I’m writing on a 6-hour train journey, headed to Taman Negara – one of the oldest and untouched jungles in the world. Goodbye to the crystal clear water and soft sandy beaches of the Perhentian Islands and hello to jungle trekking (she says with some trepidation, as bugs are not my friends. Mind you, neither is heat, and I’ve adapted to the sweltering temperatures and stifling humidity of Malaysia quite well). Insert eye roll from Karl here.
When you set off on an 8-month trip around the world with young children, you know you are going to be pushed waaaaay outside your comfort zone. I suppose that’s part of the appeal. But we would be crazy if we didn’t have some apprehension about what could go wrong. My fear factor (beyond the rather questionable safety standards of any form of transport in South East Asia) is health-related. What if the kids got sick and we didn’t have access to medical care?
So naturally, we have had all manner of illness the past 4 days (Clearly I missed something in those new age-y books I read in my twenties about using positive thinking to manifest a blissful reality):
– Colds and coughs? Check (x 4 people)
– Fever? Check (x 2 people)
– Vomiting? Check (x 2 people)
– Laryngitis? Check (x 1 person)
– Cold sore? Check (x 1 person)
– Eye infection? Check (x 2 people)
– Bleeding nose? Check (x 1 person)
– A leg welt (with distinct center mark – a bite?) that originally presented the size of a quarter, but grew to the size of a pancake? Check (x 1 person)
On the surface, none of these are overtly life threatening, though fever and vomiting could be anything from a run-of-the-mill virus to malaria or dengue fever. And who the hell knows what critter caused that welt.
Did I mention we were on a tiny island with no medical resources?
Well, that’s not entirely fair. I did manage to find an open box of Children’s Panadol with 4 pills left at one of the island “mini marts” (a misnomer if I’ve ever seen one. This place had more in common with a poorly stocked concession stand). Scrawled on the box was “4 pill – $5RM.” That’s right. You don’t buy the entire box; you’re supposed to take your chances with a portion of the contents.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Of course she put those pills right back on the dusty shelf.” You would be wrong. Desperate times, desperate measures. Several days of fever had dwindled our supply of Children’s Tylenol from home. But lest you think I’m a completely incompetent parent, I did do a quick comparison of the lot number on the pills and that on the box. Oh, and the expiration date. All good.
Cen and Meskie eyed me suspiciously when I returned triumphantly and told them they would be chewing and swallowing said pills. Desperate times, desperate measures. They took the pills with minimal protest.
The vomiting started shortly thereafter. I felt oddly vindicated when it continued well past the amount of time reasonable to blame the pills.
Not to belabour the vomiting episodes, but can I say that Cen and Meskie are rock stars in this regard? They calmly make their way to the bathroom, do their thing and go back to bed. No whinging and whining (other than from me, as I tend to catastrophize just a titch in these situations…) Insert eye roll from Cate, Cen and Meskie here.
In one instance, we were at a restaurant when Meskie quietly took our room key and made her way back to the chalet. When we returned she calmly reported, “I threw up and then I lay down.” Rock star or negligent parents? I’ll go with the former.
But here we are on the train, relatively well. Sure, Cate woke up with a red eye, but I am armed with some over the counter concoction that seems to be doing the trick. No diagnosis from a doctor? No prescription? No problem.
See me here waaaay outside my comfort zone? I’m getting used to it on this ledge.
And now a word from Cate:
So, now that my mom has yammered on about vomiting, I plan to yammer on about waking up early to catch the train and the train station (my new name for it, “The Shack,”), as well as our hotel, the Tune Hotel. But first……. (I know Cen did a post similar to this one or something; just decided to add my thoughts.)
Things I liked about the Perhentian Islands
– Monkeys climbing in trees above Coral Island View Resort Restaurant
– Lizard resembling komodo dragon meandering around beach
– Flying squirrel
– Beach we nicknamed “Perfect Beach”
Back to yesterday. It’s afternoon and we are dropped off at the Tune Hotel – a basic but very clean and Western-style hotel in Kota Bharu. What’s interesting about that? Well, you pay for the hotel and get the beds and bathroom only. Any extra items, such as air conditioning, TV or toiletries, you purchase separately. Mom remarked that they were the comfiest beds she’s slept on since we left (she so needs to get over sleeping in a king bed on a fabulous mattress.) Anyways, we ate Burger King and for the rest of the day, mostly watched TV (which we hadn’t done for two weeks).
As for today, I was up to the challenge of waking up at 5:30 am (seriously?) Groaning was involved. “Just one more minute?” was blurted, as I threw my face on my pillow. It was none too pleasant.
We gathered our bags and made our way in a cab to the train station. A small cab. A cab for four passengers. Meskie sat on Dad’s lap. Cen, Mom and I squeezed ourselves in three seats with our backpacks. Luckily, it was only a short ride, and the man was probably the safest driver we’ve seen in Malaysia so far.
We got off at The Shack and made our way inside. For those inquiring minds, let me tell you why I nicknamed the train station “The Shack”.
- Mosquitoes (Dad claims they were fruit flies. Mmm-hmmm.)
- Stray cats trying to eat our food
- Cold pizza for breakfast
- The fact that the train station is small and decrepit
Okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad. We did have to take some malaria pills, though, as there is a small risk of this disease in the jungle.
At first, the train wasn’t that bad. A few hours later, I was tired, bored, and really wanted to get some fresh air.
We then took a van to the jungle, checked in, took a rest, and even saw some cool boars and monkeys. Dad was thrilled to see a tapir up close and personal. We had dinner on a cool floating restaurant, and tomorrow we’re going to go on a canopy walk, white water rafting, and visit an aboriginal village. More to come from one of the oldest jungles in the world!