DAY 242, KM 8746, Vang Vieng, Laos
Tuesday 8 April 2008 36 °C
After a week of rest and nice air-conditioned hotel rooms, we took a bus to the center of Laos, where the mountain ranges start and it promised to get cooler. We both felt excited and renewed when we found friendly people and a beautiful landscape... We were back on our feet again, and happy to be biking again. Little did we expect that we would soon end up in the hospital.
We had just climbed 150 km into the mountains and had reached Vang Vieng, a big backpackers town at the base of a gigantic limestone mountain range. Because of its location, there are boundless recreational opportunities, and we were looking forward to float down the river in an inner tube and soak our painful rear-ends in the cool river. When we arrived in town, we were proud of ourselves, but also famished from a day's biking on little fuel. So we scarfed down a big plate of ginger rice and headed out to find ourselves a bungalow.
After a shower, we were all ready to go out, when all of a sudden it hit... Wim got up in a panic and said," I can't think, something's really wrong with my head." At the same time I got a sense of overwhelming, unreal panic. Wim ran out of the room, all the time talking about how something was wrong, asking what was happening, why we were there, and where we were. A few minutes later, my heart started pounding so hard that I thought it was going to explode and I was drenched in sweat. Neither of us could hold a thought for more than a few seconds, much less finish a sentence. Did we get poisoned? Was someone trying to rob us? Was it the heat? We were confused and terrified.
After leaving our bungalow, we only have little bits and pieces of memories. We were walking on the streets, but had no clue what we were doing or why we went outside. Somehow though, we got ourselves to the hospital (which was equipped with a nice stethoscope, and three beds), but neither of us remember how really. Once at the hospital, this man appeared in front of us from time to time and kept telling us "drink, drink". The doctor was trying to wash the drugged dinner out our stomachs (=drink a lot and then vomit. After that, repeat....) He didn't speak English, so we had no clue if he even knew what was wrong with us, or if we even told him we had a problem. We lied there shaking and staring at the ceiling for the next 4 hours, waiting and hoping for it to end. We couldn't ask the doctor anything, so we didn't know how long it would last, if it would get worse, or whether he was just waiting for us to die.
After 4 hours, the doctor (who needed his beds back) ordered us to go home. However, when he found out that we didn't have money to pay him right away, a look of distrust and concern crossed over his face. Where these druggies going to pay him back? He decided not to risk it, piled us onto the back of his moped, and drove us to our bungalow to get his payment (20$). Apparently, he wasn't expecting any emergencies in the next half hour, because he left the entire hospital to fend for themselves while he was gone.
Back at our bungalow, we continued shaking and staring at the ceiling for the rest of the night. Much to our relief, we could finally think semi-straight again after another 48 hours (this seems like eternity when you don't know if it will end). Only after four days and four nights in bed did our zombie-like stare disappear. Our bodies had finally recovered.
We're trying really hard not to give up now, because we have too many adventures ahead of us and we really want to reach our goal... the gates of China! Sometimes it is hard though.