Wednesday, January 27, 2010

World Traveler Part 9: The Nefarious Trots - What to do when monkeys are actually flying out of your butt

First off - The Nefarious Trots. Best Band Name Ever.

Now back to business: A show of hands - who here plans vacations around meals? I know I am not the only one who makes reservations for lunch while eating breakfast, and has a snack somewhere between times and then goes to two or three different restaurants in the evening - one for drinks, one for dinner, one for dessert - in order to fully experience the cuisine of the region (also, conveniently, my excuse for eating various forms of sweets and fried foods between meals).

When we are traveling, there are a few things that we are constantly concerned with.

-Is it time for a snack?
-Where are we eating next?
-How long do we have to wait to go there?

Our travels in Mexico and now Thailand have taught me one important thing. When traveling abroad, it is completely unecessary to have a reservation in order to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime meal.

Rule One: Fear Not the Roadside Stand
You may think it is the most risky place to eat, but a busy roadside stand will probably have the freshest food around, so don't hesitate ! LIVE A LITTLE ! Thought I really question whether my plate will be cleaner if I wipe it with the toilet paper they provide, I still did not get sick from eating at random carts and shacks on the side of the road.

I did, however, get incredibly, deathly ill following a pretty mediocre meal at a celebrated, much-awarded, highly regarded, uber-expensive restaurant. Which leads me to........
Rule Two: Fancier is Not Necessarily Better
I had this rule verified by another traveling friend, who got deathly ill after eating at a 6 star, internationally reknowned hotel, at the end of a three week trip where she had eaten happily for 3 solid weeks in decidedly questionable culinary locales. But on her last day, she splurged, and ate a high-falutin' meal in some posh restaurant with, you know, running water and refrigeration. Which she will remember forever only because of the horrific flight home that was spent in the airplane lavatory.

We bonded over tales of stomach cramps and hours spent running to the bathroom. The only thing worse then getting one of these food-borne stomach ailments is getting struck down when you are traveling. And being struck down on a plane, or on the back of a truck driving to a small boat with no bathroom (which was my spectacular experience).

I was the kind of sick where I just didn't care anymore. I had no modesty. It was much like giving birth. Horrific cramps, a complete loss of control, sweating, sucking on ice, wishing it was over.

It wasn't just my stomach - my skin ached. The pores on my skin burned as my body tried to flush out whatever the hell I had ingested. We had left town and headed to a very remote island, where we were camping out in a beachfront bungalow, with a view that I enjoyed while I lay quietly, waiting to die. There was a very predictable cycle. I would be horribly sick, make full use of the hose attached to the toilet - which I finally understood and fully appreciated). Then I would shower and stagger out of the bathroom, dizzy and doubled over, to lie in the middle of the bed covered by a mosquito net, whimpering, until I had to run back to the bathroom. Sami gently suggested that we go to the hospital - an idea I shot down because honestly, I couldn't imagine being more then a few feet from a bathroom. A car ride was just not an option. For 36 hours, I was absolutely and completely miserable.

And then, I had a strong cup of black tea, ate some chicken, got on a boat and headed back to civilization. Because for goodness sake, we had dinner reservations.


Cara J. said...

You are so right, I have never gotten sick eating at a local duka in Kenya, but more often than not after eating at the "fancy western" place. I found that they often keep stuff longer than they should in order to increase profit margin. They also don't have as high a turnover because no local in their right mind would eat there at those prices. But I have one word for you sister - CIPRO. Don't leave home without it. Actually, most places overseas you can just walk into the chemist and buy it over the counter when you arrive. One dose and you are back on your feet again, albeit a little green around the gills.

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