Tropical diseases and symptoms – what to look out for

Having recently returned from a trip to Thailand and Burma – and having gained a lovely tropical disease along the way – I became inspired to write this post on tropical diseases and symptoms!!

My Story

Mid-May, just under a month after I returned from my 3 week holiday to Thailand and Burma (Myanmar), and I began to feel headachey… for me, this was strange – I hardly ever get headaches, so I slap some tiger balm on my temples to ease the discomfort and head off to work as usual… 3 days later, though, and the headache was still there – although now, I was sat in the sunshine on a lovely Summers day, shivering in the heat because this was the only place I felt warm!!  2days later – with the number of my symptoms increasing, and my existing symptoms not improving much on a day to day basis, I began to worry that I may have malaria.

Fast forward to the next morning, and I head to my local doctors, first thing, in order to express my concerns and get a professional opinion.  My GP referred me straight to the “Medical Assessments Unit” at my nearest hospital, where I repeated my explanation and waited for their verdict on whether I had malaria or some other tropical disease – expecting to be home by the afternoon.

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A Facebook status from after my first 24hours in hospital!!

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My parents attempting to figure the aprons out… :/

Fast forward, again, to a week later – and I’m only just getting out of hospital after 6days in an isolation ward going crazy with nothing to do!! For someone who’s normally so active, it was so strange to be unable to even walk down the corridor!!  Even visitors to my ward had to wear sexy aprons and latex gloves!!! 😛

Over the week I spent in hospital, considering I had something the hospital had never seen before, the doctors did an amazing job of keeping me informed and finding out what I had (even if I did feel like a pin cushion for the first few days!!).  They found the bacteria, in my blood, that was causing me issues, actually grew the bacteria and then began testing for different diseases and for effective antibiotic treatments.

Symptoms To Look Out For

Here are some of the symptoms I experienced in the run-up to (and during) my hospital stay:

  • Headaches
  • Fever (hot sweats & cold shivers)
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Achiness/muscle pain
  • High temperature
  • Stomach cramps/pains
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness/light-headed
  • High heart rate
  • Cough

Some other symptoms of tropical diseases:

  • Rashes
  • Sickness/vomiting
  • Constipation/diarrhoea
  • Swollen glands
  • Seizures
  • Visual problems
  • Skin ulcers/disfigurations

Advice

…for before you leave your home country:

  • Get vaccinated – ensure you have all the vaccinations recommended for the area you’ll be visiting
  • Get clued up – find out about diseases and symptoms of anything you could get
  • Take medication – take a medical kit with rehydration salts, paracetamol, anti-inflammatories, plasters/bandages, chlorine/iodine water purification tablets, antiseptic wipes etc.

…for in country:

  • drink bottled water
  • avoid salads, or any other food/drink which may have been washed with contaminated water

…for after you get home:

  • look out for any of the above symptoms
  • get yourself to a doctor as soon as you get 2 or more of the symptoms, explain where you’ve been and what you did…
:)

Have you ever had any tropical diseases?  Any other symptoms I’ve missed out that you’d like to share?  Feel free to comment and share your experiences below!

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust!! 😉

The road to Mandalay…

During the bus journey from Bagan (Myanmar/Burma) to Mandalay, I spent the majority of my time trying to finish reading the book Ste had lent me, so I could give it back to him before I left to head home after Mandalay!!  We stopped for lunch in a small local restaurant, but I wasn’t particularly hungry, so I stuck with the snacks I’d brought with me.

:)

When we arrived in Mandalay, we were shuffled across onto a “truck truck” (a more truck like “tuk tuk” 😛 ) to make our way to our hostel… when we arrived, we were greeted by a very helpful member of staff, who spoke great English, and told us of all the tours available to us for the next day.  I, however, only had 1 day to see Mandalay, and the tours would’ve taken a day and a half!!  So we decided, instead, to hire bicycles and have a crazy day tomorrow trying to fit everything in!!

:)

Then we went out for dinner – we went out searching for an Indian restaurant, but when we found it, it was closed – so we ended up in a pretty upmarket Western restaurant instead, named “BBB” – but the food was excellent

A Day in Mandalay!

This morning we hired our bikes, met up with 2 other people at the hostel who we’d met at breakfast, and set off cycling towards the city palace – as we approached the city walls, we realised there was only access inside the moat from the East Gate.  Following the, 2km (each side) long, city walls around, from the South – we head towards the East Gate and cycled in, leaving our bikes just outside the majestic palace entrance hall.

