May 16, 2007

Eaten Alive
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand

I'm an itching wreck.

I woke up this morning with the hope that my skin would have calmed down since the night prior—it had done just the opposite. I'm covered in 90+ inflamed insect bites—a parting gift from my time in Bangkok.

Bites on my back

Photos I tried to take of the mess can't do it justice. My feet and ankles are swollen because of the heat, and the 50+ bites (from the knee down). My shoulder blades and arms (from the elbow up) are covered in unsightly, maddeningly itchy, red blemishes. Big bites have appeared around my waistline. It's pretty much everywhere, except where I was wearing my boxers. It should go without saying that it's quite miserable.

Bites on my legs

Some of these bites I recognize, while others I'm seeing for the first time (and worry me because of it). I think I've been hit by a massive three-combination knockout: Bed bugs + mosquitoes + those unknown blood-suckers I'd been killing since arriving a week ago.

I've exploded well over a dozen of those little unknown bastards between my fingers since leaving Bangkok. They've made a home out of the nooks and crannies of my backpack, especially the padded, mesh-backing.

I was picking them off and killing them on the bus; I was picking them off and killing them in my new hotel. I'm seeing little white ovals in some the spots they were hiding—eggs or feces, I don't know. Nor do I know if I've gotten the last of them—I keep spot-checking throughout the day.

I had to do something about the itching. Scratching is bad news, as it spreads the nasty things in life, and can lead to cuts in the skin (which can open the door to infection). There's too much of an area to cover with any of the anti-itch creams I've got on hand, so an antihistamine tablet would be the way to go. Sadly, I had forgotten to buy some before I left the U.S.

Itchy insect bite medication

I found a pharmacy and used my best sign language and single-word statement sentences in English to describe what I needed. Two options came about: "Sleepy" and "no sleepy." I bought 'em both, for total of about US$2.50.

I have no idea what these drugs are that I was given (not uncommon), but double the prescribed dose of the Cetirizine Dihydrochloride "no sleepy" pills seems to have helped. I'll try the Loratadine before bed tonight.

Relocated

I'm so happy that I left Bangkok—it feels great to be on the move again. I decided to big pass at the backpacker-filled tour buses leaving the Khao San area, instead taking a B$55 taxi ride to Bangkok's southern bus terminal (Sai Tai Mai).

Hey, I'm seasoned. Going to a bus terminal in the rain and getting on a bus filled with locals (completely absent of tourists) is average-day stuff—although far from the norm here in Thailand (where easily booked bus/island ferry package deals from travel agencies move backpackers around like cattle). Within 15-minutes of arriving I was on a bus and on my way out of the city. A solid six and a half hours later I was in the coastal town of Prachuap Khri Khan (having enjoyed that 1.5-hours when the bus was turned into a packed school bus for young teenagers).

I had forgotten that Thailand drives on the opposite side of the road than what I'm use to seeing—steering columns are on the right, drivers (hopefully) keep to the left. Again, I'm fighting my conditioning to look left, then right, before crossing a street (the reverse is needed here).

I think the big problem I'm going to experience here is finding Thai people than can read a piece of paper with my desired hotel, street, or city on it. It's not like Latin American languages, where I can write things out in Spanish or Portuguese and give it over for assistance—a Thai person reading something written in roman-script (even if it's the proper word, translated) is like me reading Thai. I've got to work on my pronunciation.

Prachuap Khri Khan

Prachuap is about the perfect city size for me—somewhere around 30–40,000 people. In fact, if the weather wasn't just an overcast ceiling, it might be a spot that I'd consider sticking around for a while.

There are only a handful of travelers here, many of them Thai. The city isn't setup for tourism, or to sell anything to tourists. It's a fishing village that's grown into a town, simply happy to zoom around on motorbikes, eat seafood, and listen to an annoying radio DJ that likes to keep interrupting songs with his ramblings while Who Let The Dogs Out plays in the background.

There are these large, isolated outcroppings of rock towards the shore in this region—as if the rest of the land eroded away, leaving small mountain islands of rock. Many of these push up against the shoreline, giving an interesting twist to the coastal horizon.

Runoff from the recent rains have made the ocean waters muddy (although still a great temperature). I imagine during the dry season this area, and the two bays to the north and south—locally popular for their beaches—are quite lovely.

I'm trying to (roughly) plot out my looping path through southern Thailand. I'm waiting to hear from my good friend, Aaron, to see when I'll have to be back in Bangkok (probably late-June) to see him. I'm considering many paths, including a trip up through Myanmar (Burma), as the weather is anything but beach-friendly at the moment.

Comments:

Bob L

May 18th, 2007

Here are a number of websites in no particular order for parasites.

I know almost nothing about them, but from what I have found on the mis-information net, NET = Not Exactly True, they sound like either bedbugs, although I suppose they could be body lice. Just looking this stuff up is making me all kinds of itchy.

Video of bedbugs feeding - these look like your bugs

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11916682/

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2969223

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Cimex_lectularius.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_bug

http://www.thebedbugresource.com/bedbuginfo.htm
http://www.thebedbugresource.com/bedbugfaq2.htm

http://www.naturalginesis.com/remove_bed_bugs_the__nontoxic_way_.htm
http://www.naturalginesis.com/id50.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_louse

http://dermatlas.med.jhmi.edu/derm/IndexDisplay.cfm?ImageID=1017889414

BODY LOUSE (Pediculous humanus)
Condition: This louse, appearing similar to the head louse (Fig. 1), is common in clothing and usually stays in areas where the clothing is in close contact with the body such as underwear, forks of the trousers, armpits, waistline, neck and shoulders. In heavy infestations, some lice may remain on the body after the clothing is removed. Eggs are usually deposited in the seams of the clothing, but may also be attached to coarse body hairs.
The body louse was a rather infamous insect during World War I when it received such nicknames as the cootie, the grayback, and then during World War II, was probably more aptly named, mechanized dandruff. The term mechanized dandruff comes from the fact that many of the people in Italy afflicted with this louse wore loosely knit clothing, and the lice could be seen running in and out of the weaves of the clothing, hence the term mechanized dandruff.
How it is spread: Close contact with humans harboring the lice or wearing clothing containing eggs.
Corrective measures: Bathing or shampooing with soap and water will not remove all nits from hair or will not remove lice attached to the body. Clothing and bedding should be laundered in hot, soapy water at 125o F. or over for a minimum of 10 minutes, or be dry cleaned. Lice can be controlled on the body quite easily by commercial preparations containing pyrethrins or certain other medications available as dusts, lotions, ointments or shampoos (Table 1). See the Texas Agricultural Extension Service publication, "Human lice" L-1315, for more information.

Photo of body lice

http://www.the-piedpiper.co.uk/th5g.htm

http://www.the-piedpiper.co.uk/th5.htm

http://www.naturalginesis.com/id50.htm

Australia

Craig | travelvice.com

May 18th, 2007

Thank you Bob, the video of the bugs… the bed bugs, were (sadly) spot on.

I've NEVER seen them so big. That's exactly what I found crawling all over my bed, body, and backpack in Bangkok.

I've also never had such a bad reaction to them before — the zone of aggravation on the skin is very extensive for each bite (cluster).

That being said, I don't know how to confidently remove this problem…

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