OR THE LAST GHASTLY DAYS OF SICKNESS AND THE DECLINE OF THE BIG TRIP
Alert : This post is very late coming as it’s been crazy here with people going a bit mad and me finally organising my trip to the hinterlands of Turkey to look at an old farmhouse! My love knows no bound for the growing and preserving my fruit and veg on Soho, but let’s be honest chaps I need remote land that’s relatively pure…..
When I left Bunaken I knew I was out of sorts but not how badly I would crash and burn. In retrospect the fatigue and sunstroke laid me wide open to getting sick with god knows what except that I was weak as a kitten so flying onto Penang from there was crazy. Okay I know I’m stubborn and proud and that’s what stopped me from stopping. I’d have been fine if I’d just hung out at the mangroves. Or maybe it was a bug from there that made me sick who knows. I’m normally so tough I thought I’d be able to shake it off but nah, my goose was cooked and this old goose was well past it’s sell by date.
From the Journal: Ghastly Sickness.
Have to jump to this. I have what seems to be a flu and cough that has ruined the last ten days of the trip. It started just before leaving Bunaken after my wonderful turtle swim and slight sunstroke and continued to ghastly Penang (never go there again) and then onto My safe place Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Lying on the bed here at the lovely Tapae Loft Hotel, depressed and exhausted. I’ll have to return to London in a couple of days if I don’t finally shake it. It’s the terrible fatigue as if I have malaria and awful dizziness and hacking unproductive cough-even after antibiotics and Benylin and the ‘eggs, suck, suck’ tablets, [Tablets given to me at the doctors in Malaysia. The doctor said that they were made of egg albumen and I needed to melt them slowly in my mouth by going suck suck on them. Don’t say a thing!] Just got yet another remedy for my cough and am supping a San Miguel in the no alcohol hours between 2/5 before going out later for medicinal brandy!
My route back further complicates things. My plans for Cairo and Istanbul are a no go at the moment it would seem, and so is Jordan to see the Pink City of Petra. Now I know why solo travellers get so desperate when sick whilst travelling, it sucks the joy from all the lovely things to see and do. A fucking hideous nightmare. I think this must be some evil Asian flu. I probably should be dead by now! Damn you swine! [this now seems prophetic and was duly noted along with the warnings in Beijing by some students that China was going to make a move in the near future for world domination. You might laugh but all my gut feelings have been right over the last 8 years]
Thank god I’m in Chiang Mai which is very comforting.
George Town in Penang started with so much hope. I had thought I was improving for a blissful couple of days until I realised the cough was so much worse. The actual place was pants too. After having visited Malacca in Malaysia, George Towns’ colonial paled in comparison. These trading posts of old start to all look the same. Clearly, for people across the world, it was a comfort to replicate their houses back home while homesick and dying often from diseases their bodies hadn’t encountered before. The copies of European high streets with home-spun commodities must have as least given the illusion of the country so far away that their hearts yearned for but which was around two years away. The poor bastards must have known they would never return.
George Town has particularly awful metal sculptures twee and gauche and it’s amazing to think that these got them their UNESCO heritage status. I did, however, stagger to the cemetery(foolish in retrospect, most of them had pegged it from what sounded suspiciously like my malaise) death from malaria and cholera was prevalent and most copped it by the age of forty. One woman’s gravestone said that she had died from a short but painful illness ffs. I then swanned off to the safe territory of a branch of Beach Blanket Babylon where I supped cocktails while reclining on a luxurious sofa. They made an exceptional one with fresh apple juice lime and vodka which I intended to make for my son if ever I got home
For a bit of fun, I also managed to get to the wonderful Food Museum which gives a historical view of the different styles of food and cooking through the turbulent years. There you saw huge perspex models of various Malay dishes, much like you see in the window of a lot of Japanese restaurants here in Blighty, but bigger and better.
