Lessons of the Road #2 – 4 Showers, 3 Rooms and Suicide Watch

by Poi on September 20, 2010

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Lessons of the road details the things that don’t quite go to plan on our trip. Anything from the little mistakes to the big fuck ups.

I had hoped that lesson two might not come for a couple of months or so but no, it’s been about two weeks. So sit back, enjoy, learn from us and try not to itch for the next few minutes.

So we’ve left Hangzhou now and moved onto Xiamen, we spent the last 6 nights in a dorm and despite having a great time with some other travellers, we were looking forward to some private time.

kirsty pulling her caribee bag

Bye Bye Hangzhou

We booked into the V-inn hotel in advance as it was a similar price to the hostels thinking it would be a nice treat. We arrived okay and the place looked great, the room was fine but once we shut the door behind us it all went dramatically downhill, for me anyway, you’ll be glad to know that no Kirstys were harmed in the making of this lesson of the road.

We were in the room for a bit, make of it what you will, before deciding to go out and get some food. Kirsty noticed what looked like some bites on my rear end/arse/ass/bum bum, nothing out of the ordinary there so we went out and ate. When we got back to the room the redness of the ‘bites’ had calmed right down but after sitting on the bed again for a few minutes they came back even worse than before – this led to shower number one with the aim of washing away whatever was causing this. After the shower I covered myself in bug spray and sat up on one of the chairs hoping that would be the end of it. Nope, the redness began spreading to my legs and lower back and the itching began, this is about when the swearing began yet I still has no idea what was still to come.

hotel room

Although it uses Kirstys favorite colour a lot this place is hell…..

It’s about midnight by this point and we were forced to go down to reception and change rooms. The hotel was fine with this – which was worrying, why weren’t they concerned? – I thought after changing rooms I might be okay. I had another shower in the new room to try and start fresh but mainly to relieve the burning feeling of the rash, I repeatedly washed with soap etc  just trying to be as clean as possible. After jumping in my sleeping bag liner I got in bed and tried to get some sleep without itching. I managed to sleep for around an hour before waking up with the burning feeling once again so I went to the bathroom to check it out.

“Shit!” My back was covered, as well as my arse, my legs and all down my sides from right under my arm pits. This is about when I started to go a bit mental, I was sweating loads and even slapping myself where the itching was at its worst as the feeling of normal pain was relieving against the burning I was feeling all over. It sounds stupid now but the feeling was indescribably irritating. I knew the showers weren’t helping but I didn’t know what else to do other than try and cool down under the freezing cold water. I had to get out of the hotel, the rash was getting worse and I felt very trapped and getting very angry (which doesn’t happen easily at all) We went on the netbook (which was already on ready to listen to the Tottenham game at 3am China time – needless to say I didn’t listen) and found a hostel with 24hour reception. We weren’t sure if they would let us check in but just getting out of the hotel even to be sent back again was better than remaining there any longer.

By now it’s about 2:30 am but the moment we stepped outside, freedom! The walk to the hostel was around 15 minutes and this being China there were still plenty of people about. We never felt threatened on the walk despite the hotel obviously not being in the nicest part of town.

We managed to get checked into the Hostel after waking the lady up who worked/slept there, first of all though she pressed the buzzer to open the gate so we could enter, however the reception is located in what looks like a summer house so walked right passed it, wondered round the hostel for 15 minutes before we realised and had to wake her up again. She seemed a little surprised that we wanted to check in during the middle of the night but was very helpful and got us sorted quickly.

clean hostel room Baijiacun Xiamen China

Baijiacun International Youth hostel, Xiamen Aka Heaven

We got in the room, much bigger than the hotels, I might add and after being up most of the night and feeling relieved to be somewhere else we both went to sleep. I of course woke up about an hour later and guess what, it had spread more, I’m now bright red and swollen from my neck to just below my knee’s including down my arms and everywhere in between and the pain has moved from irritating to full on OWWWWWW.