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The palace itself was the home of the final Burmese monarchy – up until the Anglo-Burmese War (in the late 1800’s), where the monarchy were driven out and exiled to India… most of the royal artefacts and treasures, looted by the British.  During the second world war, it was taken over and turned into a supply depot by the Japanese – eventually being bombed and destroyed by the Allied forces.  It wasn’t until 1989, when reconstruction began – the current reconstruction has been fairly faithful to the original palace designs, albeit in a much less grandiose manner, using metal and concrete as opposed to sticking to the original, all teak, architecture.

Looking around now, the huge rooms are fairly bare, but with furniture replicas of the gem encrusted beds and thrones etc. and the odd waxwork model of the King/Queen.  Climbing up the watchtower, for the view from above, of the numerous halls/buildings is also quite a spectacular sight.  To see just how many buildings are included, inside the palace walls… and to see a little over Mandalay – with Mandalay Hill in the background, overlooking it all – it’s quite an impressive sight.

After looking round the palace, we moved on to checking out the numerous temples dotted around the base of Mandalay Hill… many were very similar to temples and pagodas we’ve seen in various other parts of Myanmar, however there were 2 which stood out to me… one being the Golden Palace Monastery, made entirely out of teak wood with intricate carvings along every single wall of the building, inside and out – this building was originally part of the Royal Palace, and was moved by the last remaining monarchy, ensuring it’s survival throughout the WWII bombing.  The second one that stood out to me, houses the ‘World’s Largest book’ – in this complex, 729 white stupas house the complete TripitaKa texts (Theravada Buddhism’s most sacred text), inscribed onto large marble slabs!

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The intricate teak carvings of the Golden Palace Monastery

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Each stupa housing a marble slab with part of the TripitaKa

The next mission involved trekking up the numerous ‘false peaks’ of Mandalay Hill… Several monasteries, with the usual shrines to Buddha, pave the stairway to the top – and the closer you got to the top, the more often you seemed to think “oh we’re here”, just to walk behind Buddha and find another staircase continuing further up the hill!  When we finally did reach the top, however, the viewing platform over the whole of Mandalay was pretty remarkable – if I’d have had a little longer, I’d have probably gone up for sunset.

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After returning to our bikes, Ste and I raced back to the hostel to grab some safety gear, ready to set off on our final bike ride of the day… sunset at U-Bein bridge in Amarapura, around 11km outside of Mandalay.  We set off down the busy main road for around 8-9km, before turning off into a small suburb township where, again, we found all of the friendliest faces, shouting hello and waving at us as we cycled through their small roads… we lifted our bikes over train tracks and continued cycling down bumpy roads until we finally made it to the bridge.  As we meandered along the 1.2km, rickety, teak bridge, the sun set in front of us (and we watched a monk taking a selfie on his mobile phone!!), before we ran back to our bikes to aim to make it back, as far as we could, to the hostel before it went dark!!  Armed with our head torches – we made our way back over the bumpy roads, railway tracks and through the friendly village, onto the main road, where we met a friendly tuk tuk driver who was trying to chat to us as we cycled!!  We kept laughing as we repeatedly passed each other on the road, and he later saw a car coming out of a side road – thinking that we may be in danger, he made it his mission to get himself in a position to protect us from the car!!!  After making it back to the hostel, we breathed a sigh of relief and returned our bikes! 😛

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The final mission of the day was to get to the “Moustache Brothers’ Show”, around a half hour walk from our hostel.  We made it with 20 minutes to spare, bought our tickets, then ran across the road to get some local Burmese food to eat as we watched the show!!  The brothers were once famed for being a comical, but political show, written for foreigners… in a country where politics and freedom of speech did not go so well together.  As a result, one of the brothers was once actually imprisoned for running the show!!  He, however, has since passed away – but the show, now, continues to go on with the remaining brother and a cousin, with dance and comedy performances every night!

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Leaving Day

:(

This morning, I packed my things, and jumped onto the free airport shuttle bus, waving at Ste as I left him to stay on in Mandalay for another night. 

When I made it back to my hostel in Bangkok, I ran out for some last minute shopping, before returning to the hostel and meeting my new roomie… we went out for dinner together to a nearby restaurant, where I had my final authentic Thai green curry, before she went back to the hostel, and I went next door for my final Thai massage (at the equivalent of £4 for a 1hour massage, I couldn’t resist one final one before I returned to the UK!!).

