41.2 degrees Celsius.
The approximate temperature on Dave's forehead. After cycling around to find a phone and finding the insurance helpline lacking in the help department, we took the decision to get to Pakse as quick as possible. A walk and boat ride later we were arguing… correction, I was arguing (Dave was lying in a heap on his bag) with a man who gave us no choice but to pay $48 to take us in his minibus to Pakse. I made it clear I thought he was being unethical to say the least, but had no choice but to use his overpriced services.
Once in Pakse we stayed in a nice hotel the Dutch girls recommended, but Dave’s temperature was not decreasing sufficiently and hot and cold sweats, aches and shivers were a kind of hint that we should get more help. The advice from the Aussie embassy was to cross the border into Thailand, so a taxi, tuk tuk, pickup, and few hours later we were in Ubon, a mid-sized city just over the border. I asked for the best hospital in town and that is how we ended up here….
I won’t go into details of how the 3-4 days in hospital unfurled, but a whole lot of tests, x-rays, a couple of days in ICU (intensive care) due to shock and a whole lot of drips, injections and pills later we eventually walked out the hospital with a brand new set of plans.
The whole experience was rather shaky but I think Dave coped well. He can not remember a couple of the days. While he was lying there in a daze I spent most of my time arguing with the finance department (6 hours straight on the final day alone – try explaining the concept of a guarantee when they speak no English and do not even know how to type in a credit card number), fetching food from down the road, contacting Dave’s parents and Arron and sleeping on the sofa in Dave’s room.
In the end I have nothing but praise for the hospital and the local people. I do not think either of us have had more propositions in such a short space of time. The nurses just would not understand that maybe, just maybe Dave lying with 4 drips in his arm and me trying to sort everything out were not in the best of moods to be complimented and flirted with. That sounds like a complaint and was not meant as one. I became acquainted with members of the local council and owners of major restaurants/bars and was taken on free nights out. At one point, a man even invited me to stay for a month with him and his sister so that I could learn Thai. Lovely offer, but with just 10 days left of my year out nowhere but a beach would do.
When Dave eventually came to his senses he was understandably fidgety as they come and I had to almost pin him down so that we could get discharged and jump on a flight to the capital. Why the capital? Firstly because it has excellent medical facilities, but centrally because Arron (Dave’s best mate) had been waiting there for 3 days - we had to stop him jumping on his connecting flight to Cambodia or his planned two week holiday with Dave would have dematerialised. A couple of phone calls and a long series of emails later he was settled in Bangkok having a laugh waiting for the inbound invalid.
So farewell to Cambodia and days resting on the Mekong. All in all a really quite shit and not entirely unscary episode that changed all our plans. You never know what you are going to get, part of the reason why travelling is so addictive. Yes we lost experiences, time and money, but we discovered some of the friendliest people miles off any trail and ended up on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Life takes funny turns including an inevitable final one, but it puts a nice little smile on my face that you just never know what is coming – and to be honest I think life (and death) would be a lot less interesting if all its paths and riddles were straight forward.
A silver lining?