping with sweaty sarcasm there). I had the aisle-sitters (we need to give them a name besides the 'poor souls that are forced to sit on plastic stools in the middle of a rocking bus with no air') right next to me so my space was cut by a third. Our bus driver thought he was driving a Maserati rather than a double decker bus. His idea of passing a slower vehicle was to run up on their rear end, slam the brakes, and then swiftly yank the wheel to the left sending us passengers slinging like rag dolls out of our seats. Then, once past the slower vehicle, he whips back onto the right side of the road and we fly the other direction. Coupled with the phenomenal roads, this swaying, braking, and rolling tested the efficacy of my motion sickness drugs. At about 3.5 hours, the drugs started to fail. I can't move, can't get air, and have no idea how much longer we're going to be on this damn bus. In my mind I dream of travel in private car with air conditioning---what would that be like I wonder? It's like my Elysium Fields, my utopia.
It all started so well too. I mean, really well! I arrived at the bus station feeling optimistic and relatively spry (considering the past few days). We left one minute past the scheduled departure time. That's right, ONE minute past! I could not believe it--a bus on time??! Then, the bus wrangler (that's what I call the guy that stacks us on the bus like Tetris pieces and places people in the aisle) started pushing a box labeled 'Drinking water' down the aisle. I was certain that was going to be someone's makeshift seat. But, to my utter surprise, he opened the box and began handing out water bottles to passengers! My initial thought was, "Is this a trap?!" Are we like the unsuspecting livestock being treated well before we're led off to slaughter? What is going on here? But, all soon returned to normal when he forced a woman to carry her ~9 year old son in her lap to make room for another passenger (you see, we pick up people along the way). Apparently, any person not 18 years of age is fair game to share a seat with their traveling partner. lol. Soon, the aisle began to be filled with newly boarding passengers and bus life was back to normal.
I honestly think that this sickness is really the true culprit behind my sullen viewpoint right now. I have not felt truly well since February 2nd. Every day that passes that I continue to feel sick frustrates me for two reasons. One, I hate feeling sick. Period. And second, I am frustrated at the lost experiences and enjoyment. I have tried to push through, but am just not enjoying it. I have given up actually doing any activities and am literally paying to convalesce. Unfortunately, Laos is easily twice as expensive as Cambodia.
All of the things that are simply part of traveling in Southeast Asia become much larger issues when one feels ill. Finding a guesthouse for example. It isn't exactly super fun arriving at a dusty bus station during the heat of the day and trying to negotiate a price to the city center. When you're well, this is no big deal, but when you're sick, it's just annoying. Can't we just have a fair price and be done with it??! So tired of every single thing having to be negotiated and doing the 'hustle dance'. Then, once in the city, actually securing a room can sometimes entail walking a bit. Not a lot, but when you're not feeling up to snuff, hauling a pack on your back in the heat is not tops. Then, there's the 'promises and expectations' that are never met here. The world is promised and therefore, you create expectations around those supposed 'promises'. It is when these expectations that you've (stupidly) allowed to form are not met that frustration boils over. WiFi? Of course we have WiFi here in the hotel. That's not the proper question Jasmine....the proper question is does it work? They'll say, "Yes, yes." But, that's not true is it? Nope. And there is no recourse. You simply can't care too much about anything. Again, I believe this is fine when you're not feeling like poo...but right now, I just want to connect with my family and friends on the internet cause I'm feeling whiny and pitiful!!
Like I said, I worry about writing this entry because basically, it's just me whining. But, it's the truth as I'm living it right now. I do have to say that Vientiane, the capital city, has been way better than Thakhek. I got a room and laid down for a couple of hours (it's as if I'm working at about 46%---gotta recharge often). Then, I had to venture out for food. I think that the lack of eating is contributing to my poor feeling...but eating often leads to stomach pain...vicious cycle here. There are coffee shops and bakeries everywhere, thanks to the French colonization 100 years ago. I had a shawarma (Lebanese pita) and it was good. My stomach hasn't rejected it yet. Then, feeling upbeat, I stopped by a mini-mart where they had Q-tips and hygienic wet wipes!! Total score!! The wet wipes are key when using those sketchy squatter toilets in the country....for cleaning both hands and other areas! I then meandered inside, that's right, inside...which means it was air-conditioned inside!---a coffee shop. Had an iced latte that was delicious. During all of this, I continued to ponder tomorrow's bus trip...up the generally accepted most-winding road in southeast Asia. Everyone says the views are amazing, but that it is difficult to not become nauseous. They also say it is extremely slow. I weighed the pros and cons of another 12 hour bus trip through the mountains and then I took my butt straight over to a travel agency and booked a flight. I believe I have experienced enough bus travel to give me post-traumatic stress disorder. I don't need to be on the most winding road in southeast Asia. Nope. I'll sit my happy rear on an airplane for 45 min and you can keep your 12 hours on a hot, slow bus.
In fact, I think I'm so done with bus travel that I might just fly from Hanoi to the other cities I'm interested in in Vietnam. I'm sorry, but my budget just isn't that strict to continue to torture myself. At this rate, I would rather just come home than sit on god knows how many more buses. I can't stomach it (no pun intended).