The Thai massages are generally an acquired taste – contrary to popular belief, they can be fairly brutal!! – they often start out fairly relaxing with your arms, legs and feet being kneaded out nicely… often, however, the next step, for the masseur, is to take hold of you by the foot, and proceed the massage by rolling out any persistent knots using their own feet.  They then ask you to turn over and begin to massage your back, before physically walking on top of you, using their own body weight in an attempt to ease the muscles!!  The final steps are generally an attempt to crack any bones that may need cracking – your body is pulled and bent in every direction, and even your fingers and toes don’t escape the savagery!!  You do, however, walk out, following a nice cup of tea/glass of water, feeling refreshed and invigorated – ready to take on the world!!

The next morning I woke up very early, ready to catch the first train along Bangkok’s Airport Line to Suvarnabhumi Airport, ready to catch my flight home at 8:45am.

Goodbye again Asia!! I’ll miss your craziness and freedom… until next time!!

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

Big cats, swerving mopeds and monkies…

Continued from my last blog in Bangkok…

In kanchanaburi, the festivities continue… There is more water and more pancake mix… But this small town has extras added in – namely, in the form of, big cats, monkies and mopeds!!

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Leopard Cub

I arrive in kanchanaburi to find that the buses no longer run to the Main Street, but now only to the bus terminal… With great confidence in how well I know this town from my last trip, I ignore the tuk tuk drivers telling me “Main Street – too farrr!”, and set off into the scorching midday sun bearing my 12kg backpack… Only to find out, 3km later, that I had actually set off in the completely wrong direction!! :/
A motorbike taxi ride, and short walk later, I arrive at my guesthouse and have some lunch as I wait for a moped to rent.

An hour, and a couple of new friends later… Armed with my new found independence (a moped), I set off, on the 40min ride, to the safari park I worked at 18months ago… Hoping to surprise the long term volunteers and staff there with my presence!! As I ride down the Main Street, I’m soaked by water guns, hose pipes and any other means… It’s ok – it’ll dry on my way there!!

I arrive at the park to find mr tip and toi (the crazy cat lady!! :p ), only to have a leopard cub plonked in my arms, followed by a 4month old lion named Leila!!

Leila Lion

Leila Lion

Simba as a cub

Simba – Then

I’m then shuffled onto the safari bus, armed with some carrots, ready to go see the babies I used to look after out on the safari park!! I get ridiculously excited when I get to the lion enclosure and see Simba and Narnia (6 and 4 months old, respectively, when I was last here), now as adolescents, in such a wide open space for them to roam!! Simba’s even started to grow his mane!!!

Simba 18 months later!!

Simba – Now

I look out for Noah in the leopard enclosure, but couldn’t spot him (pun unintended)!
As we enter the zebra and giraffe enclosure, the craziness begins again… Giraffes necks all up in the safari bus, trying to steal the carrots – standard day at safari!!!

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The safari drive finishes and I head to see all the monkeys and the newly built big cat enclosure for the cubs that are just a little too young for safari yet (so many amazing changes in the park in just 18months… These cats used to be kept in small cages, barely big enough to turn around in – now they’re free to run around!!) 😀 we were measuring this enclosure out last time I was here, so it’s great to see it built!!

Trouble

Trouble (Langur)

Chutney

Chutney (Gibbon)

After meeting some of the volunteers and saying hello to the monkeys; chutney with a back scratch and hand massage, gramps – grabbing my hand with all 4limbs then walking away to contain his excitement, and trouble with her camera shyness!! I head back to kanchanaburi for the evening… Get soaked on my way through town again and, later, retire to bed with a fan that sounds like a helicopter coming in to land!!!

My second day in kanchanaburi, I was up early enough to skip the songkran celebrations in the morning… I went straight to the safari park to help out!
The day consisted of playing with the big cat cubs, making some enrichment foods for the monkeys, helping with some feeding on the Salapong tour, cleaning up at the cub enclosures and sneaking round to the back of the safari to see Noah (the baby leopard I used to look after – not so small anymore!!)

Leopard hat??
Songkran festivities - Kanchanaburi... pancake mix on my face!!

Songkran festivities – Kanchanaburi… pancake mix on my face!!

I rode back to town in the evening and made a new Thai friend whilst eating dinner and watching the songkran festivities from the comfort and dry of the restaurant inside!! 😛
Later, I go for my, long awaited, £4 Thai massage!! I’m bent and pulled and stood on and folded and kneaded in every which way for an hour, but it’s amazing – and I come out feeling refreshed 🙂

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The next day is a travel day… Kanchanaburi to Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