Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow

A sick day in Mandalay.  About malaria.  About the Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse and Mama.

First I thought it was the air-conditioning on the bus.  I was freezing and the cold air was blasting at full speed.  It did not get much better after closing all the vents in front of me and behind me — as you may recall, this bus was nearly empty.

I wrapped one of the questionable looking nylon blankets around me which sported the “Hello Kitty” slogan I saw everywhere in Japan, then two. It barely made a difference.  When we stopped for a break and stepped out into a brick wall of heat, the heat barely seemed to touch my skin.  I could not get warm.  It was then that I realized that all is not well.

Arrival in Mandalay mirrors arrivals anywhere — an onslaught of licensed and unlicensed vehicles are offered for transport at ridiculous prices; it is obvious that I am pretty clueless and new in this town.  I don’t even know where my hotel is as I went by a word of mouth recommendation rather than the LP list.

I refused a motorbike, picked a taxi and over-paid by nearly 100%.  That is about the extent of criminal activity that seems to be committed against foreigners around here — I can live with that.  My taxi bill still was only $6.  My luggage and I now have safely arrived at Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse, a small family operation run by “Mama” whom everyone seems to love.  She was not in, but it looks like I will meet her soon as I will be here for a while.

By the time I had chosen a small but bright room right off the main floor behind the common area — it will be lively out there, but I have ear plugs — I was shivering in what was still a whopping 35 C/95F degrees.   I definitely was sick.  I popped some ibuprofen and two hours later was at least in a condition of walking outside and getting something to drink.   At 7:30 PM it was bedtime.

Between sweating, freezing, and aching I passed the night.

Two more IBUs got me up for a lovely breakfast of pancakes, fried eggs, juice, fruit, tea and as much of any of it as I could eat.  Do you recall the Breeze Guesthouse with it’s stingy breakfast?  They could learn a thing or two from Mama.  I had not eaten since yesterday.  And there was definitely nothing wrong with my appetite.  Does that rule out malaria?

Originally, I was under the impression that when you take malaria pills you can’t get sick.  Wrong.  But when you get bitten by an infected mosquito you will in all likelihood contract only a mild and treatable form of the disease.  Do I need to worry?

Over breakfast I met Mama, a woman radiating positive energy and a genuine love for her guests and her business.  You could tell by the way 6 college guys traveling together took leave of her: hugs, photos, handshakes.  She greeted me warmly and with genuine concern about my condition. That is the kind of place I would stay any day.  Forget hotels!

The crowd in this guesthouse is definitely more of the backpacker and young type.  I was by far the oldest person around.  But I feel perfectly comfortable with these youngsters and had several good conversations over breakfast already.

There was Cody from the US who is hanging out waiting for his girlfriend who took off on a 10 day Vipassana Meditation, retreat for which Myanmar is famous.  This morning he could not find his pouch with passport and all.  I hope he will.

There was Fab from Italy who had left his home years ago traveling and working his way around the world.

There were two of the six guys who happily practiced some of their German skills with me.  After a year of studying together, abroad in Hongkong in an exchange program, they ganged up for a month of travel before going home to GB.

And finally, there were Jamie and Heather from GB as well.  They are going to one of the most famous sites in the area tonight via taxi and tentatively I committed to sharing a ride with them.  We shall see what another 8 hours in bed will do for me.

The IBUs were wearing off and I headed back to my room sweating, freezing and resting. The muffled sounds of motorbikes, kids playing, people talking made it through to my foggy brain.  Whenever I opened my eyes for a quick glance at the clock, invariably one hour seemed to have passed.  The good news is that I am not getting worse.  No further malaria symptoms are developing that I can tell, like diarrhea.

I will give it another day and see if I make progress.  It was good to hear that Mama’s son is a doctor.  Not a local one, but available for advice.

I even pulled myself together to write this blog.  🙂

But there are no photos today.  My camera is still packed and there will be plenty of opportunities later.