Half an hour in the shower again did nothing and by this point I was shivering, sweating, pacing up and down and  using all sorts of language a respectable young man like myself should not. There was a pharmacy just round the corner and we knew it wouldn’t open until at least 7am at the very earliest so I had to sit it out for at least an hour.

I know what you’re thinking right now – why the hell haven’t you gone to the hospital yet? Well part of the reason we didn’t go was that sitting still and waiting to be seen would have been impossible and we had also read that there were only English speaking doctors available at certain times – not the middle of the night.

This is when suicide watch began – the pain is just indescribable, even writing this now I can’t describe how it felt or begin to imagine how it felt at the time – I remember thinking that knocking myself out seemed like a good idea so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain. We went to the pharmacy at 7 to find it didn’t open until 8, perfect! Kirsty sat, I wriggled as we waited for opening time, I must have looked like a heroin addict going cold turkey to all of the school children and parents going past and I felt like one too,  shaking, sweating and feeling as though I was about to be sick. This is by far when the pain was at its worst, sitting outside the pharmacy window knowing that there was something in there that would relieve the pain but not being able to get to it, I could have quite happily taken sandpaper to my legs.

We finally got in and the woman in the shop took one disgusted look at me and quickly grabbed two boxes, some tablets and some cream. One of the tablets was in my mouth before we had paid. We rushed back to the hostel and I covered myself in the thick cream. It began to soothe my skin straight away and with the relief of having something at last – I fell asleep after a horrible night.

I will warn you now after all the pain and suffering this is a very short ending.

I woke up around an hour later to find most of the redness had gone and two hours later it had pretty much cleared up altogether. I am still amazed now at how good the cream and pills were after a terrible night it seemed like such an easy fix, we honestly expected to have to go to the hospital later as we didn’t think anything that could be bought over the counter would be strong enough to get rid of whatever I had. It seemed to good to be true and I was convinced after the cream and pills had worn off the rash would come straight back but as I sit here now a few days on there has been nothing at all. I took only one pill and applied the cream only once and whatever I had seems to have gone for good.

cream and tablets cure

Team Miracle Cure

Writing this now has also reminded me I meant to stock up on the cream for future issues, I’m convinced this cream can solve anything – global economic crisis? Put some cream on it. Shame I completely forgot on the way out of Xiamen.

So lesson of the road 2:

–          Hotels don’t mean luxury.

–          Don’t be a douche bag – if you find some magic cream – stock up on it!

Sorry for not including any pictures of the rash, I was too busy thinking of ways to kill myself while Kirsty was trying to prevent me from doing so. There are however some of my bum in the early stages which will be available from the No Place To Be shop in the near future, framed and signed (enlarged poster sized)


{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith September 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Poi, what did you have?? Do you know what the pills and cream are used to treat? Sounds like an awful (and scary) night. Glad it all got sorted out for you.
Keith´s last blog post ..Trackpacking- Rodrigo y Gabriela


Poi September 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I’ve been trying to research what it might have been and came up with nothing, Nobody in the chemist spoke english and everything on the pills and cream is in Chinese so I’m very much in the dark but happy to be clear of it.


Adventurous Kate September 20, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I admire your candor (and humor), Poi, in telling this story! Sounds like a truly horrifying experience, and I’m glad you were able to recover so quickly.

Stay safe!
Adventurous Kate´s last blog post ..My Next Adventure- The Asia Jaunt


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:45 am

It’s the only way to tell it really, it was all so crazy during the night I couldn’t help but laugh afterwards.


ayngelina September 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I must know what this was, it sounds terrible! So glad the mystery medication cleared it up.
ayngelina´s last blog post ..12 things I hate about traveling


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

I don’t think many people in the medical industry follow this blog so we may never know 🙁


Amanda September 21, 2010 at 12:06 am

Yikes! This certainly does sound like a hellish night! At first maybe I thought bedbugs, but since Kirsty wasn’t affected and whatever it was seemed to follow you, I’m stumped! Glad to know the magical cream worked, however.
Amanda´s last blog post ..In Search of Seals- Hiking in Wellington


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:48 am

As bad as it sounds, the fact it was only me who had it made me very angry at the time? Whhhyy meee?? I’m glad Kirsty didn’t have it as well though as we may have made a suicide pact, jokes.


