Asia | South East Asia | Thailand | Northeast Thailand | Nong Khai – Day 55 – Mung Noi, Laos
Yesterday’s entry is an exact transcript of the entry in my journal for yesterday. It was not much fun. Some detail follows.
I awoke yesterday in Mung Noi feeling just fine and I piled into the boat along with Bronwin, the Australian with whom I arrived in Nong Kiaw, and Nir and Daphna, an Israeli couple I had met several times along the travel trail in Laos, and of course, our intrepid boat-captain/guide. We were headed for the falls (no other name attached to them), via the boat, a village and a hike.
The boat ride was magnificent again, slotting us downstream between the jagged aerial jungle riot. About 30 minutes later we beached at a tiny nameless village, an orderly array of the usual bamboo and thatch and a little whitewashed wat. Chickens, turkeys, ducks, dogs and children wandered about amongst each other, each making characteristic noises and taking notice of us to varying degrees; lots of sabai-dee greetings from the kids, far fewer from the others. Some adults worked paring down bamboo into long thin strips which were being weaved into everything from baskets to fish traps to dividing walls for the interior of the huts. Others were chopping thick bamboo tree trunks into arm-length tubes for a mysterious purpose I may never learn.
We crossed the village in about 3 minutes and found ourselves following our trail-blazing guide into rice paddies, framed by mountains. The sun, still relatively low in its daily spin cycle, was already managing to activate the pumps in my sweat glands and for some reason I was finding it a little difficult to keep up with the others. I found myself mumbling that Im 37 years old and thats what happens when someone my age hikes with whipper-snappers in their early 20s. Then, I looked up at our guide and realized he must be in his 50s and he was setting the pace. Still, I couldnt figure out why we were rushing along when there was so much incredible scenery to drink in.
After about 20 minutes we left the open plain of rice and entered the shaded world of a cool stream. This would lead us to the falls but required of us to follow its lead, through lots of feet-snatching little rapids and occasionally hand-over-fist up small rocky cataracts. Just before our destination we had to scale a 3-metre- high vertical chute of water by finding footholds through the plunging water and hoisting ourselves up with the aid of conveniently positioned vines which were worthy of Tarzan transport.
The falls were another of natures treats, unspoiled and, unlike the tourist-inundated falls at Kuang Si outside Luang Prabang, we had the entire scene to ourselves. Well, almost, as we were quite thoroughly investigated by dozens of butterflies and other wing-born creatures who were not at all shy and who, I surmise, mistook our relatively brightly coloured clothing for gigantic flowers. Soon, much of that clothing was hanging from nearby plant life as we all cooled down in the pounding flow from above. There were spots where it was impossible to stand upright under the force of the water.
After about an hour, we headed back the way we had come. My legs were feeling weak to the point of buzzing. I tried to alternately ignore this sign and to convince myself I just hadnt slept properly the night before. We made it back to the village and into the boat for the 45-minute ride back upstream. This excursion took place under the unrelenting full-on heat of the noon-day sun. But because of the air temperature, I had no idea yet that I was feverish.
Upon our return to Mung Noi, I found it difficult to even sit up at the table on the patio right outside my room. So I excused myself, went into my room and stretched out on the thin mattress. Even with the sun-saturated temperature of my room hovering somewhere above normal body temps, I now knew I was sick. I started taking my temperature as noted above, and wondered how high it would climb, while feeling more and more like bits of death were creeping into my bones. A first frisson of fear, the M word started to cross my mind. (Yes, I am still single, but it wasnt that M word). No, around here the M word that causes fear when a fever starts spiking is Malaria, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. I had visions of lapsing into feverish hallucinations and of not even being conscious as I shriveled to a burnt crisp with nobody even realizing I had faded away. So, I started recording my temperature in my journal as written evidence and then got up and asked Bronwin to look in on me later that evening.
Within an hour or so, my stomach exploded in the southerly direction. At first this proved to be a relief (in more ways than one) as I now had plenty of evidence to suggest that what I had was a stomach bug and not Malaria. However, upon dizzily lowering myself back under my mozzie net and onto the inch-thick mattress, it crossed my mind that perhaps I had a stomach bug AND Malaria. Wouldnt that be grand?
To add to the fun, the guest house I was lodged at had only one squat pot, some ten metres from my room. In addition, the only way for me to get to it was to walk across the patio/dining area where the other guests and, soon, as happened the night before, a party-pack of Israeli travelers would converge to pass the evening with food, drink, smoke and noisy banter. And so it was, that every time I had to shuffle to the outhouse, it was akin to standing up in front of any number of traveler peers and announcing, Yes, Im going to the loo to let fly yet again! Its bad enough to have a fever, headache and the trots. Its worse to have them in the middle of Nowhere, Laos. Its worse still to have them in such a public way. Meanwhile my temperature continued to rise all evening and it got to the point where not even water was pausing inside me. I had become nothing but a feverish, hollow tube from mouth to south. The room was pirouetting. As I said, not fun.
Somewhere in the early evening, through my hot haze, I became aware of a conversation taking place in the room next to mine. This wasnt due to any feverishly keen sense of hearing. The rooms were divided by a wall of weaved bamboo strips, which, while providing for modesty of sight lines, did little to arrest sound. As I tossed and turned, I started to catch the thread of the conversation between a man and a woman with English accents. The woman was saying something like,
Yes, well thats your experience and now youre just going to have to live with it. It will be with you the rest of your life and you cant change the fact of it. What do you want me to do about it? How do you think I should feel about it?
He answered something like, It was just one time, it was an accident just something that happened.
Something like that doesnt just happen, she said. You had an affair! You cheated on me, and now youve got to live with it. The only reason youve told me at all is because youre feeling so damned guilty and thats whats the most pathetic thing of all.
I tried not to throw up. I was starting to agree with her, then I realized I was feeling equally pathetic for very different reasons, and went for yet another squat.
I managed to get through what seemed like hours and hours of revelry from the mostly Israeli party-pack, who yucked it up until the generator, run by the guest house, was mercifully stopped and the lights faded to black. I think I actually fell asleep until my stomach roused me for another session. This time, when I returned to my room, I heard the unmistakable sound from the room next door; a heavy exhale of the letter o, whispered in a long, breath-y sigh. Apparently the English woman was in the process of intimately forgiving her partners infidelity. So much for living with it for the rest of his life.
While my fever had finally shown its first decrease in several hours, the fever of the couple next door was ramping up prodigiously. I still felt like a bag of bones, and now I had to listen to this? The slap-dance of flesh going on some seven feet away; every sound. When the floor started rhythmically quaking I tried counting sheep, but for some reason all I could see was rabbits. A few minutes later, apparently we ALL felt tremendous relief as their floor-show ended. Then they proceeded to talk about it, lots of giggling too, without even the pretense of muting their words any more, while tucking into a bread and cheese chaser.
When I woke up this morning, I was still feverish, but feeling a little stronger. Strong enough to walk and carry my pack strong enough. I made the decision to get back to civilization as my stomach was still doing its version of a waterfall. Dehydration was not a pleasant possibility. I made it back to Luang Prabang by late afternoon via a mercifully half-full truck and the good corking provided by a couple of Immodium tablets. Upon arrival I felt well enough to eat something solid: boiled rice. Although it was Friday, and the evening would bring the Jewish Sabbath during which I normally dont travel, I had been planning to travel through the night to get to Bangkok. Although weak, I now felt well enough to spend Shabbat in Luang Prabang.