Almost everything you didn’t want to know about bedbugs…

Why am I writing about bedbugs on a blog that talks predominantly about food and travel? Well, because bedbugs are unfortunately becoming a big part of travel, both when we travel domestically and abroad. Before I get going here, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m any kind of expert.  I just want to post some of the information that I’ve found from years of working in hostels and travelling internationally.  The more we, as travellers are aware of the currently HUGE problem of bedbugs, the better we can combat them and travel more comfortably and peacefully!

As you’ve noticed if you read my blog, we’ve encountered bedbugs at least four or five times on this trip already and we’ve only been gone about four months! This is a huge increase from our last trip where we were away for six months.  The bedbug problem is increasing and they definitely seem to be more prevalent lately.  That being said, we also find them because we know how to look for them, what they look like and where they tend to hide.  When we get into a new room, it’s the first thing we usually do and that is why we sometimes find them before sleeping in the room and getting bit.  In any case, I hope by giving you a bit of info about them, you are not totally grossed out and instead feel a bit more empowered during your next trip abroad or at home! So here goes:

-Bedbugs are non-discriminatory.  Like cockroaches, they don’t have anything to do with what star of hotel you are staying in or how clean or dirty it is.  They can be anywhere, regardless.  It doesn’t mean they don’t clean the room properly if you have them in your bed.  Bedbugs are extremely hardy and can go for a long time without eating.  They can live in the carpet, the floor, the mattress and the bed frame.  They can travel a long distance for a meal

-Bedbugs do not (as far as studies currently show) carry disease or transmit anything from one person to another.  They are essentially harmless except for their extremely itchy, annoying bites

-Bedbugs look like this:

I spared you the actual photos I found on google because they were just too disgusting.  Note the colour and the lines on their body.  If they are full of your blood they can look fatter.  I know this is disgusting, just hang in there!

Like I said above, they can hide in all sorts of places, but if you are trying to find them in your room you can look for them under the mattress.  Peel back the seam of the mattress and look for tell-tale signs.  If you don’t see them, you may find lots of black specks.  These are their body casings (they molt), and poo! gross!! Shudder…okay.  Look in the bed frame.  If your bed frame is made of wood, look in the knot holes and the nail holes.  They like these kind of places.

-Bedbugs come out at night, specifically when you are in the bed as they are attracted to the warmth.  I read somewhere that they are most common between the hours of 3am and 5am and I tend to agree with this.

-Bedbug bites look kind of like mosquito bites so sometimes you might not realize what is getting you when you are travelling.  I’ve seen people just covered in tell-tale bites complaining of all the mosquito bites they’ve been getting while they are relaxing poolside chatting with their friends.  If you are getting bit in rows, especially in groups of three bites or more, these are most likely bedbug bites.  Check out this:

Messed up Bedbug Bites

These are three nasty, upset bedbug bites on M’s finger after the aforementioned “incident” in Ho Chi Minh.  I think he is a bit allergic to them, so you can see they are a bit infected.  We eventually had to lance them.  Yummy!! But you see how they are red, inflamed and in a set of three? Bedbugs!  How many readers have I lost yet?

-What to do if you find bedbugs: This is only my advice and what works best for us, and again, I am not a professional in any way but what works for us is to leave.  This is bad I know, because in some ways it heightens the risk of transferring them to the next place you are staying, and spreading them.  So this is why I suggest you take everything you are wearing, everything that has been out in the room and has been in contact with the room.  Put it in a plastic bag and tie it up and get your laundry washed.  Keep your bag as far away from the bed area as you can.  Tell the place you are staying and if they don’t speak English (as is usually the case with us), bring them the bedbugs if you can and show them.  Explain to them that they are biting you and they need to spray the room.  As for your bites, we find that a hydrocortisone cream works the best.  The itchiness goes away after a few days.  In fact, the worst thing about bedbugs is the psychological problems they bring.  After you know you’ve had bugs crawling on you in the night, sucking your blood, its hard not to get crawly and yucky feeling when you crawl into bed.  You may feel like you have them on you when you don’t and you don’t want to move to a new place after you get a “good” room for fear of getting them.  It kind of messes you up a bit.  But unfortunately, there is not much you can do about them. 

Anyway, I hope the above stuff helps some travellers and you are not too grossed out by me! I promise I won’t post too many more disgusting blog posts and I’ll get back to flowers and food and nice things in my next post! Thanks for hanging in there!


