This will be the final part of the series where it all went wrong for me in Myanmar and for something I dreaded from the beginning of the trip and whenever I am away from the comfort of home – food poisoning. To be frank, one cannot run away from an upset stomach when travelling overseas namely due to hygiene and cooking methods which will be different from what one has at home.
Read these first:-
- Overseas Assignment 2012: Myanmar Adventure Part 1 – Landing In Secret Burma
- Overseas Assignment 2012: Myanmar Adventure Part 2 – Great Burmese Meal
- Overseas Assignment 2007: Close Call In Bangkok
- Overseas Assignment 2007: Seeing Bright “Orange” in Kabul (Day 7)
One of the key mantras that my team and I always use is to ensure we get our meals from a clean place and ensure it is cooked well. For water to drink and for cooking, we only stick to branded bottled water (or minimum, any bottled ones) although this can be very expensive in places like in Iran.
Despite the precautions that we usually take, we could never escape from the risk of food poisoning. The usual bouts of diarrhoea are nothing but back in Ghana in 2005, the whole team was hit with malaria fever with one had to be admitted to the hospital and one of the symptoms of malaria are fever and deadly diarrhoea. Thankfully Ghana has advanced medical care when it comes to malaria and all of us recovered within a day.
This is one of the rooms in the youth hostel in case one wants to stay up at this place. The food was great and we decided that it was time to head back to Yangon. But before we could head out from Naypyidaw, we had to get the Toyota Alphard to refuelled for the long journey back.
Interestingly, there was no big petrol station in Naypyidaw that operated 24 x 7 like in Malaysia. There was a small petrol station but there was no electricity so the operator had to go and get a generator to power the pump. We probably waited for almost an hour before we managed to get the refuelling down.
We were tired and was sleeping most of the journey before we realised the Alphard that we were in slowing down and turned. I woke up and noticed that we had stopped at the same R&R that we stopped in the morning. In the morning, barely any other cars or buses stopped at this R&R and thus there was only 1 stall opened with only prata (a form of roti canai) and some vegetable gravy on the menu.
But now at night on the journey back, this R&R is very much alive with most stalls opened and the parking lot packed with tour & express buses making pitstops on the way to Yangon. Since lunch was heavy, I did not really want to have my meals here but I ok-ed for a hot cup of coffee.
We reached our hotel rooms quite late and as we suppose to fly back to Malaysia the next afternoon, as a matter of practice, I started to pack up my things into my luggage so that I don’t have to rush the next day. Then I noticed the slight pain in the stomach but I dismissed it outright as it being due to tiredness.
I did not realise then but I was already gotten food poisoning. The rest of the team had gone up to the rooftop for beers, late dinner and further discussion. I did not join them and went to bed instead.
I woke up suddenly at wee hours and went to the bathroom – it was obvious that I had diarrhoea. I looked out the window as I came out of the bathroom, the Buddhist pagoda in the distance looked serene and impressive. However, I did not feel myself in the same condition. I went back to sleep. The next morning, I woke up late but it was clear, I was not feeling well.
I vomited twice as well and then I realised that I could not afford to be admitted to a hospital in Myanmar when the rest of the team are flying back. Just imagine me all alone in a country controlled by the junta and not sure when I can return home. No, I was determined to leave Myanmar despite feeling very sick.
I was only worried that I would be too sick to board the plane so I informed others to cover for me in case the airport/airline staff got suspicious.
I skipped breakfast and try to minimise taking any food or drinks until I am safely on the plane and already entered the Malaysian air space. I was still feeling nauseated and weak so my colleagues were very concerned about me and keep asking me if I need to go to the hospital. That itself motivated me to push myself to leave the country and reach home no matter what.
We made it through the airport where I put probably my best act of looking healthy passing through the check-in, custom and immigration counters. I made it to the plane and was glad when we took off back to Malaysia. I refused the in-flight food and focussed on sleeping until we reached KLIA.
The first thing first is to head to the nearest toilet and relieve first and then head to the baggage collection area to pick up my luggage. Then it is off to the taxi stand to get the ride back home and it seems hours before it pulled in front of my house.
I felt better once I rested at home and was able to prepare for another flight the next day to Cambodia. So I woke up early, went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. Then the world went blank and the next thing I know, I was on the floor with my wife trying to wake me up.
I was not sure how long I passed out but it was clear, I need to go to the hospital due to food poisoning. That will be another post for another day.