4.09pm - Pink To Make The Boys Recoil In Horror
Trip Start Jan 07, 2010
77Trip End Dec 13, 2010
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Luang Prabang is beautiful. They've been having boat races all day today, so I’ve been hanging out by the river, wandering around the markets, and eating plastic bags full of noodles. My body is thanking me profusely for having a couple of days off the booze and instead carefully treating the six thousand ant and mozzie bites I procured in Vang Vieng.
So why am I still thinking so fondly of old Spicy?
Ah well, in a couple of days I’ll be back there at their Chiang Mai base. Lovely Laos is nearly at an end, which is terribly disappointing, because it is now jostling with Cambodia for my favourite South East Asian country. Sometimes I think I prefer one, then the other springs back to mind. But either way, shiny shiny Singapore is now relegated to third, and poor old Malaysia is puffing along bringing up the rear. And the less said about the Philippines or Indonesia, the better.
River Song is full of shit. No, not the annoying Doctor Who character (although that statement really could apply to either). The river to which I refer is the Nam Song, which runs through Vang Vieng and is the very same river upon which we had thrown our tender bodies the previous day. In the rainy season, this experience is much improved, as the water level is higher and the current faster; however, the downside is that all that rain tends to wash the, ah, animal
If you’re anything like me, you probably thought pink eye was a bit of a joke – the only times I’d ever heard of it were in references from things like Judd Apatow films or South Park. Well, it turns out that acute bacterial conjunctivitis, to give it its proper name, is no laughing matter. Half the people in the hostel already had it, and it had been a running joke from the moment we arrived that you can’t escape Vang Vieng without it. Grace didn’t even go tubing, and she still caught it, because it’s so freaking contagious, and we’re all touching the same door handles, the taps on the sinks, the flush buttons on the toilets, and as our resident wiseass Daniel put it, "The bottle opener is ground zero for pink eye."
In the afternoon of our tubing recovery, my eyes began to feel like I had something in them, and I couldn’t blink it away. Sasha had been mothering all of us and insisting we put antibiotic eye drops in all day whilst tubing (“okay, we’ve got our drinks, now line up for your drops!”), so I put some more in, but I began to feel a stirring of anxiety. As my eyes began to get more bloodshot and feel itchier and more uncomfortable throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, I went to buy some drops of my own, and then eventually decided to go back early and shower, to try and cool down my itching, burning face. After the shower, I had half a mind to go
Worst. Decision. Ever.
It’s Laos in the rainy season in the middle of the jungle, so it goes without saying it’s hot at Spicylaos. But I hadn’t really computed how hot it got in the bedrooms at night (there’s no fan, never mind air-con, because the rooms aren’t really sealed – they’re more just walls with a roof kind of half perched on top, a curtain over the doorway and a blind over the window), or how thin and uncomfortable the mattress was on my wooden bed, because the first two nights I’d gone to sleep, I’d been drunk. That third night was utterly horrendous. Stone cold sober, not especially tired after the complete lack of doing anything all day, and with the pain in my eyeballs increasing by the hour, I laid awake for what felt like half the night. Every time I dropped off, I would wake back up again. Tears leaked from between my squeezed-shut eyelids, and even moving my eyes slightly underneath them felt like someone stabbing me. It wasn’t that the pain was so bad – it was that it was in my eyes. If you’ve ever got something caught under your contact lens, you know how maddening it can be, and how all-consuming. We’re hardwired to protect our eyes, and so our brain immediately flags any danger or distress in that area as being top priority. All the painkillers in the world won't shut it down completely, and handily, I couldn't find my ibuprofen anyway.
When I woke up the next day, I’d already placed a packet of wipes next to my bed so that I could just reach out of my net and find them without trying to open my eyes. I wiped gently for a few minutes and felt a lot of gunk come away. They felt sore and swollen, but the pain was more of an ache now rather than the sharp stab of the night before. But when I tried to open them for the first time, nothing was happening. I could hear Grace lift up my net to take a look at me, and I heard her gasp.
“Oh, god. Do they look that bad?” I asked fearfully.
“Erm... you better have a look at yourself. Can you open them?”
Using the wipes and my nails, I managed to pry each eye open until I had a slit of daylight showing through on each side. I stumbled outside to find the mirror, only for a bunch of guys stood outside to spot me and all shriek in unison.
“Oh my god!” one cried.
“You must be in agony!” another yelped.
“Can you see anything at all?” they all chorused.
Starting to get truly concerned, I made it over to the mirror, and stopped in horror. Because more or less, this is what I saw:
“I look like an alien-human hybrid,” I moaned faintly.
“You got fucking raped,” a nearby Irishman agreed.
After immediately locating my sunglasses, I decided that my vague plan to spend my last day on a second round of tubing was CLEARLY not going to come off, so I just retreated to the common area and opened a beer. (The no-drinking-in-the-mornings rule is suspended in cases of eye AIDS.) And that’s pretty much where I spent the rest of the day – amusing friends who’d just walked in and hadn’t seen me yet, terrifying new arrivals who had barely even thought about pink eye, and feeling very sorry for myself. Fortunately, if you’re going to have pink eye, Vang Vieng is the place to do it, because as I’ve said already, everyone’s got it. Nobody is going to laugh at you or think you’re unhygienic in some way. It’s just a fact of life. A little Laos rite of passage. And nothing made me feel better so much as comparing tales of woe with my fellow sufferers - the aforementioned Irishman, Tom, knew of what he spake, because he too had been fucking raped by the river the day previous. I took great heart in the fact that he had improved mightily in just one day.
And indeed, as the evening rolled around, I was beginning to look and feel much better, so I went for dinner with Susan, Canadian Michele and Aussie Mike, and another Canadian who was new to our room, called Maddie. (I know. I know.) We were supposed to be going to meet Grace and all the other Spicy Irish contingent at the Irish pub, as they were showing the hurling game, and the Tipperary boys and Grace had been trying to explain it to me all day. (“It’s like our version of
And that’s where things got even better, because Susan and I had been thoroughly enjoying ourselves arguing about music for an hour, and I’d been making the case for guitar pop as the thinking person’s music choice. And what happened? The power died, the lights went off, the music stopped... and everyone started singing Don’t Look Back In Anger and Come Together. It was like the weather was conspiring to prove my point: a decent guitar tune brings people together.
I think a few too many beers and buckets had begun to take their toll at this point, because I’m not surely exactly WHY we left Q Bar, or why we didn’t all go, but we did, even though the rain
PS - For those of you with strong stomachs, you can click the picture below to see what I actually looked like when I woke up with pink eye.