Or not Bali…

Wow, what a day…I have to say, Singapore has not been kind to us so far.  I am just starting to recover from the events of the past few hours.  So as I mentioned in the last post, just written earlier today, we had a ticket to go to Bali, leaving Singapore at 6:30 this evening.  Ask me if I’m in Bali? No, I am not in Bali.  I am still in Singapore.  Man, what a terrible day.  Okay, so anyway, here is the story:

Went to the airport without a hitch, taking the MRT.  Didn’t take long at all.  Stood in a long line up for web check in.  Finally got to the front.  Oh we’re in the wrong line up.  Okay, no problem.  Go to the right line up, still have 90 minutes before flight leaves.  Man takes our passports and itinerary.  Asks us where we are headed after Bali. 

“Umm, probably Bangkok” 

“Okay, can I see your itinerary for that trip?”

“Ummm, no we haven’t booked it yet.  We don’t know when we are going.”

“Oh, well you need an ongoing ticket in order for us to release the bording passes.”

“Okay, ummm..we don’t have tickets yet, so what can we do?”

“Buy tickets to leave Bali”

After much cursing and deliberation and WTF’ing we asked him how much it would cost for us to book tickets to leave Bali, and go to Bangkok in approx. 30 days.  Answer? About 500 SGD.  Commence freakout.  Then things really started going downhill.  We asked him if there was anything else we could do and he said no.  We left the counter and freaked out over to the side a bit.  What should we do? We have our ticktes, the plane is leaving at this point in about an hour and we can’t possibly spend that much to fly out.  To give you some perspective, we just bought our tickets *TO* Bali for under $200 CAD including all taxes.  Tickets that eventually, went in the garbage.  Read on, and I’ll explain.  So anyway, we go back to find out where the internet is.  It’s upstairs and in another area and we don’t think we have enough time to check competing airlines for ongoing tickets and book and pay online and still board our flight.  To add insult to injury, the guy we were dealing with at Jetstar was a total asshole.  While I realize it was probably our fault for not being clear on the visa regulations, he was completely unhelpful, and mostly ignored us.  I had to practically beg for his attention to get him to answer our questions.  I had never had to book an ongoing ticket for an entry visa before, so this was new for us.  As well, M had been to Indonesia before and didn’t have this problem, so it’s a relatively recent law change.  We took it for granted and didn’t check as we got used to never being asked.  Our fault, for sure.  But the terrible service didn’t help anything.

As time dwindled away as we tried to figure something out, M suddenly realized that although we didn’t have departing tickts from Bali, we did have return tickets to Canada leaving from Bangkok.  Proof that we didn’t plan on staying in the country illegally forever.  Maybe this would work? He went back to the counter to find out (at this point I was turning into an ugly terrible customer service nightmare and also worried about causing a scene and getting arrested in SG, so I decided that I should not talk to this man anymore).  M hurried back.  Yes, this proof of ticket would work.  But it was in my email.  I didn’t have a printed copy anywhere.  We weren’t going to need it for at least three months, so I thought I had plenty of time to get it.  The internet cafe in the airport doesn’t print and the man at the Jetstar counter refused to use his computer to access it from my email.  We were fucked.  Time was running out.  I tried getting wireless on my Kindle but it didn’t work.  I recently broke my ipod and the wireless hasn’t been working.  The plane was boarding and we were out of time.  M went back to the Jetstar counter one last time to try to basically beg the man to help us.  He refused, instead saying that he couldn’t print flight info from competing airlines.  If we would have had more time we could have done something.  Maybe borrowed someones Ipad or I don’t know what.  But in the end we ran out of time and the flight boarded.  The stupidest way to miss a flight ever.  At the airpot, on time, checked in online, printed check in documents…did everything we thought we were supposed to do….and this is how we missed our first flight.  Worst.  Day.  Ever.

After tearing up in the airpot with dissapointment, we contemplated our next move.  Fuck Bali.  We can’t afford to buy another ticket to go there and buy our onward ticket in peak season.  We had expected to get a three month visa upon arrival and wait for peak season to pass before we left.  Now it just became unpractical for us to spend money on another two tickets there and out for a 30 day visa.  We thought we would fly to Bangkok but we had already decided that we needed more than a one month visa for Thailand.  Thailand has recently changed their visa regulations as well and you only get a 30 day visa for flight arrivals for Canadians.  We had decided that we needed to apply for a longer 90 day visa before going back there so we could complete our plan of going north.  If we flew directly into BKK, we wouldn’t have enough time to make it worth returning.  We had no choice but to head back to Singapore and plan our next move.

