We got the Mekong Delta Bus from HCMC to Phnom Penh on Friday the 19th. The bus is pretty comfortable with tv, air con and roomy seats and they gave everyone a pastry and bottle of water. The scenery doesn’t really change much and so it was a pretty dull but pleasent ride. After 3.5hrs we got to the Cambodian/Vietnamese border. Here everyone has to get out of the bus and walk through the security check, then back in the bus up a bit further then out again for immigration. We had purchased e-visas which was totally unnecessary and actually made us take longer than everyone else to get through. The bus stopped at this roadside restaurant for lunch. We had our first taste of Cambodian food and it was yummy. It was a kind of Chicken noodle dish with coconut so the food is like a cross between Vietnamese and Thai.
Back on the bus and a few more hours and we arrived in Phnom Penh. The city was teeming with people as their biggest festival of the year was on and millions (literally) of people had come.
“The Cambodia Water Festival or ‘Bon Om Tuk’ in Khmer is the largest festival in the Cambodian calendar and an amazing sight to behold! The 3-day Water Festival in Phnom Penh is of great significance as it celebrates the end of the rainy season, the start of the fishing season, and also the unique natural phenomenon – the flow of the Tonle Sap river changing direction! And not only this, the Cambodia Water Festival also coincides with the full moon of the Buddhist calendar month of Kadeuk, this full moon is traditionally a good omen promising a bountiful harvest.”
We checked into our hotel Goldie Boutique Guesthouse, Room 12 (Modern Jr Suite), $25/nt.
That evening we went for a walk and it city was like a party, load of kids dancing on the streets, stalls, strobes, music. It was really fun and exciting. I was really surprised…this was nothing like I thought Cambodia would be like. We did read in the newspaper the next day that the police had been doing sweeps of the city to lock up the homeless and beggars, to protect tourists and save face, so that explained a few things.
The next day we hired a scooter and rode around the city which was fun, but I totally understand why they wear masks, the fumes are intense! We went to this nice temple on top of the only hill in PP, then went down to the wharf area for lunch and to watch the row boats racing. By this stage I was starting to feel really sick and Chris took me back to the hotel.
I had a fever that just kept getting hotter and hotter. I was freezing, but thought my insides were going to Melt. Chris could hardly touch my skin it was so hot. All my joints, legs, back, stomach had shooting pain and I couldn’t stop shaking. To make matters worse the hotel had the worst shower. The next morning I was not any better and Chris went to the chemist to get some panadol and he said I might have dengue but you need to wait a full 48 hours before they can test you, so we spent the day in the hotel with Chris bathing my head and stressing over what to do. The next morning was Monday and we went to this clinic called International SOS which has international standards of medical care. It was still a public holiday for the festival so they only had 1 doctor on call so he came in a they did a blood test on me.
I tested positive to Dengue Fever
Well I guess I was grateful it wasn’t malaria. There is nothing they can do for dengue because it’s a virus…all you can do is rest, take panadol and hydrate. By this stage i was really dehydrated and the doctor gave me 2 liters of IV fluid he also have some more panadol and this stuff called Royal D which is like an electrolyte hydrating mix. (When i say gave, I mean added to our bill!) Dengue is horrible. Everything that could be wrong is wrong…your joints hurt, you vomit, you have the runs, high fever, headache, itchy rash and total exhaustion. I’ve never felt anything like it. Just walking up the stairs was so hard, that I would have to lie down afterwards.
I felt so bad for Chris, who wouldn’t go out without me and was stuck in the hotel room with me. They were actually really helpful there. We were only supposed to be there for 2 nights, but we had keep extending our stay because I couldn’t travel. The next morning I went back in for another blood test and I wasn’t much better so they put me back on the drip with 2.5 liters this time.
At this point we still had some hope that we would make it to Siam Reap and Angkor Wat, but the doctor said i would need to stay in PP and get another blood test the next day, so that idea was dashed. We has already booked the flights and were so disappointed that we had to cancel them. It was going to be the highlight of the trip! Our travel insurance company CoverMore were really good. There was a nurse there that called everyday to check up on me and offer help and advice. They were really helpful and when we got home, the reimbursed all my medical fees and and cancelled flight.
Overnight was the last day of the festival and something really bad had happened. Hundreds died and hundreds more were injured in a stampede on Diamond Island’s north bridge, bringing a tragic close to the final day of water festival celebrations in Phnom Penh. It was so sad, and we were so lucky we weren’t out and about that night. Imagine if we’d been on the bridge, instead of stuck in our hotel room!! Blessings sometimes come in strange packages…
We took the Jetstar flight Phnom Penh – Singapore on Saturday 25th ($280). I was too sick to do much in Singapore. Our hotel was not close to anything so there wasn’t much to see except a few food stalls. We went on the hop on/off bus tour, but I only lasted until lunch time before I had exhausted myself and had to go back to the hotel. At least we got to see a few things….Chinatown, Raffels, the big ship building…