Andi September 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm

What a f*cking nightmare! So glad you were able to clear it up quickly with that cream. I wanted to kill myself in Barcelona this past July with my tooth. I had to get an emergency root canal I was in so much pain.
Andi´s last blog post ..Planning Netherlands &amp Spain


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:51 am

We’re a happy bunch aren’t we, all this talk of killing ourselves! It’s all part of te fun maybe??


Mary R September 22, 2010 at 12:10 am

Scary! I could feel my own anxiety level rising just reading your account! Goodness, aren’t you curious about what it was? I want to know in case I ever have the same symptoms…

I also developed a rash when I was in Hawaii years ago. It pretty much killed enjoying myself at the beach, and I didn’t want to be shark bait!

Glad it worked out for you in the end, and if I ever see the cream with the green man on front, I will buy the stuff!
Mary R´s last blog post ..Have You Ever Been a Travel Spectacle


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

If you see it buy me some as well!

I would like to know what it was but at the same time it’s gone and as long as it stays that way I’ll be happy.

The beaches aren’t great in XIamen but that sucks having that happen in Hawaii!


Jaime D. September 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

Yes seriously this is a fucking nightmare. I would have gone crazy and OMG how can you be so happy with out knowing what it was???? Well I getwhy cus its gone but no way I would have to find out what… how… and why…!

Glad you are back to normal (w/o rash) and feeling good!!!
Jaime D.´s last blog post ..7 most FAQs about my RTW trip


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:55 am

Thanks Jamie, Like you say as long as it’s gone I’m happy. It might be down to lack of birthday beers!?!


Caz Makepeace September 22, 2010 at 4:47 am

This is horrible Poi. I felt so sick and itchy just reading it. I’m so glad you are okay and hope we can all discover what it was. You are learning very quickly that travel makes you so much stronger!!
Caz Makepeace´s last blog post ..Dear Beijing


Poi September 22, 2010 at 10:57 am

I’m learning quickly that travel might kill me! You’re right though after going though that there is plenty of things that will seem like nothing now.

I did warn at the begining about the itching!


DIANE September 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Hi Chris, that sounds really bad, possible allergic reaction to the bites! LOL Get to a chemist and stock up with the cream, you never know when u will need it again. Also get some phenergen anti-histamine tablets too.

Must have been the bed bugs – don’t envy you one bit, but looking fwd to the next episode


Melusine September 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Oh wow! you poor sod! Absolutely hilarious to read but I can imagine what a nightmare it must’ve been! I’ve had things like that, you think you’re going to die and then it disappears as quickly as it’s come!! You should at least have a cool scar or get a medal or something?!hehe Glad you’re ok and always stock up on pills and potions, you never know…


Verity November 16, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Man, that sounds utterly terrible! Poor you.

It sounds to me like you had a really bad allergic reaction to something. Are you normally allergic to anything? It might not have been from the bed in the hotel… or from bugs. I think you can get that kind of reaction from something you ate. Did you eat anything weird? The thing about food is that you can have allergies, where you are always allergic to something… like people who are terribly allergic to peanuts, or you can have intolerances. Intolerances build up in your system over a long time, so for instance… you could eat chocolate every day for a month and then suddenly there is enough of whatever chemical built up in your body that you get a massive allergic reaction. Then you won’t get a reaction for a while but suddenly it might outbreak again. Have you ever had anything like that before, but to a lesser degree?

I don’t know if it could be this, I would guess that the pills she gave you were an anti-histamine to reduce whatever allergic reaction you were having and the cream might have been steroid cream or something similar to stop the itching.

