Two Savages in Southeast Asia

We Be Illin

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After a restless night spent disgorging my stomach’s contents into various toilets (I’m sure you cared to hear that!), we decide to take it easy for the day. Daniel’s mother is a pharmacist, and some of her knowledge has rubbed off on him, so he gives me the rundown: take these medications so often, don’t eat any meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, and so on. Valkyrie pops out to get some pastries and fruit juice for breakfast, which is about all I can stomach at the moment. Meanwhile, I lie down and try to keep hydrated.

Did I mention that travellers’ diarrhea sucks? In moderate to severe cases, you’re basically incapacitated. Too weak and unsettled of stomach to do much of anything, you spend a day or two alternating between bed and toilet until the antibiotics kick in, all the while sucking down as much water as you can to replace your impressive fluid loss. (Don’t forget to add salt to the water! Otherwise, you won’t be able to hydrate yourself properly, which can be nasty.) Your diet consists of broth, grain (here, lots and lots of rice), fruits, and simple sugars; proteins and fats are, for the most part, right out. I highly recommend not getting it if you can avoid it.

If you do get it, however, it’s comforting to know that you probably don’t have dengue or malaria, both of which are known for acute onset with particularly nasty effects. Plasmodium falciparum is the local malaria strain, and infection therewith is considered a medical emergency, so in the grand scheme of things I think I’m doing OK here.

Another medical note: not everything that bites you is a mosquito, and not every mosquito carries a terrible tropical disease, so don’t worry. At least in Vietnam, the medical system has improved drastically in recent years, and even at out-of-pocket rates it’s quite cheap by American standards. It used to be common advice for travellers to evac to Bangkok in the event that you contract dengue or malaria, but Ho Chi Minh City now also makes the list of recommended destinations for medical emergencies. Now you know :)

I manage to pull myself together enough to eat a decent vegetarian meal for lunch: vegetables with a hoisin-style sauce, corn and asparagus soups, and a mushroom-potato combo. Still nothing high-protein, but it feels good to have some sustenance. We also make it out for a quick dinner, then grab a drink at one of Daniel’s favorite caf├ęs in town. I’m feeling a bit undernourished, so we top this off with a couple more pastries before heading back to his house.

Valkyrie and I get in a bit of discussion on Expedition, but otherwise my extensive time spent in or around bed is unproductive. My day of rest seems to be working wonders, so perhaps we will make it to Cam Ranh tomorrow!