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!!
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.
A Facebook status from after my first 24hours in hospital!!
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
Symptoms To Look Out For
Here are some of the symptoms I experienced in the run-up to (and during) my hospital stay:
Fever (hot sweats & cold shivers)
Loss of appetite
High heart rate
Some other symptoms of tropical diseases:
…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!
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
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
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
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!
The intricate teak carvings of the Golden Palace Monastery
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.
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! 😛
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!
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
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!!
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!!
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!!
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 – 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!!!
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
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!!)
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 🙂
The next day is a travel day… Kanchanaburi to Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) 🙂