A Reluctant Change of Plans
We are not in Laos. We are supposed to be volunteering for Let Laos Learn a great grassroots organization in the town of Vang Veng. We had travelled Japan and Vietnam in hot humid weather that was in direct dissonance with our bodies. We went to Cambodia and the heat was still there but we appreciated not being in a loud, dirty, hot, humid, overwhelming city with terrible air quality. However we were not climatizing! We were still sweating buckets every time we went for a walk. We enjoyed the people, the monkeys and the beautiful temples of Siem Reap despite almost getting heat stroke from walking through Angkor Wat. Naomi came down with a heat rash.
I then received an email from the US Embassy in Laos (I shared our travel plans with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) warning of an endemic Dengue Fever outbreak that was at its peak in October in Laos. (It's actually at record highs in much of Asia due to climate change.) I was starting to doubt the decision to go to Laos. Health concerns along with fears about our ability to be helpful in Laos where we would be doing some manual labor and teaching English without the luxury of air conditioning in 90 degree heat with 90% humidity were keeping me up at night. All our anxiousness came to the surface during an evening conversation. “I am not sure I can do this” was the consensus. John and I conferred, this trip is precious family time. Should we spend it being physically miserable? We came to the difficult decision to not go to Laos despite how much we were looking forward to being in one place, volunteering for awhile. We spent a few more days in Siem Reap retreating to our air conditioned hotel room and swimming pool in the hot afternoons.
We made alternative plans to go to nearby Thailand and retreat from our city hopping itinerary to get beach time. After a bit of research we chose Koh Lanta. It has a lower malaria and Dengue Fever risk than other parts of Thailand. We are here at the end of the low season (rainy season), apparently the thralls of crowds start arriving in November. We found a great place with cheap bungalows and a swimming pool feet from the beach. It has been paradise.
For a few days I was still upset about bailing on volunteering. I like to think of myself as someone who follows through on my commitments. However Naomi’s skin rash was getting worse and after some research we realized she was reacting to the anti-malaria meds. The rash was breaking the skin and she couldn’t bear going into the salty ocean. Luckily the malaria risk here is low so we stopped the meds and put her on steroids. She is improving now but still recovering.
We are not in Laos and I believe that is the best , although difficult, decision for us.