I didn’t put my mosquito net down the other night while I lay on my bed to read a book. At least not until I switched off the light. That was probably a mistake.
The place was very quiet. Probably besides us, no one else was staying in the guesthouse. Quiet is a relative term, if there were a noise meter in the room it would have registered quite a bit of noise, but that was from the waterfall just about twenty metres from our chalet. It was a very different sound from the lively noises of the day – squeals and splashes and giggles very time my girls and the local kids jumped into the waters, and the sounds of Lao men gradually getting louder as they consumed the day’s quota of local beer. As if the beer was operating or rather relaxing their volume controls. By six it was getting dark and the weekend people were gone. At seven the girls tumbled happy and exhausted into bed, And so it was that an hour later it seemed as if the only living things within earshot were the waterfalls, a few geckoes and me, reading my book.
I switched off the light, drew the net down and tried to fall asleep. I drifted away even before my guilt about not writing anything hit me.
Around midnight I was awake again. The waterfalls seemed to be louder now, but more significantly something was tingling on my skin. I had that uncomfortable and unnerving sort of feeling that I was no longer alone under the net. Whatever it was wasn’t biting me but tickling and disturbing. Disturbing like that annoying drop of sweat that runs down over your body sometimes. I didn’t have the energy to investigate properly if it wasn’t biting me. So I tried to hide instead deeper under the quilt. I knew that wasn’t really what I should be doing, but I hoped the heavy cover would dispel the tickles.
This wasn’t working of course. What was worse? The old heavy damp smelling quilt or feeling that little buggers walking around on my flesh? And of course, despite hiding under the heavy cover I still felt them crawling, and now my head was itchy. Now I was scratching myself and I didn’t even know if they were still there and alive or not.
So now I was up and the light was on, and . . . Oh bummer! Yes I have small bugs walking around on my skin, and this after I had persuaded myself that I was imagining the whole thing. Not many, maybe two or three on each arm, though another three seemed to appear from nowhere when I had killed the first set. I started examining myself – no sign of bites, no sign of my blood where I had squashed the little brutes. They must be harmless other than having deprived of sleep and serenity.
I tried to take a shower. Luckily the place had hot and cold water, though the plumbing system delivered either very hot or very cold and didn’t seem able to give anything in between. So I mixed both waters in a big pot which was provided under the tap especially for this purpose. And at last I used an old aluminium bowl to pour water all over myself.
It felt great. Not only was I free of the little bugs but I felt refreshed. Now of course I was wide awake. More awake then I wanted. Outside, a storm was gathering and the air was thick – as if the fan over the beds was slicing it or stirring it. I didn’t realise it was raining at first as our chalet was sheltered under big trees so that the rain wasn’t falling on our roof, but I went outside to where the open-air bar had overlooked the calm blue waterfall pools during the day. Now there was a storm and a swirling torrent, and part of the seating was already gone.
It started raining harder and I went back to the room. I wasn’t about to go back to the bugs in my bed so I jumped in with the girls and cuddled up to Tania. At last I drifted away.
It was seven am before we were woken again. The guest house owner was banging on the door telling us to pack and get out. Her English was broken and I didn’t understand what she was talking about until I looked down to see she was standing in water. The flood water was brown now, and was almost reaching our house. The shoes I had left outside were afloat.
“How long do I have to pack?” I asked
“Fifteen minutes, car is coming in fifteen minutes.”
Ok, ok was almost packed already. We were supposed to leave that morning anyway so all was prepared. I just needed to wake the girls, throw the sponge bag and PJs into the luggage and we would be set to go. A few hours before time and in unexpected circumstances, but c’est la vie!
Waking up girls wasn’t easy but it wasn’t so difficult either as we had gone early to bed. In fifteen minutes we were ready. My larger bag has wheels but it’s just about light enough to lift. Luckily the driver came promptly and helped us over the wet ground with my bag on his shoulder. I took my own and Tania’s backpacks and Zoe carried her own. We were all half asleep and and amazed by the whole situation. The water had risen by at least a metre in the night. I knew it was raining but it was still a surprise.
We were now in the car. The driver read the questions on my face and told me he was taking us to their hotel in Luang Prabang.
“You can stay there or I can take you wherever you want.” He said.
He explained that the bar gets flooded every rainy season but the chalets were usually safe. They were at a higher level. “No one lives there. It’s only for dry season holiday.”
“Okay thank you. I sort of understand. Can you please take us to the airport? We can just wait there.”
So I was able to catch up with some writing at last as we waited a few hours longer for that flight than usual. And now we are happily on dry land in lovely lively colourful Hanoi.