My Hotel Areca was also beautiful. An impeccably renovated colonial mansion that made you feel as if you actually were from that era. They had a jolly civilised afternoon tea in the conservatory each afternoon with possibly the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted. Sat amongst the palms in wicker seating you got very much in the vibe. It was in fact there that I finally saw the doc who said my lungs were so full of mucus it was amazing I was still walking around! Sadly none of his stuff worked either. I decided to get a place to convalesce, by the sea preferably for my consumptive lungs. I chose a place that looked perfect, even with a lawn and gardens and huge rocks in the turquoise sea that I had missed in Thailand due to a very heavy rainy season.
So, the Bayview hotel, what new brand of merry hell did I stumble into? What can say? It was under renovation so drilling and hammering were the norm all day. The sea had box jellyfish that are poisonous and kill you and there were a handful of old British couples who were awful
I had to move room three times to try and escape the pneumatic drilling and hammering noise. In its heyday, it must have been a corker and five-star top-end place. The super king-sized beds with dark wood bedside cabinets with inbuilt radios and massive windows were strictly all beige and would have been considered uber cool in the 70s. The partially closed restaurant spoke of grander days as did the huge swimming pool with a bridge over it. The gardens were beautiful and led to the private beach. The first thing I saw was a huge sign not to enter the water with a scull and crossbones. I would later find out that the box jellyfish had invaded their waters via Australian tankers. I was heartbroken as I was convinced that salt water would have cured me of all ills. It was a beautiful beach with massive round pebble rocks just begging to be swum to and sunbathed on. my wheezy chest from my cough made me too nervous to even paddle as even one sting could lead to respiratory failure and death ffs
So this meant the beaches were empty and the place was like a ghost town except for the zombie English ancients who insisted swimming in the pool was fine. LEAVE ME ALONE YOU OLD CUNTS. Walking the many miles back to my huge room I found my huge bed sodden due to the fact I’d left the windows open to ironically let out the stench of dampness. This set me back again healthwise. I couldn’t catch a break.
The only trip I made out was to their spice gardens which looked very exotic online. Again however it was a facade or a sleight of hand if you will as they had nothing much in them except the signs of plants that should have been there. My one dinner out was also a disaster with truly dreadful food at an expensive restaurant and me nearly passing out at the table due to another surge of fever. I would be joining the poor souls at that Georgetown cemetery if I wasn’t careful. I booked my flight for the following day to Chiang Mai via Bangkok believing it a safe port in a very stormy sea, a place to properly rest up.
‘Sadly I think I’ll have to cut short this fine adventure as I just can’t shake this thing off and we are now in the full-blown rainy season. Drinking my San Miguel and glumly looking out at the torrential rain, I confess defeat. Even the second-hand book store and bar where I’m sitting have given me the vibe of playing ‘Special Angel’. prophetic! Trip over, I’m afraid my friends. Boston if ever you read this- mummy is finally beaten.
Top Tip: you need to assess if you can give yourself a break to check if you can recover and how bad things really are. When I broke my foot in Mexico I staggered on for another month and it was fine to wait to go home and fix it. Same for my hand and wrist which I mended down in Punta Allen. My broken toe in Thailand didn’t really matter as I was flying the next day and it was great because I got wheelchairs for all parts of the journey and you get to go through passport control as a priority so no queuing! I have had various malaises but generally manage them myself, this time however even going through my protocol I was hampered and became more stressed by bad luck. So don’t freak if you get poorly or have a fall etc. Stay calm and give yourself a couple of days to calm down and be rational. With injuries ice every day when it swells again, and don’t bind it too hard to allow for the climate too. Supplements are a must. I didn’t take anything before when I got sick but now I take a huge arsenal of minerals and vitamins. This is vital as you might not be getting enough nutrition when poorly. With high-quality supplements, you should manage to avoid problems. Also water, water, water. The best quality you can find. At home I have a fantastic water filter, a lot of bottled waters are now contaminated and you have to keep up to date with your safest option.
My final journey to London included demanding at least three seats so I could lie down and sleep, and generally being a pain in the arse, sulky and petulant about cutting my trip short. These days everyone would panic but in those good old sensible days, nobody gave a shit. On arrival back in Soho I took to the sofa for complete rest, good food and a lot of sleep. As always sickness is from stress and lack of sleep and high-quality nutrients!
Next post will be upbeat! I’m off to Turkey hurray! My first trip for over a year!