Paradise With A Side of Parasite

Sometimes as a travel blogger, I feel like I spend so much time showing you the beautiful side of travel. I set up my Instagram shots of stunning waterfalls and I tell you about amazing resorts on exotic islands, only showing the best of the best, so it all looks perfect. But the reality is that travel is messy and sometimes things go wrong.

So grab your beverage of choice, and hunker down because it’s story time, kids. Let me tell you the tale of how Joe & I encountered a parasite in Cambodia that would follow us around the rest of Asia.

It all started on the beautiful island of Koh Rong, which despite this story, is still one of my favorite places in Southeast Asia. The problem with Koh Rong is that they don’t have proper sewage. In fact, they drain most of their sewage straight into the ocean. Obviously this leads to everything on the island being pretty filthy since tourists are in and out of the water and walking on the beach all day. We were so careful to only swim at the beaches far from the resort area and wash our hands often, but apparently we weren’t careful enough.

Joe complained of a stomach ache on our last day there, but he brushed it off and was fine through our overnight bus to Siem Reap. After all, we had already survived a terrible bout of food poisoning in Chiang Mai and had a bunch of tricks up our sleeves to avoid food poisoning.

Surviving Siem Reap

Things started off just fine in Siem Reap. We enjoyed an amazing New Years on Pub Street with new friends and had a great time. Joe had on and off stomach aches but he just popped a charcoal pill and trudged on.

We both honestly thought it was just a minor case of food poisoning and he would feel better in a day or two. We were there to see the temples and he didn’t want to miss them. Like a champ, Joe powered through two days of temple exploring at Angkor Wat.

After the temples, we decided to take a day or two to relax. I had hoped that some rest was what Joe needed to feel 100% again but sadly this was not the case. He woke up the next morning with a raging fever and spent the whole day curled up in bed. He couldn’t keep any food or water down and his condition just seemed to be getting worse by the minute.   Things had gone from bad to worse and we finally came to the conclusion that this probably wasn’t just food poisoning.

When I went to our hostel’s front desk to ask for if there was a doctor nearby who spoke English, they basically told me to get him the heck out of Cambodia if I felt it was serious. While I’m sure that there are quality health facilities in Cambodia, this frightened us enough to decide to travel elsewhere to get him medical attention. Flights were booked up since it was the holidays so we loaded Joe up on what medication we had and booked ourselves an overnight bus to Ho Chi Minh City.

Hospitals & Ho Chi Minh City-

We checked into the first hotel we could find in Ho Chi Minh City and began the search for an English speaking doctor. We could have gone to a local hospital but we were nervous at this point that the language barrier would prevent us from communicating that this was more than just bad food poisoning. Thankfully the staff at our guesthouse were amazing. They took one look at Joe and realized that he needed immediate medical attention. They called and made us an appointment and even arranged a car to come and pick us up.

The clinic we went to, HCMC Family Medical Practice, was top notch and better than any similar facility I’d been to in the United States. Joe was seen immediately and the nurses and doctors ran many tests to determine what was the cause of his illness.

The doctor informed us that Joe had picked up an amoeba somewhere in our travels. This is relatively common in places where hygiene might not be it’s best (like Koh Rong…). Some people never show symptoms, while others like poor Joe, have intense stomach pains, fevers and muscle aches.  Left untreated this can lead to further health complications, so we were glad that we got him to a hospital.

We spent the next several hours at the hospital while Joe was intravenously given drugs to get rid of the amoeba and to replenish all the fluid and nutrients his body had lost over the last week.  We were super grateful for the excellent care the clinic provided at a very reasonable cost (to us Americans!). The whole visit, including multiple tests, several IV bags, and all the medication he would need to take over the next few weeks came out to around $500 USD. This was all reimbursed by our health & travel insurance as well!

Once the medicine began doing it’s work, Joe started feeling better almost immediately. Over the next few days, he improved and was back to his normal self. With a clean bill of health and instructions for us to be much more careful, we continued our travels north through Vietnam.

Joe is one of those people where if something strange was going to happen, it DEFINITELY was going to happen to him. I mean, only Joe would go on vacation to a tropical island and somehow manage to pick up a potentially life threatening parasite. He has some pretty crappy luck but he is always faces it with a positive attitude. I’m lucky to have a travel partner who always looks on the bright side of things!

This is definitely one part of our trip that we both won’t forget. We’re both glad that it didn’t scare us enough to consider going home. We both had a few more bumps, bruises and illnesses throughout the rest of our trip but continued on to have some incredible adventures!

Have you ever gotten seriously sick or injured while traveling abroad? Should we have done anything differently? Let me know in the comments!

Pin Paradise With a Side of Parasite


by Kassie- The Fly Away Life