I arrived in Bagan after a long night bus ride from Yangon. I arrived at 5am with no hotel reservation. I got on a horse cart and was taken to several places. All were full. But finally we stopped at Pann Cherry Guest House and I was lucky enough to get the cheapest room during my entire time in Myanmar – $8 for a simple room with a fan. The bathroom was in another building and had no hot water, but no problem for me.
My first day I rented a bike and cycled around the ancient temples of Bagan. It was lovely. At the end of the day I was dead tired though. The combination of jet lag (two days earlier I flew from the U.S., a journey of 28 hours, plus the 11.5 hour time difference), the bad sleep on the night bus the previous night, and the physical exercise on the bike in the sunny 33C/92F heat made for one tired nomad.
I went to sleep at 9:30pm.
I woke up at 3:30am and had to run to the bathroom. Diarrhea. Figures.
While at home I had no stomach problems. But almost the moment I rejoin the Happy Nomad Tour I had some catching up to do. My monthly period of diarrhea, a head cold, or both was a few weeks late.
I returned to bed hoping that was the end of it, but I knew it wasn’t. My stomach felt like there was a basketball inside of it. I ate dinner at 6pm, so my stomach should have been empty. Hmm..
At 5:30am I woke up again and had to run to the bathroom. I felt better, but my stomach still didn’t. I returned to bed and dozed off for a few minutes.
At 6am I woke up and had a sour burp. That can only mean one thing. I’m about to vomit.
I ran to the bathroom, literally galloping like a horse, and made it there just in time. I won’t describe the details, but it was a strange vomiting session.
After I was finished, I felt weak but better. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to go on my tour of Mount Popa, which I had already paid for the day before. I needed to take a day to rest and get over this.
I went to see a local doctor, he gave me a shot and some pills, and sent me off saying I will start to feel better in the evening. He was right and the following day I took a day bus to Mandalay.
The doctor was very nice and spoke English well. I’d say he examined me thoroughly. My sour burps made me think I had a parasite like giardia, which I had several times in Latin America. But the doctor said that in Myanmar parasites are rare and it was probably bacterial. The shot of anti-biotics he put in my butt did the trick and he was right.
After visiting the doctor I came back and literally slept the whole day. I remember waking up at 7pm and forcing myself to get up and go eat something. Until then I hadn’t eaten anything the whole day. I needed to prove that I could keep down food and prove it wouldn’t run right through me before getting on a bus the next day.
I truly felt better the following day and all that sleep got me caught up with the jet lag as well. I would have liked to visit Mount Popa, but fate intervened and who am I to argue? I’m just thankful I was healthy the rest of my trip since I had such a magical experience.
I can honestly say that this trip has taught me so much about my own health and listening to my body. I knew I overdid it in Bagan but sometimes the thrill of exploring and discovering overpowers the inner voice telling me to take it easy.
I also think that’s why I get sick all the time. Although I’m used to 24-hour bus rides and other so-called uncomfortable situations, my mental attitude toward travel isn’t always congruent with my body’s attitude toward the stresses I put on it. This trip is helping me bridge the gap though, which I think will serve me well in the future. And if it doesn’t, hopefully I will have antibodies for most pesky diseases and viruses anyway 🙂