Misadventure in Thailand, 2002.
It was a crippling cramp that came from nowhere.
I doubled over with the pain but my friends weren’t sympathetic to my cries. The bus we’d been waiting for in the searing Thai heat for the last two hours had just arrived and there was no way we – or should I say ‘they’ – were going to wait another two hours for the next bus.
The locals smiled and nodded as we squeezed our way to the back seat, moving their vibrant pink and yellow dresses out of the aisle and gasping in awe at Catherine’s flaming red locks.
As I scouted for squatting spots, however, I realised that I now had an audience.
My stomach cramps came in long, sweat-inducing waves and my dizziness raced along with the endless palm-fringed landscapes that past our window.
And then, thump, my stomach dropped like a rock from my ribcage to my ankles and it became clear that I would need to use a bathroom imminently. But of course, despite this being a 10+ hour journey, there was no toilet on the bus.
My friends begrudgingly agreed to ask the driver to stop the bus and Ed clambered his way down the aisle, clouds of dust rising off the seats behind him.
“Soon, soon! Next village! Near!” the driver nodded like the plastic gold Buddha figurines that danced along his dashboard.
Ed shrugged his shoulders – at least he’d tried. But the situation was growing more desperate by the minute so I made my way to the driver and presented him with a primal look of fear that seemed to transcend all communication barriers.
He pulled the bus over at the side of a dusty road and laughed at me as I dashed off into a field of knee-high grass. As I scouted for squatting spots, however, I realised that I now had an audience. The entire bus was smiling and hollering and jeering me on, which was effective only in that it caused my internal organs to freeze up.
With my guts like Calippos, I aborted my mission and boarded the bus. A sea of jagged-toothed faces applauded as I stumbled back over small children and flip-flopped-feet back to the back of the bus.
Just as I was being thrusted into the air by the force of my own bowels, I assumed the position and relaxed into pure, unadulterated bliss.
We trundled along for a little while longer, but it didn’t take long for my stomach to relax and begin its downward descent.
It was inevitable this time. No level of stage-fright could stop me. I didn’t care if I never saw my friends again, if I had to squat down in front of every single smiley face on that bus. I simply had to go.
The driver pointed frantically at a series of small buildings up ahead. “Yes!” I jeered, “Here! I’ll get off here!”
I darted off of the bus yet again, before it had even stopped, and ran towards the buildings. Two men in shirts and ties stood smoking in the doorway of what appeared to be an office – the local tourist office I decided.
I asked furiously, frantically: “Toilet? Toilet? Bathroom! WC!” But they didn’t understand.
Desperate now, I put my charade skills to work and role played a man pissing at a urinal, then pulling his trousers down and sitting on a toilet. My audience on the bus continued to cheer me on, which seemed to confuse and distract the man from the matter at hand.
Finally, he gestured towards a corridor inside the office and nodded – “Yes, yes!”.
They swarmed around my face and ears and landed with gentle thuds on my back, but I simply didn’t care.
I ran inside like a headless chicken and flung the door open, only to be greeted by a urinal on the wall. I toyed with the idea for about three seconds before running back out to the man and, once again, using my charade skills to explain that I needed full toilet amenities, and fast.
“Yes, yes!” he said, angry now and pointing again at the same room at the end of the corridor.
I re-entered the room and studied it more closely. And yes, he was right… There in the middle of the room was what I can only describe as a hole dug into the ground. It was both the most disgusting and most beautiful toilet I had ever set my eyes upon.
Just as I was being thrusted into the air by the force of my own bowels, I assumed the position and relaxed into pure, unadulterated bliss. I didn’t care that I could hear the bus pulling off in the distance. I didn’t care that I had lost all dignity or that I’d probably never find my way home from this place.
I didn’t even care that every corner of this blessed “bathroom” housed countless hornet nests the size of basketballs, in and out of which buzzed angry residents the size of hummingbirds.
And that’s when the true horror of it all came crashing down upon me.
They swarmed around my face and ears and landed with gentle thuds on my back, but I simply didn’t care. I was so blissed out by the sense of relief that I surrendered to them entirely.
With a modicum of sensibility now restored, I stood up on shaky legs and wandered slowly like a drunk back into the office. The man in the shirt and tie was lying down on a sofa now, watching TV.
I waved and held my hands together to say thank you. He jumped up and, unsure what to do, smiled and waved back at me as I hobbled towards the door.
And that’s when the true horror of it all came crashing down upon me.
First I spotted a kitchen, then a few framed family photos dotted around the place on frilly little doilies.
It wasn’t an office at all, but someone’s home that I had barged my way into like a marauding white devil, demanding to be escorted to the bathroom so that I could decimate it.
Back outside, the bus was, of course, nowhere to be seen. But my three friends, to my utter dismay, were sitting at the side of the road waiting with our bags and their thumbs in the air.
They tried their best to ignore me, to hide their anger. But I could sense it all the same.
Seemingly moments later we were all crammed into the back of an old pick up truck, bouncing along dusty roads with a gang of toothless farm labourers smiling at us.
My friends didn’t speak to me for days, but somehow it didn’t matter, for I had experienced the ultimate in Thai hospitality.
My suffering was over.
It’s true what they say: Thai hospitality truly is amazing.
Have you ever experienced anything… unfortunate while travelling in Thailand or anywhere else in the world?
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Oh yes, lord did I. I was struck with a serious case of yeast infection in the plane on the way to Seoul. By the time I landed, I was in full-blown agony. But instead of heading to the hotel where I might get some relief, I was dragged around Seoul for a tour which I did not enjoy at all. The next few days I got a lovey series of symptoms – a fever, rashes on top of the yeast infection. And for some odd reason, many of the doctors in Seoul didn’t want to treat me because I had a gynaecological issue and I was a woman and they were men. I was only treated after three days of misery.
Worst, worst, worst holiday ever lol. Memorable for all the wrong reasons!
Oh no! That sounds a whole lot worse than my experience!
I don’t know. A traitorous stomach during a long bus ride without a toilet sounds infinitely worse to me lol
Hahaaa! Yes, well I certainly hope I don’t ever have to go through that again. Blushing now just thinking about it!