The main attraction site in Luang Namtha is the 222.400 square-hectare big Nam Ha National Protected Area, which offers a myriad of trekking and cultural opportunities to multi-ethnic tribes. From a one day hike to a 5 day full jungle adventure with homestays, Luang Namtha is a perfect starting point. The Nam Ha NPA offers breathtaking mountain views, apparently over 38 species of large mammals (which apparently nobody ever sees) and multiple different ethnic tribes.
Oliver and I decided to break our long journey to Luang Prabang mid-way and stay a couple of days in Luang Namtha. We pictured ourself on a hard, but rewarding hike, cycling through lush green rice paddies and relaxing on the terrace of our bungalow. Instead, we got to know the nurses and doctors at the provincial hospital in Luang Namtha. And chickens. Yes. Chickens! In the hospital! But what happened?
Oliver started to feel bad even before we joined The Gibbon Experience. What we initially thought was just an annoying cold grew into something bigger and after 6 days of ongoing fever we started to get a little bit worried. We technically knew perfectly well that we weren’t in a Malaria or a Dengue fever area. Nevertheless, we’re (luckily) two absolute greenhorns when it comes down to travel sicknesses. I tried everything I knew (and learned from the internet and Oliver’s sister, who is a paramedic, on whatsapp assistance) to get that fever down, but nothing seemed to help. And after the fever started to head towards 40°C without any recovery in near sight, we decided to check out the local health system and take Oliver to the ER to get a blood test.
When we got there, there were probably 5 nurses sitting around, staring into their phones. Oliver got seated and one guy who spoke a little bit of English eventually stopped playing with his phone and we told him what the matter was. He took Oliver’s temperature and said everything was fine. Good thing I brought our thermometer with me and showed him that nothing was fine and Oliver was indeed burning up. This got things moving a bit and we were able to ask for a blood test. After the paperwork, we followed that guy to an administation window, where they did what only they knew. From there we had to go to another window to pre-pay the blood test (which cost like $6). After that, it was on to another window, where the patients could stick their arm through, to get their blood taken.
We were then told to wait 40 minutes for the results and got assigned a room, where Oliver was able to rest and sleep. Turned out they meant Lao 40 minutes, which eventually turned into 2 hours (but still, same day service and we got a room, so absolutely no complaints here) and gave me enough time to wander around the hospital premises and greet the chickens in the hallways. We then had 3 different people assuring us in English and something that could pass as Frenglish (French and English) that no, it was not Dengue and not Malaria. Oliver’s fever happily continued to rise and we still had no idea what the fever caused. They gave him an injection of paracetamol into his bum and told us they would try to find a doctor (at this point I started to ask myself who the hell all those other people around us were?!) Anyway, they found the guy, he told us that Oliver most probably had pneumonia and dished out some antibiotics, paracetamol, electrolytes, some bronchia medication and off we were!
All in all the trip to the hospital went better than feared and the medication really helped and we were able to continue our journey to Nong Khiaw, where we would spend Christmas. Little did we know, that the next mess was just around the corner…