Oh, Laos. Laos Laos Laos. Where do I begin? It was supposed to be such a beautiful romance. You know- all playing hide and seek in the waterfalls, stunning views from flower covered hilltops, charming market stalls and boats down the river. That sort of thing.
It was not.
I actually feel slightly guilty for the grudge I now possess against Laos. It’s not the country’s fault, mostly. It’s mine. Serious “it’s not you it’s me” stuff.
Basically, our last day in Chiangmai, as we got the flight over to Luang Prabang in the northern province of Laos, I got sick.
It crept up on me. One of those things where I didn’t realise quite how ill I was until I sat shivering at the airport gate, whilst my temperature was taking off higher than the airplane we were about to board.
Without wanting to publish too many sordid details publicly over the internet, from the moment we arrived in Laos I was not a happy bunny. I’d managed to get quite a nasty water infection that left me feverish, achy and in a lot of pain.
I usually brag about the fact that I don’t cry very often, but I will openly and honestly say that I spent quite a lot of this part of our trip angry and in tears. “It’s not fair” was shouted quite a few times as I whiled away the hours in bed, flicking the air con off and on again as my body tried to decide whether it was burning hot or freezing cold.
Most antibiotics are sold over the counter in this part of the world. It’s actually really bizarre, seeing things that normally need a prescription being handed out like your average bar of chocolate. I thought that this would be my saviour. As soon as I could, I bought a course of antibiotics at the first pharmacy I found.
No such luck. Three days down the line and still no improvement. In fact I felt worse. I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed and was sending poor Tom on wild goose chases all around the town for cranberry juice, baking soda and gallon upon gallon of drinking water. I didn’t care about science or medicine anymore. I was prepared to try any old wives tale that the Internet could throw at me.
It was Tom who drew the line, and insisted that I go to see an actual doctor. I think his failed quest to get apple cider vinegar made him snap… I had wanted to wait until we got to Vietnam, having read very non-reassuring reviews of Laos hospitals. But I also reached a point where I just didn’t care any more.
The next morning we rode to Phakan’s Clinic, a small doctors surgery just a couple of miles out of the centre. From the outside it looked more like a guesthouse than anything else. I was relieved to find a nurse, a couple of doctors and a pharmacist inside what was thankfully a very clean, white and sterile building.
The service was quick, professional and friendly. Plus I got a consultation, an ultrasound and a course of (much stronger) drugs for all of £15. Considering that we’d spent more on breakfast, that seemed fairly reasonable.
(That’s my other complaint. Right after Chiangmai, Luang Prabang seemed EXPENSIVE. Obviously nothing on the western world, but when you suddenly start having to pay almost £20 for a meal for two… well, it hits you hard.)
However, my antibiotics were £15 well spent. As soon as the next day, while not completely recovered, I felt well enough to get out and about.
We spent a glorious (and almost pain free) day at Kuang Si waterfalls. Around 30km south of Luang Prabang, I’d say the waterfalls are the highlight of Laos, even if you’re completely healthy.
There’s a small entrance fee (£2 per person) which is a price that is disproportionally tiny in relation to quite how beautiful the falls are. You can swim, climb and jump in the clear waters from the surrounding trees (something that British Heath and safety laws would exponentially dis-allow). It’s honestly like being on a film set or paradise of some sort.
I’m very glad we had that day. It made up, a bit, for the fact that I hadn’t been able to experience the rest of the place.
It also was a good memory to bear in mind for when, the following day, our sleeper bus to Vietnam was cancelled.
Tom and I had checked out of our hostel and killed a few hours hanging around until we were due to go to the station. On a whim, I checked my emails, only to find that our bus to Hanoi, and all buses for the foreseeable future had been cancelled due to bad road conditions. There had been a mighty storm the night before.
Incapable of any other reaction, we just looked at each other and laughed. Of all the places to have our stay extended! Luckily the bus company sent a full refund. We were just about able to afford flights to Hanoi for the next day. After a good couple of hours of cheap-flight-hunting, that is.
We found a cheaper hostel for one more night and spent far too much money on a nice meal to try to, somehow, salvage the situation.
And that was Laos. Not quite the romance I was hoping for! Unsurprisingly, we are both very excited to turn over to a new page, in Vietnam. So have your fingers crossed for us!
Have you had any holiday disasters? How did you cope? I’d love to hear in the comments!