Back to bed!

P.S.  Do you wonder what Schüttelfrost is?   It is the quite descriptive German word for the chills.  Something like shaking in ice.  😉

13 comments so far

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  1. Get well fast, Elisabeth! Nothing is glummer than a cold in summer.

  2. I join everyone in wishing you well soon and am so thankful that you are at Mama’s place.

  3. Hallo Elisabeth,

    I do hope you are recovering now, it’s rough to be ill when your travelling, isn’t it? Apart from anything else it goes against our philosophy of self-reliance, I’m so glad you have found a lovely family to “adopt” you until you are better. What a lot of travel there is to catch up with since I last checked in: I’m going to give myself some time off from sticking dots on the map of India to read up on your experiences of Myanmar.

    It will be Sikkim next month instead of Nagaland so I won’t be waving to you across the border but the good news is that India visas are going to be much easier to obtain after this year. I’m not sure you need much more travel reading at the moment but the Kashmir to Kerala blog is written up at last.

    take care of youself.

    much love


    • Hi Elisabeth,
      Take good care of yourself, I hope you will feel better ! Self-reliance is great but with health issues, it makes sense to consult with competent health professional, better sooner than later. ( I probably sound like your mother!!!)


    • Thanks, Nicola. I won’t get to reading anything until I am home (at least not anything online). Every comment, every blog post, every picture is a struggle to put up as the power goes down, the bandwidth dwindles, etc. …

  4. Hi ET! I am back from my trip to Iowa. So sorry to learn of your bout with the illness. I hope you are well now. I am looking forward to seeing you when you get HOME!

  5. Gute Besserung and schlafe Dich gesund! Anneliese

  6. Feel better soon, ET. Reminds me of when I got sick in Ecuador. Same symptoms. And I also thought I had caught malaria. I checked myself into the dingiest and nearest guest house. Well … 24 hours later I was on the mend and 3 days later completely fine. Hope same thing happens to you. If not sooner!!

  7. Schuttelfrost…what a wonderful word…but what it describes is no fun. I hope by the time you read this your schuttelfrost is gone and you are well again. Fortunately you are basically strong and healthy and you have your malaria pills…and mama…and didn’t your pantheon manifest a perfect place if you were going to need to hunker down for a bit and recuperate!!)
    Take care….thinking about you.

  8. Hi Elisabeth! What a bad luck with this desease. I am not a specialist, but I hope that even if you caught malaria, the anti-malaria pills will sweep it away. This is their role. Just you need to give them a chance and rest for a while. I like your strength and optimism, and you managed to write the blog in spite of the bad shape! You are the real traveler, no doubt. I am glad that you are in the good hands now. Say hello to Mama! I wish you all the best, get well very soon.

  9. Gute Besserung, Elisabeth. Ich drücke die Daumen, dass Du schnell wieder fit bist. Ich verfolge Deine Reise intensiv… meine Mutter fragt auch jedes Mal wie es Dir ergeht. Ich finde es insbesondere interessant wie unterschiedlich wir manches wahrnehmen 🙂 Ich frage mich schon die ganze Zeit ob der Herr mit der dicken Brille, der Geld von Dir wollte, Alexander war. Aber von mir wollte er gar nichts… Aber ich hatte durchaus ähnliche Erlebnisse in Myanmar. Eine gute Zeit und noch schöne Erlebnisse! Grüße aus dem sommerlichen Hamburg

    • Mich würden ganz besonders die Unterschiede, die Du siehst interessieren – die anderen Leser sicher auch… Schreib doch mal ein paar, privat geht auch. Vielen Dank fürs treue Mitlesen und Grüße unbekannterweise an Deine Mutter. 🙂 Und ich glaube, ich habe den Herrn auch schon mal in Deinem Blog gesehen. Alexander? Seinen Namen hat er mir nicht genannt.

  10. Gute Besserung, Elisabeth!