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Published: August 13th 2006
I wonder if I feel like the Indians when Chris C. landed his ships on their shores. I've been in Asia less than two months and I've already had to make two separate visits to the doctor for unexplained diseases. Speaking of which - although I haven't noticed whether my tongue is still white, I think not noticing is probably a sign of improvement because I feel like I would know if it still were.
In my last entry I think we were in Kota Bharu, preparing for our early morning rise to get to the jungle. Well, we got to the train station and slept on the train for a couple of hours until we arrived at Dabong. We arrived around 10:30am, ate some breakfast and left our backpacks with the restaurant owners, and then hopped into a van that our guide had hired to take us up to the limstone caves. As I was sitting there in the beat up old Toyota van, without even seatbelts installed in the rear seats, and with the wierd squeeking noise it made, I knew we were really going to do some jungle trekking. And boy was I right. When we pulled over to the shoulder of the semi-paved road, I thought it was because the driver wanted to look at the engine or something - there weren't any paths around. But our guide wasn't concerned, as he led us off into the bushes witha warning to watch our step on the slippery sloping "path." Pam, being the kultz that she is, promptly fell on her butt and twisted her knee. Luckily she wasn't really hurt, so we kept going, a little more carefully now.
It didn't take me long to realize why all the guide books recommed long pants, closed toed shoes, and good socks for those planning on going on these jungle hikes. When I went to reach down and get the stick out between my toes I realized that it wasn't a stick at all, nor was it dirt. And though it felt like one, it wasn't really a worm because it wouldn't come off. Off course, when I realized that it was stuck by its head between my toes I knew there were leeches crawling around the leaves. So I got a better grip on it and tugged hard, then threw the nasty bugger far enough away that it wouldn't be able to feast on my blood any longer. I checked my feet and legs for more, and when I was satisfied there were none I caught up with Pam and our guide. The worst part was really that the blood that started coming out got under my feet and made them stick to my sandals. But of course, Tevas are no match for the forest floor, and it was only a few moments more until I spotted another one of those blood suckers hidden between my strap and my feet. This time I knew what to do and pulled it off on the first try. And then I started watching the floor for more of them, managing with a little bit of bug spray on my feet plus a near constant vigilance to keep them off of me. For some reason they never went for Pam.
The caves and jungle trek were really cool, though. The limestone formations were really neat, and being on a relatively unexplored path was exciting. We spent the latter part of the afternoon hiking up to the top of a waterfall, eating lunch, swimming a bit, and hiking back down. When we got back our guide hopped back on a train to Khota Baru, and we stayed in Dabong for a few hours. Not knowing what to do, we walked around a little while and caught the last few minutes of a local futbol (soccer) game. Being in a town that rarely sees white people, we caught quite a few stares, especially from the kids who all said "Helo" and giggled (not hello - helo is how you say it in Malay) when we walked by. After dinner at the restaurant that we had breakfast in, we walked back to the train platform and hopped on our train for the overnight ride to Kuala Lumpur.
After we arrived yesterday, we went over to our hostel, left our bags until the rooms were cleaned (since we arrived early in the morning), got breakfast, returned and checked in. At this point I didn't want to do anything, since I had developed some intensely itchy and painfal rash over pretty much the entire palm-side of my left hand and fingers during the course of the night. My right hand was not quite as bad, and I could still move my fingers easily since they weren't too swollen. Still, eating was difficult. So Pam spent the afternoon shopping while I followed her around - Kulala Lumpur has some outrageously enormous malls. I mean HUGE. After a few fruitless hours of that we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant we found in our guide book - Moghul House. Only, it turns out that Moghul House was gone, and in its place was the same restaurant with a new name. The guy told us they had to change the name for some government reason, I didn't quite understand. Well, the food was great, some of the best Indian food I've ever had. Too bad I don't remember the new name.
Over last night the rash got much worse, so this morning I went to the hopsital we passed near our hostel yesterday. I went in and was seen by a doctor pretty quickly. And I mean that - she only talked to me for about 30 seconds before I was lying with my pants down for a shot in the butt. Then without any explanation whatsoever she sent me to the pharmacy to pick up a cornucopia of drugs - steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines, and fungicidal cream. I'm pretty sure she didn't really know what my rash was - but then, a rash with no other symptoms is pretty impossible to diagnose, so I think she just decided to give me everything. Whatever, twelve hours later my hands still itch a little but the swelling is almost completely gone and the pain has gone away so I don't care what it is she gave me if I can sleep through the night without waking up to scratch my itchy hands.
After the doctor visit we went to the water park in Kuala Lumpur, since Pam was upset that I had gone in China without her and she's been begging to go with me to a water park forever. The park was nothing special - there were only three different slides - but at least it was a fun place for the afternoon and helped me get my mind off of my rash for a little while.
Tomorrow we're waking up really early to catch our flight to Manila. Phillipines here we come! Hope you're all well. And as always, pictures to come when I can.
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