Did I mention this is the worst day ever? Took the shuttle back to the hotel we stayed at last night.  I got the name wrong by the way, its Summerview, not Sunview (I think that’s what I said before).  Now we are heading back into SG for the packed holiday weekend.  And lo and behold, the icing on the cake, our hotel raised their rates by another $30 SGD.  I couldn’t help it.  I got back to our room and had a meltdown.  Full on weeping mess.  I was devastated after doing so much planning for Bali.  I had maps, itineraries and ideas of restaurants and things I wanted to visit.  I don’t want to give the impression I am inflexible.  I have travelled in SE Asia before and I know “things can happen”.  For sure, this has been a lesson for me that I need to be even more relaxed and realize that things don’t always go the way you plan them.  Lots of people miss their flights.  Lots of people have messed up plans and bad things happen but it was just too much in one day.  The guy being an asshole, being so close to “fixing” the problem but the stress of trying to race against the clock to figure it out, getting back to our hotel that is already way out of our budget, it was too much.  We are major budget travellers that had to sacrifice a lot for this trip and to save up for it and these kinds of things are pretty big blows to us, financially. Oh and incidentally, the hostel we booked in Kuta, also lost, 24 hour cancellation policy.  We’re paying for it anyway.

Anyway, I am feeling a bit better now, realizing that these things happen for a reason and just because we didn’t get to Bali today doesn’t mean I don’t get to go.  Our plan now is to research visa turnover time and try to apply for a three month visa for Thailand and see if we can move to a hostel tomorrow to save money.  Bali can go on the backburner until flight prices go down again after peak season or we do it on another trip.  Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully we can find a decent dorm that we can stay in just till the visa gets processed.  Then, buy another flight and start over.  We don’t know what else to do. 

That’s what’s happening right now….stay tuned! Things have to go up from here, right?

Singapore and onto Bali…

Just at an internet cafe here in Singapore for a bit before heading to the airport, so no time for adding photos today, sorry! I do have some from New Years in KL at from here in SG but they will have to wait.  Ahhh Singapore, what to say.  I think I’ll gain some better perspective after leaving.  In a few words: I like it.  But we did have a bit of a rough start.  Our bus ride here was fine and going through customs and immigration over the land border was surprisingly smooth.  I think it helped leaving after the Xmas holidays were finished, so most kids were back in school.  There were no lineups anywhere.  The traffic was good so the trip was a lot shorter than we were originally expecting.  We arrived at a bus stop in SG and since I had done a bit of research, I had a vague idea of where we needed to go to get to the hostel we were looking at.  We hopped on a bus and after about a ten minute ride and a ten minute walk, we arrived in Geylang, also known as SG’s red light district. 

We got to the hostel I had been emailing, and not only did they claim the person I had been emailing didn’t exist, but the rates I thought we were going to pay, didn’t exist either.  Due to their general surly service and the fact that their private room was actually a triple tiered dorm with no window and the size of a small train compartment, we decided to look elsewhere.  Around the corner in the same area, we found another guesthouse, this after wandering around with our backpacks looking for both a hotel and a bank machine.  We talked to the guy at the front desk of this place and he was actually trying to discourage us from staying in the private room, which was in their older building, and instead wanted us to stay in their dorm in the new building.  Since it would be more expensive for us both to stay in a dorm than in one private room, we persisted.  Uhh, yeah.  We checked in and looked at our dismal state of affairs.  The room had a bunk bed.  That in itself, not a problem for us.  It had aircon which worked, which is a luxury for us.  We are not the luxury flashpacker type.  However, once we saw the blood (yes, blood!) and mold on the walls and the pools of piss in the bathroom (which he warned us didn’t work!) we decided it probably wasn’t for us.  Luckily we hadn’t paid as we hadn’t found the ATM yet,  we walked around once again looking for somewhere else.  Finally we stumbled upon another hotel we were recommended by a couple friends we made recently.  Compared to the last place, it looked much better but it meant we’d be going from $44 SGD to $65 SGD with the rate going up on the weekend.  Fine, no problem.  We went back and got our bags from the blood wall place, told him sorry we couldnt stay after all and walked back to the other hotel and checked in.  While a small step up, we soon realized we weren’t in a much better place.  Mold covered every surface in the room.  The walls, the vinyl wallpaper the wood, everywhere.  The smell was overwhelming (and I’m being serious here, I’ve stayed in plently a musty place, happily! But this was a bit beyond our limits).  The bed itself was made of vinyl.  Vinyl.  And the bedsheet came to about the 3/4 point of the bed so when you got in, you were touching the bare vinyl bed.  The sink emptied out onto the floor.  Whole families of 6 were crammed into rooms next to us, screaming and running down the halls all night.  It was awful.  I stayed up as late as I could just so I would be so tired, I could fall asleep right away and hoped that morning would come soon. 

