South East Asia has a lot of stray cats and dogs. I’ve seen them in all the countries I’ve travelled through. In some they looked worse than in others. Especially in Myanmar and Laos, they just scared me. I got into several situations where aggressive dogs made me change my path, not visit a temple or just too scared to continue. It’s like the dogs smell you are foreign and that is enough to attack.
I have enough time to realise it. I am going to get bitten.
Savannakhet was one of those places that seemed to have more dogs than people on the street. The sun was setting and I had my first stroll through the colonial part of town. I’m in a street where a few people are sitting in front of their houses and others are preparing food. A dog lies on someone’s property and starts to look at me as I approach. My alarm bells start ringing, but there is a local family around, so I feel a bit better. They usually know how to handle the dogs. To be safe I take a big circle around the animal, showing that I am not invading on his space. I pass him and I am happy. But then I hear a quick repetition of footsteps behind me. I have enough time to realise it. I am going to get bitten.
The dog bites me in the leg and all I hear is laughing. The ‘mum’ of the family is laughing at me. Luckily the dog thinks one bite is enough and speeds back to its place. I am freaked out. I do not stop to look at my leg, but hurry away from the place and the less than helpful family. A few streets further I encounter two more dogs. Now these ones really seem aggressive. They are barking loudly and start to move in my direction. I back away and take a different street. I am in tears now, but manage to reach the night market. I sit down for some food and inspect my leg. There’s no blood, it is just swollen.
And then my first Lao hospital experience starts.
Back in my guesthouse I am wondering what to do. I can’t think clearly. I call my mum for some advice, already knowing the answer. I search the internet for advice as well. ‘Always go to a doctor in case of a bite by an animal’. That’s it then. The guesthouse owner calls his brother, who is a tuktuk driver and we go to the hospital. It is after hours so I end up in a relatively quiet ER. I don’t know how much the staff understands of my story, but I try to explain what happened and that I am not sure if I need treatment. Three people stare at my leg. They discuss. They stare. They discuss again.
The message is clear and after a while they decide something is going to happen. Then they send me along with a woman to another building. First I get some papers and we hand them in at the next building, which is the hospital pharmacy. The lady at the desk asks if I speak Lao. Well, no… She points to the chairs and I sit down. Then the woman who took me along shows me her leg. She got bitten by a dog a while ago, only it was much worse. All this time I thought she worked for the hospital, but it turns out she is just a really nice patient, who is willing to take a clueless foreigner through the routine she already knows. She waves and leaves the hospital with a big pack of medicine. I stay behind on the chair.
Isn’t it funny that my limited French saved me.
My driver has been waiting all this time and is curious what’s taking so long. He talks to the lady at the desk and then explains to me in French what is going on. They are going to give me a vaccine, but they are preparing the bill, so I can claim it on my insurance. My lovely driver arranges for me to get the injection and then come back to pick up the bill afterwards. Back in the ER I hand the box with the vaccine over to the nurse/doctor/receptionist, it’s hard to distinguish. They prepare it and put it in my arm, without using gloves. At least I’d seen the box. It clearly said ‘rabies, for human use’. They also gave me a card with two more dates on it. On these dates I would need more injections. I picked up the bill, thanked my driver and we drove back.
To be continued…