~Stories of a solo traveler~ Laos

~A Mysterious Pill~

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I gripped the dirty rope swing and inched my toes to the edge of the wooden platform. I closed my eyes and jumped, wrapping my legs around the rope. As I released myself into the brown river I let out a loud scream, tucked my arms tight against my body and braced for impact. The cool, murky water seeped into my nose and mouth as I swam to the surface, my face covered by my dark brown hair.

 The water was filthy yet refreshing. The sky was clouded over but the air was stuffy and hot in Luang Prabang, Laos. I had drunk Thai whiskey and vodka all day. Tubing down the river was a huge tourist attraction in the little village and people were everywhere. I floated down the river passing many bars along the crowded river. When I wanted a drink I would wave to the locals on the riverbanks and they would throw a rope over and reel me into shore.

 After reaching the end of the tubing route, I grabbed my bags from the truck and ran to my room to get cleaned up. My hazel eyes were bloodshot and face was sweaty and red, disguising my fair complexion. I sat down for a moment to gather my drunken thoughts as I chugged a bottle of water. I had made a lot of friends on my trip through Thailand and Laos, and that night we were going to celebrate together at the local bar down the street from the hostel.

 Once I was dressed in a cute little purple-flowered skirt and black halter top, I walked along a gravel road to the outdoor bar, turning heads along the way. Being a light-skinned female was bringing me lots of attention from the Laotian men. Just before I entered the party I decided to grab a chicken sandwich from a nearby food vendor to soak up the alcohol in my stomach. After I ate I ran in and began dancing and guzzling back more shots with my new friends while they howled into the night.

IMG_1915The rest of the evening was a complete blur. I couldn’t remember walking home or going to bed at all. Suddenly, around 3 o’clock I shot out of bed and dashed to the bathroom and became violently ill. I was completely covered in sweat and I could hardly breathe. As the hours passed I hugged the toilet, too afraid to move as my entire body radiated with pain. I didn’t know if it was the chicken sandwich I had eaten before the bar or the disgusting water from the river wreaking havoc on my stomach, but I seriously thought I was going to die.

 All I wanted to do was sleep, but I couldn’t even lift my head without vomiting. It was nearly 6 o’clock when I finally took the last sip from my water bottle. I knew that if I didn’t get more fluids in, I could potentially die from dehydration. I grabbed a sarong and wrapped it around myself as I slumped out of the room without locking the door behind me. 

 Some locals sitting at a food truck on the side of the road looked over as I stumbled towards them. I was literally green in the face. An American man who was chatting with the residents sat me down gently and bought me a large bottle of water. I could barely talk let alone move, but somehow I managed to get back to my room after drinking what I could from the large water bottle. The bus that I had to take back into Bangkok, Thailand was leaving that afternoon and I was so ill during the trip all I did was sleep. It was incredibly hot and uncomfortable. Every seat was taken and it smelled of sweat.

 The bus from Laos back to Thailand takes over 15 hours with one overnight stop along the way. As the crowded bus came to a halt, I proceeded to the public washroom to continue throwing up. It was a horrible trip. At one of the rest stops a young British lad with dirty blonde hair and glasses noticed how sick I was and offered to help me in any way that he could.

 

“I’m Nick. You look like you need a friend.” He said in a thick British accent.

 

“Thank you that would be nice,” I pouted trying to be as friendly as I could.

 

“Do you have a place to stay tonight?” he asked as we sat in a little food market beside the bus. I had completely forgotten that we had to stay the night somewhere before re-entering Thailand.

 

“No, actually I don’t,” I replied, frowning.

 

“Don’t worry there is room for you in our group,” said Nick politely, as he helped me with my bags. He smiled so kindly.

 

“You’re a life saver,” I whimpered, “I’m Tanya by the way…”

 

Nick introduced me to his group of friends and explained the situation to them. They all agreed to give me a bed to stay in at the hostel which they had previously booked. Once they were all checked in, Nick helped me into my room. I pulled the covers over my head and fell fast asleep for over ten hours. The next day we all boarded the bus again and continued over the border.

 The bus took hours and all I could do was sleep and choke down a bit of food every now and again to keep my strength. This was the worst feeling I had ever encountered. I kept asking myself, “Was it food poisoning? Is there a parasite in my stomach?”

 Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, the bus had made it into Bangkok. It was about 5 am when we were dropped off and there was no one in sight along Ko San Road, which is normally a densely populated area. Nick helped me as the driver unloaded the bags off the bus and we sat down on the sidewalk. There was a little café that happened to be open, and the owner of the place let us all sit inside as we figured out our next move.

 Nick and I both had to catch flights later that night, so we decided to find a room to sleep in during the day. Once businesses started to open around 8 am, we carried our bags to the nearest hostel to rest. It was hours before I woke from my nap only to find Nick had left while I slept. His bags were gone and the room was silent.

 I sat up on the bed and rubbed my eyes as I looked around the room. I didn’t remember saying goodbye to Nick. Did he just leave without saying anything? Or was I delirious when he tried to tell me he was leaving? I figured it didn’t really matter anyway. I was safe and was also starting to feel a bit better.

 Once I washed up and repacked my tattered belongings, I wondered if I would be sick again on my flight. I drank as much water as I could and then reached into my carry-on bag for my pill bottle. My instincts were telling me to take a tablet which would keep my stomach calm for when nausea returned. I opened the bottle and dumped it out on the bed, and there in the middle of my medications dropped a large red gel cap the size of a horse tranquilizer. Shock suddenly rushed through me as my body froze up.

I stared at the unfamiliar pill for over a minute before picking it up. “What is this? Where on earth did this come from and how did it end up in my bag?” I asked myself as I examined the massive pill. I gazed in astonishment wondering how it could have possibly ended up inside my pill bottle at the very bottom of my bag. I spun it around in my fingers and then popped it open. Sparkling, white powder fell into my hands and without thinking I ran to the bathroom and threw it in the toilet. At that moment, I felt terribly anxious as I poured as much water as I could down the hole to get rid of the frightful substance… whatever it was!

 My anxiety grew stronger and thoughts started stirring in my brain. “What if people are after me? What if Nick set me up and he’s sending someone to get me? What if the people who planted this on me… are coming for it?” My stomach started to turn. I quickly grabbed my bag and shoved my belongings in without wasting another second. I put my gear on my back and hurried out of the room.

 The sun was blazing hot as I shuffled down the busy street and on the corner I hailed a taxi. Ko San Road was now bustling with people and the noise pierced my ears while the sun heated me into a sweaty mess. I paid the driver to drive as fast as he could to the airport while I replayed the events in my head. pill

 

“If I had not been so sick… if I hadn’t gone into that bottle… I would have carried that bag right through airport security.”

I took a long, deep breathe… and exhaled.

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