If I were you, I would make sure that you keep a supply of anti-histamines with you (like claratyne) in case it happens again. Also, if it is an intolerance, it can be worse the next time so if it starts to happen again you should definitely take a tablet straight away and I would go to a hospital if I were you since you were in so much pain and allergic reactions can be dicey things.

Sorry for the giant comment! My mum is a dietitian so she has told me a bit about this. Also my aunt has an intolerance to seafood and she found out when her whole body went red (though she was also throwing up). The thing is that she ate seafood her whole life and never had a big problem with it before. I hope this helps a bit for you to decipher what it was that you had. And I hope it doesn’t happen again!
Verity´s last blog post ..Where withsparkles is at


Verity November 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I just reread my comment and maybe it sounded a bit scary! Sorry, I wouldn’t be too worried if I were you… likelihood is it won’t happen again anyway. All I meant to say was just be prepared with the awesome cream and tablets with you just in case 🙂 and don’t be afraid to go to the hospital if you are feeling truly awful.
Verity´s last blog post ..Where withsparkles is at


Poi November 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm

You have scared me a little bit but it all helps towards understanding what it might have been.

I’ve never had anything like it in the past although my dad said he had a similar reaction to tablets he had been taking for years. There has been no signs of it returning as of yet, which is nice but I’ll definately take your advice and take some tabletsstraight away, I still have some left and the cream.

Thanks for taking the time to explain the above it’s great to know!


Thomas Sinfield January 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Just realised this was an older post (found it via your Twitter), but reading it reminded me of a similar situation that we found ourselves in.

We’d just spent 3 months in Canada (from Australia), and decided to hit up New York City for a couple of days on the way home. We got a great deal on a hotel room about 2 blocks from Times Square, but within 24 hours my wife was getting massive itchy welts (or what looked like them), over her entire body.

I am glad they have 24 hours chemist because at 10pm I was frantically searching the surrounding blocks for a chemist. I stocked up on a couple of different anti itch creams which was applied more frequently than suggested.

The worst thing was that we were set to fly home the next day (about15+ hours), and I could not even imagine the struggle she must have had trying to handle the itchiness for that long.

We thought maybe bed bugs – but just like you two. It only happened to one of us.
Thomas Sinfield´s last blog post ..One Site Indexed &amp Ranked In 24 Hours The Other Isn’t – Analysis Breakdown


Poi January 29, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Hey, thanks for checking out our blog.

Sounds very similar, now that I can just about recall the night without feeling sick I’m interested to know what it was. A couple of people have also mentioned to me they’ve had a similar experience but again it only seems to affect one person.

Never happened again to your wife I hope? I’ve had nothing like it since.


Ali February 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

OMG I missed this when you originally posted it. How awful! Is that the incredible hulk on the package of the meds you took? Or the jolly green giant? Hopefully you won’t have any more crazy rash situations again.
Ali´s last blog post ..Iguazu Falls


Poi February 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I think it’s a combination of the two, so not sure what that means??

Had nothing since, touch backpack.


Jonny Blair November 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I totally missed this article first time round guys and remember following all your stuff back then. Incredible story, and still somewhat of an enigma. We’ve all had travel moments like that and health becomes number one, as ever. I lay on a dirty floor in an airport in Trinidad and Tobago once convinced I was going to lie there and die due to food poisoning. A security guard came in and escorted me to the gate of my flight. Horrendous experience.

Healthy and safe travels. Jonny
Jonny Blair´s last blog post ..Thirsty Thursdays: Drinking Guinness at the North Korea to South Korea Border at Panmunjom, DMZ


Kirsty December 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm

This was truely awful and I was just witnessing it!


Sofie December 11, 2013 at 7:03 am

Djeez that sounds awful:/
Also SO frustrating that it was something that was cured so easily but that you had to wait until the pharmacy opened:/
Sofie´s last blog post ..The Pacsafe Citysafe 100 GII anti-theft travel handbag: a review


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