Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't let the bed bugs bite!

There is actually a bug that has two tubes to pierce it's prey with.  One is for eating and the other injects an anti-coagulant (preventing blood from clotting) and an anesthetic (preventing the prey from feeling the bug feed). Nature is amazing...until you are the prey.

These bugs are cimicidae, more commonly called bed bugs.  After hearing reports of recent outbreaks in the States I was well aware of the risks in Southeast Asia, in fact, it was one of my fears.  There's nothing worse then when a fear becomes a reality.

In Luang Prabang, Laos we stayed at a guesthouse with a large group of people we had met on our boat ride down the Mekong.  Of the nine of us there, I was the only one that seemed to have problems.  Mom slept in a bed next to me and only received three bites.  I served as breakfast, lunch and dinner for four nights in a row (our entire stay in the city) before showing symptoms. Now I am absolutely covered from head to toe - which gives me the scary appearance of someone that is walking around with chicken pox.  (Of course it doesn't help that I also have a constant scowl and glazed over eyes as I try to ignore the itching sensation.)  On one arm alone I have about 50 spots that range from eraser size to the size of a dime.

Three days after we left Luang Prabang, and after a stopover in Siem Reap, we arrived in Phonm Penh and had to leave our hotel at 11pm (only three hours after checking in) because I noticed them again.  At least this time we recognized the problem before spending the night.  We have now washed all of our clothes, sprayed our backpacks with bug killer and visually checked every nook and cranny to make sure none of the horrible little creatures are in our things.

Today after spending a day making futile attempts not to scratch, wrapping my wounds in a cool towel, rubbing on hydrocortisone cream until I'm white, and taking antihistamines I feel like I might see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Fortunately, we are in a place where it's easy to do that without the fear of more bedbugs.

Despite this setback, there have been some amazing highlights since my last post (and I've posted more pictures for your enjoyment from Chiang Mai and Laos here or visit my Photo Albums):
  • A river cruise down the Mekong River from Thailand into Laos.  We met some fun people and tried to make the best of the slow boat that could seat 80 but held 95 people.  It was a bit crowded but definitely a fun part of the trip.
  • Luang Prabang, a fun little French town in Laos.  We checked out a beautiful waterfall nearby and saw a cultural performance/dance.
  • Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom ruins.  Absolutely incredible.  We hired a tuk tuk driver to take us around for the day and although the ruins started to look similar it didn't detract from the impressive structures.
  • A 7 hour bus ride into Phnom Penh it's fun to get a taste of the local culture.  One of the places we stopped sold spiders and crickets to eat.  A nice couple in front of us decided to partake.  Mom and I did not.
The next few days I'm hoping to see a break in my condition so that I can see the sites in Phnom Penh before we head to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  For now, good night!  Don't let the bed bugs bite.

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