Returning back home from Vietnam

Traveling in Vietnam
View over Halong Bay City & Bay in North Vietnam

Following is my saga of my tour to Vietnam during the beginning of the Corona Crisis. Although it all happend end January 2020 & begin February 2020 I do write this on begin May 2020. And to protect the innocents this is scheduled to be published a bit later. I had planned a beautiful trip during January & February 2020 from North Vietnam to South Vietnam and then to Cambodia. It promised to become a great trip meeting old & new friends. Visiting known & unknown places. In Hanoi with a small group we did visit the old quarter, ride a bicycle around the West-Lake, visited the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Min and other highlights of Hanoi. It was a bit bad planned as it was at the time of the famous TET Festival (Vietnamese New Year) when many Vietnamese travel back to their hometown. And because of that some highlights were closed but worse many restaurants were closed. So it became a bit of a searching to find places to eat something else as noodle soup. In the meanwhile 1 of the people of our small group became a little bit sick, but he blamed the airco in the bus and took some paracetamol. Knowing that in the home-country of my friends a small flu epidemic was going on I did not worry me at all. But later I heard he was actually not a little bit sick but had high fever.

After a few days Hanoi we did go to Halong Bay City where we watched the fire-work for TET Festival and had dinner in a fast-food chain eating hamburgers because all restaurants (incl. in the hotel) were closed. Of course we made a beautiful trip on Halong Bay and visited a cave. It was a nice trip as it was in the afternoon when not many people go there. Actually it was quite as in the meanwhile the Corona Virus started to sweep its tail in China and many Chinese did stay home. *1

So we had the cave all to ourselves. After 2 days Halong Bay City we returned to Hanoi to fly to Hue. Although the Corona Virus had by that time already made its landfall outside China there were no preventive measures at Hanoi Domestic Airport or Hue Airport. We arrived more as 1 hour delayed in Hue and checked in at our hotel in the evening. By that time I was starting to feel sick also. Not surprised about it as 2 other friends in the group started to feel sick also.

In Hue the idea was to make a tour at the Forbidden City but I skipped that and took a rest in the hotel. In the meanwhile 2 others of the group had also become sick. One with food poisoning and another also with something like flu. After 2 days Hue we did travel to Hoi An where we would stay for 4 days. A great place for me to rest and get better again! In the meanwhile the Corona Virus Crisis started to become a worldwide problem and traveling became a little bit more difficult. Being sick and flying was not a good option anymore.

So in Hoi An I had the idea to rest in my room and get better. But it did not go better, actually it became worse. So on recommendations of friends I did go to a doctor in Hoi An. The doctor tested me and wanted to do a blood test. And also do a Dengue test as he thought I had dengue fever. After waiting a hour the results came back ... "I had dengue fever". I was shocked as I did not feel like someone who has dengue fever. So I asked again and the answer was again "I had dengue". Holy shit! And mind you the healthcare in Hoi An is not very well. I did not know it at the time but if you are ever sick in Hoi An just go to Da Nang for better healthcare.

So what now? Should I be traveling to Saigon for good healthcare? But as a sick traveller and risking to be locked down in Saigon? So I figured out that the longer I stay in Vietnam the less chance I have to return to Thailand, where there is good healthcare. And as there is a direct flight from Da Nang to Bangkok I booked a flight as soon as possible. So unfortunately I had to cancel my trip but my friends would find the help of another friend of mine living in Vietnam.

So in the afternoon I took a taxi to Da Nang International Airport and checked-in my luggage, got a boarding card and went thru immigration. Before immigration was a thermo scanner that should find people with fever. But I am not sure if there was someone watching the scanner. After a smooth flight thru lighting (beautiful to see but not when you are in an airplane) I landed at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Also at Don Muang Airport there was a thermo scanner, but not much chance of finding people with fever. I walked to the taxi counter and took a taxi straight to the hospital, where I arrived late in the evening.

And although I arrived late in the evening the service was very good. All kind of tests were done, general blood test, dengue test and influenza test. And there was a x-ray taken of my lungs. After that I was hospitalised with some medicines. The next day in the morning the test results came back :
  • Yes I once in my life HAD dengue but not at this moment.
  • Yes I had fever
  • Some blood levels were very low (even after 3 days still too low to fly)
  • I had Influenza
  • My lungs were clean, albeit with a slight bronchitis
Luckily I have a healthcare insurance that pays in-patient healthcare and I was hospitalised for 4 days as my blood levels were not fit to fly. So after 4 days in the wonderful care of lovely nurses I did fly home sweet home to Nan where my lovely wife picked me up. That was in begin February 2020. It took me another 2 weeks to really feel better again.

But in hindsight ..... 

Knowing what we know now. Yes, I did ask the doctor in the hospital "Could this be Corona?" and she just laughed "No worry you just have a flu". *2

And yes indeed I never had the serious effects of the Corona Virus. And yes knowing the incubation time of the Corona Virus it would be unlikely that I had the Corona Virus. But there are many Chinese tourists in Hanoi and there had been in Hanoi already human-to-human transmission of the Corona Virus.

Epilog

At hindsight I am very happy happy I did make the decision to return back to Thailand. A bit later friends off mine have been quarantined in Vietnam. But it did cost me a lot money extra money :

  • Check-up in Hoi An
  • Taxi to Da Nang
  • Last minute flight to Bangkok
  • Taxi to hospital in Bangkok
  • Small payment of hospital costs
  • Taxi to airport
  • Extra flight from Bangkok to Nan


*1 = First confirmed Corona case in Vietnam was on 22 January 2020 in Hanoi
*2 = First confirmed Corona case in Thailand was on 13 January 2020 in Bangkok

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