The Return Trip From Hell (feat. Sh*tting My Pants in the Bangkok Airport)
Our last day in Koh Samui was spent watching Despicable Me while going in and out of consciousness. We had fever dreams about minions and giant fluffy unicorns. We thought this was going to be the worst of it, sweat out the fevers and be done with whatever Southeast Asian virus we had concocted, but oh no. At some point during the fevers our bodies had decided to completely betray us, and we never spent more than an hour outside of the bathroom.
It wasn’t pretty. I did not take any photos during this time because dear god, no one needs to see me in such a state, but here IS a photo of me on Samui, blissfully unaware of the horrors to come.
The thing was, we’d been soo careful. We knew not to touch the water in Thailand and Cambodia, had even been brushing our teeth with bottled water (well, I was. Doug was worse about this. Not that my attention to this particular detail MATTERED in the end.)
We finally decided that the culprit must have been the ice in some of our cocktails. Freaking ice, of all things. We’d thought we’d been good about that too, only drinking at “safe” places, but something must have slipped by. I’m convinced it was the pina colada I drank out of an actual pineapple, and honestly I’m still debating that it might have been worth it. There was so much delicious pina colada in that FRESH pineapple, and I looked royal as f*ck drinking it.
On the one hand, we thought at least this was happening on our last day. It also happened to be pouring rain on the island, so we weren’t missing the glorious beach hours we’d dreamed of only because of the sickness.
On the other hand, it meant that we had to fly back to New York in our current sh*tty states. Pun kind of intended.
Also, I did this really fun thing in which I planned maybe the longest travel route possible from Koh Samui to New York. It went like this: Koh Samui to Bangkok, six hour layover. Bangkok to Beijing, THIRTEEN hour layover that would have to be sleep time if we wanted to retain any shred of sanity we still had. Then Beijing to LA because before Thailand we were in LA with my family and bought the cheaper round trip flight. Then another six hour layover, then the flight to New York. Just. Count those hours for a second.
Sitting in the LAX Gladstone’s, attempting feebly to choke down some fries, I would have gladly paid the extra $200 plus my right leg and naming rights of my firstborn kid to have flown straight to NY from Beijing. Life is all about learning.
But backing it up, the crux of this journey and a moment that changed my life forever begins in the Bangkok airport. We’ve managed the hopover flight from Samui and are waiting in the general waiting area because we are too early to get to our gate. And here we were worrying that the rain would screw our timing.
Doug is not doing so hot. He’s in and out of a hazy consciousness, but I’m feeling hungry, of all things. When you’ve barely been able to keep down white bread and coke, hungry is almost the most welcome feeling imaginable.
You know how when you’re sick badly enough you start to wonder if you ever really knew what it felt like to NOT be sick? Like were you ever actually a healthy person in your life? Could you ever hope to be one again? I was there.
I asked Doug if he could watch the bags while I went and got some instant ramen from the airport mini mart. “Hurry,” he said. Neither of us could stand to be away from a bathroom for too long.
I grabbed the ramen, a coke, and a bottle of water, and pulled out my debit card. We had budgeted our bhat pretty perfectly and used the last on the cab from our hotel to the Samui airport.
“900 bhat minimum for cards,” the cashier said. Of course there was. I felt a slight urge to use the facilities coming on, but lately I always felt a slight urge to use the facilities, and wasn’t worried. I’d go right after I bought the goods.
I went with another bottle of water, another coke, a pack of dried Thai mango, and some very un-Thai looking chocolate. Everything was so damn cheap. I figured a sign of my peak health would be whenever I felt like eating the latter two.
I walked to the hot water station to fill up my ramen, feeling honestly like I was on the upswing. Poor Doug, I thought, sitting over there probably wondering whether I was ever coming back to relieve him.
And then it happened. What happened, you ask? Don’t ask. You know exactly what.
I thought it was a harmless fart, and OH was I wrong. Rule Number One: NEVER trust a fart when your insides are waging war against you.
I froze. No no no no no, I thought. I am not this person. The person who sh*ts their pants in the Bangkok Surabaya airport while pouring water into instant ramen. But at the same time, I was exactly that person.
Thankfully, we only had carry on luggage, so a change of pants was only a few steps away. I put my game face on, picked up my mini mart goods, and waddled over to Doug.
“Will you watch this?” I asked. “I’m just going to run to the bathroom really quickly.”
“Okay,” he mumbled. Poor guy looked like he could fall asleep at any second, if he wasn’t already sleep talking. “Hurry.”
“I will,” I said, depositing the ramen et al and inconspicuously grabbing my suitcase.
I shuffled to the pink women’s bathroom sign, already mourning the loss of a very comfy pair of Target pajama pants. And one sock. The right sock was a goner.
As I turned the corner, I saw the worst possible outcome ahead of me: a line. The classically dreaded women’s bathroom line. I inhaled, exhaled, and tried to disconnect my consciousness from my body.
“Excuse me,” I tried to say, pushing my way through the line, “emergency! Emergency!”
But it wasn’t just a line. The front of the queue revealed that the bathroom was being CLEANED, so no one could go in. Oh, hell no.
“Kahpunka,” I said to the cleaning attendant, “So sorry, but it’s an emergency. I have to go in there.”
“Closed!” She barked. “Next one!” And motioned to the next bathroom down the lengthy hall.
“No,” I said, trying to stay polite and calm, “I can’t wait for that one. Emergency.”
“Closed!” She said again, turning away from me. I felt like crying, actually, and I was pretty positive that I smelled.
Okay. I mustered whatever shreds of dignity I had left in me and shuffled as quickly and grossly as possible to the farther bathroom.
This one, somehow, miracle of miracles, had no line. I ran into the stall, stashed my pants and sock (RIP), and cleaned off while I put on fresh yoga pants. This meant that midway through I had to hold the door to the stall open while I got wet and soapy paper towels from the sink, yelling to people that “Still my stall! Not done!”
One of my finer moments.
I get back to Doug, sweet breaths of relief coursing through my veins. He, however, is looking frantic. At the same time, we open our mouths and admit our failures:
“Someone stole your bag and I drank all of the coke and I don’t know how that happened.”
“I just sh*t my pants.”
In his fever fog, Doug hadn’t noticed me grab my bag en route to the bathroom and had spent my absence planning exactly how to report this, all the while stress drinking the coke I’d bought. Thankfully, my bag was with me and not stolen, and there were many more cokes to be bought with the 900 baht card minimum.
After the flight to Beijing, we spent too many Yen on an airport hotel room for the thirteen hour layover, mostly for the chance to shower. And that wood-paneled, lukewarm pay-by-the-hour shower will surely remain the most satisfying aquatic experience of my life.
Somehow, after all of that, we made it back to New York. The next day I was so dehydrated that I had to go to an emergency clinic to have an IV full of saline pumped into my shriveled veins. But antibiotics worked wonders and within a couple of days I felt totally myself again.
And here’s the thing: If you were to ask me if I could do the whole Thailand/Cambodia trip over again knowing that I’d get sick at the end, I’d have to say yes.
But I’d be smart. And not get sick. NEVER AGAIN.