Whine, whine, we survived and checked out early the next morning.  Headed down to look for yet another hostel in the guidebook, wandering arounda  new area to not be able to find it anywhere.  Finally I found a payphone and tried to call them.  No answer.  We were getting really frustrated by this point.  Hot, tired and stinky, we just wanted a decent place to put down our bags for a couple days.  We knew we needed to find a place fast.  We were only going to be here for a couple days so every hour we spent wandering around with our bags was time lost from sightseeing and actually enjoying things.  I left M with my bags and wandered around the neighbourhood a bit.  Finally, after looking at another scuzzy moldy flop house (and quite sure a den of prostitution), I found a very nice hotel.  At $150 SGD though, a huge leap in our budget.  However, after going back and talking about it with M, we just realized it wasn’t worth the struggle anymore.  We were tired, we were losing out on “fun” times and in the end, what were we going to remember from the trip? The money spent on a hotel room or the time we spent having fun looking at stuff? We dragged our bags to this last place and were so relieved to finally check in to a place that is MUCH nicer than we are used to.  Highlights included: bathtub (actually clean enough to have a bath in!), buffet breakfast included, clean bedding, tv, aircon, kettle with tea and coffee in the room, free luggage storage, helpful friendly front desk staff, no mold! etc etc.  We were very happy and I finally had the best nights sleep I’ve had in ages. Far above and beyond what we normally get travelling but a worthy treat in these circumstances.

The rest of the time in SG has been good.  Apart from the higher cost of food than we are used to, we found it to be a very good city  to hang out in.  Green and beautiful with amazing modern architecture, we vowed to come back and stay at Raffles one day.  I will say more about this kind of stuff when I get a chance to post pictures I think.  We walked around Orchard Road a lot (tree lined shopping district), checked out Raffles and the Marina Sands Resort (gorgeous), Fort Canning, our area of Bencoolen and some temples.  The best part about SG food has been the huge amounts of Vegetarian food everywhere.  We were even given a veg guidebook by the tourism office.  That and the fresh fruit and vegetable juices have been great.  The fruit and veg juice is very cheap and since you can drink the tap water here you don’t have to worry about them adding water, like you do in other places. 

Anyway, today we are onto Bali as I mentioned, and another hotel room.  This time we decided to take a chance and actually make a reservation at a place with a so-so rating, but the most reasonable priced place we can book online.  Our plan is to stay there for one night (in Kuta) and look around for a cheaper/better place the next day.  We arrive in Kuta at 9:15 tonight so it was a good idea for us just to have a place to head to as soon as we get out of the airport.  For everyone’s reference though, the hostels and hotels in my above-mentioned experience are:

Ideal Backpackers-surly staff, coffin like rooms, overpriced but looked clean

River City/Kallang Backpackers-blood on walls, piss on floors and probably harbouring large families of illegals!

Hotel 81 Orchid-mold everywhere, weird sheets, horrid smell

Sunview Hotel-in Bencoolen, fantastic but you pay a lot more!

As far as staying in Geylang itself, I wouldn’t neccesarily not recommend it for the area.  It is supposed to be the red light district but I don’t think I actually saw any “ladies of the night” while I was there.  I did however see:

-A dead bloated cat with its legs up in the air and a towel over its head

-A fight between a crazed man and woman from our hotel window where they basically beat the shit out of each other

-A man laying on the sidewalk with his face all bloodied up, making a phone call on his mobile

-And possibly worst of all: tonnes of live frog porridge restaurants!! Aquariums of live frogs waiting for death everywhere!! 😦

Crossing my fingers for Bali.  Don’t think I’m going to be much of a fan of Kuta itself but I’m looking forward to Ubud and beyond.  M has scared me a little bit as I don’t think Indonesia is his favourite place to be.  Loves the country, but hates the hassle and pushiness of the touts and transport issues (flat tires, delays etc).  Sounds kind of like India! I can do this!


PS-Sorry, I can’t spell check on this ancient computer for some reason.  Forgive my mistakes! 😛