How Food Poisoning in Thailand Made Me Do the Unexpected

How Food Poisoning in Thailand Made Me Do the Unexpected

The concept of being so far from home never really meant anything to me.  For me, it seemed that whether you were across the street, across the country, or across the globe, home was still just as far away. You could only ever be in one of two places: at home or away from home.

This concept shifted for me somewhere in a Bangkok guesthouse. As I lay on my mattress on the floor, in excruciating pain, I began to think about just how long it would be until I could cry into my mother’s arms.

Even if I packed up and left right now, I mused, it would still be days in airports and hours of travel before I could be in my own bed.  It was the final days of my first solo trip – four weeks in Thailand – and it was only now just dawning on me how far I truly was from home.

It’s kidney stones. I convinced myself. You are alone in Thailand with kidney stones. It had been three days now of terrible stomach pain. Each time I went to the bathroom, I thanked my earlier self for springing for the guesthouse over the hostel. At least I could be alone as I contemplated my certain death in Bangkok.

I felt terrible for her, because now she was on the other side of the planet, worrying about a daughter that she could do nothing to help.

The few minutes left on my phone allowed me to have a short conversation with my mom. I tried desperately to sound happy, as if these last few days in Bangkok were the best of my life, but of course, as any mother would, she saw right through me. In her motherly tone, she did her best to assure me it was most likely just food poisoning. She felt terrible for me, because I was alone and so sick, and I felt terrible for her, because now she was on the other side of the planet, worrying about a daughter that she could do nothing to help.

I laid on my mattress, turned on the television, and drifted in and out of sleep to ridiculous Thai game shows.

How Food Poisoning in Thailand Made Me Do the Unexpected

By the fourth day I was feeling a little closer to decent. Perhaps it was just the passage of time, or maybe it was the Imodium I had been constantly popping. I managed to roll myself off of my mattress, throw on something that did not smell like already-digested Pad Thai and wobble downstairs to the lobby.

Upon stepping outside I instantly regretted my decision the leave the quiet of my room. Khao San Road is arguably the most touristy part of Bangkok.

I walked right by the friendly woman serving what I am sure was delicious curry from her cart, by the Pad Thai restaurant on the corner, straight past the little girl selling dumplings and rice, and entered a McDonald’s.

Sidewalk vendors are so plentiful that they bubble over into the street, every three feet someone new asks if you would like a ride in their tuk-tuk, American and European college kids are buzzed off of Chang and Singha beer, busy buying under-priced t-shirts for friends back home. Bright colors, spicy smells, loud, playful noises – this sensory overload made me desperate to enjoy my time here.  I wanted so badly to explore temples and wander down the exotic streets.  But then I remembered the pain in my stomach.  My body was completely empty, and although I was fiercely hungry, Thai food was the absolute last thing I wanted to devour.

It was then I did something that I remain ashamed of today.  I walked right by the friendly woman serving what I am sure was delicious curry from her cart, by the Pad Thai restaurant on the corner, straight past the little girl selling dumplings and rice, and entered a McDonald’s.

It was at that moment that I turned my back on everything I had been previously preaching about travel.  “Leave your comfort zone!  Try new things!  Fully immerse yourself in the culture at all times,” I had made this speech a hundred times over. Yet now, in this moment of hunger and blurred consciousness, I entered the most American place I could have found.

I did not even have to look at the menu. I stepped up to the young boy at the counter and ordered a Coke, fries, and a McFlurry (great choice to eat dairy with an already upset stomach, Emma). The food arrived moments later in the familiar McDonald’s bag.  I said my kap koon kaa to the boy, and hustled back to the sanctuary of my room.  My meal was devoured in a matter of minutes.

The comfort food really did not make me feel any better, but at least now my body had something to work with. At least now, I felt a little closer to home. I opened my window to the narrow alleyway outside. The sounds and smells of the bustling city came pouring in. Smiling, I laid down on my mattress, closed my eyes, and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of healthier travels.

 

 

How Food Poisoning in Thailand Made Me Do the Unexpected

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