There’s no two ways about it, food poisoning is really awful, much worse than flu and to get it on the road makes it five times worse. I’m not talking about an inconvenient bout of travellers’ diarrhoea but the sort of illness that knocks you off your feet and into bed for at least five days.
With Malaysia as my final destination my time there was limited to 20 days, even shorter if I considered having to be back in KL for the Grand Prix. Our flight in from Kolkata arrived in the early hours and due to Air Asia charging for everything we grabbed a MacDonald’s as we waited for our shuttle bus to the city. We finally checked in at roughly 3 am.
By 7am I was running to the bathroom to vomit. By no means do I know that MacDonald’s was the cause as I had been in India previously so anything I had had in the 5 days beforehand may have been to blame, cold rice, unpasteurised milk, bacteria, I probably had it all. However I do think I’ve built up quite a resistance to street food and bad chicken is very likely the culprit.
About three days vanished from my life in the shape of various projectile activities and not even being able to keep water inside made me very weak. Imodium and electrolyte were used and I guess they must have kept me safe even if I didn’t feel good. After the three days I decided it was time to try and eat something, even getting down the hostel stairs proved quite an ordeal. The location of China Town in this situation had its pros and cons. I was always very close to food and convenience stores (and Subway) but also the strong smell of food with every step you take, and chicken carcasses lining the roads, is not ideal with such a sensitive stomach. After a couple of attempts at noodle soup being unsuccessful the Subway around the corner suddenly became the only solution – western stodge to block the stomach!
The food side of things was the worst part of being ill away from home, you can’t raid your cupboards and you can’t ring a friend to grab you something simple like toast. The comfort that you desire is 20,000 miles away. My saving grace was dried milk biscuits called Tiger as they gave me something sugary to nibble on. The illness knocked me (and also my friend who was in the exact same boat) out completely for seven days. In total it affected us for the whole three weeks of Malaysia with us getting tired and weak or having stomach pains sporadically the whole time. At about six weeks now things still aren’t right.
It lead to a bit of an anti-climax to our nine months travel and resulted in us having to miss out Penang which we were looking forward to. Getting food poisoning on the road really sucks and the only thing to be done is stay in your room and attempt to get liquids whenever you can. I went to a GP who gave me extra strong tablets and more electrolyte powder at a total cost of 50 Ringgit (£11). So when you’re feeling really week this is definitely advised just in case he thinks it’s more serious than you do.
To be ill once in nine months considering the places I went really isn’t bad but I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.