Moon and I had been looking forward to our Bhutan trip. I remember the first time I heard of this trip was at the first quarter of 2014. I knew nothing about the place except that some people said it was a small country (and I am used to small countries/cities) with a totally out-of-this-world experience.
I had the privilege of working in a hospital setting all my professional life. I remember one of my mentors saying long ago, “Ansgar, you will be a better doctor after you have experienced some life and death.” That was about the time that I started off seeing head and neck cancer patients. My mentor was right. Being in the dental field, we seldom deal with death but seeing patients through that lens was another experience and certainly gave me a different perspective during my younger life as a clinician.
Our Bhutan travel plan was to first fly from Singapore to Bangkok, meet up with our travel companions, and then head off to Bhutan the morning after. Even until 4 hours before we were supposed to leave for the airport, I was discussing with Moon that we may have to cancel the trip as my condition was not improving fast enough. That food poisoning was BAD!!! I lost almost 3kg (about 6 pounds) in that few days, which was about 5% of my body weight. That is statistically significant! I looked at myself in the mirror – I was skin and bones (and muscles) while my veins had collapsed. Those were signs of bad dehydration. I remember Dr. Fabian Ong, our family physician, had recorded my blood pressure as 100/60 (which was a good 20% below my normal reading) when I saw him. With the little I knew of Bhutan, I would rather not have had to spend time there for medical treatment.
It was only until about 2 hours before we were supposed to head off to the airport, that my rational side confirmed with Moon that I was fit to travel and that I would improve with time. I had a back up plan in case I deteriorated in Bangkok. I knew enough people in the healthcare business there to get help (or even double back to Singapore) and by the way, I had a good one night to get well enough before we headed off to Bhutan the day after.
The journey to Bhutan was uneventful, I only remember checking into a nice hotel near the Bangkok airport, shutting my eyes and then heading off to the airport again at 4am in the morning. I simply did not remember much of it until Moon reassured me that I had a noodle soup dinner there and a coke: my liquid diet. I only managed to sniff the noodle soup…
The ignorant me did not know that only a few pilots were qualified to land an airplane in Bhutan as the terrain was hilly. We got on the airplane from Bangkok to Bhutan before sunrise and when we landed I thought it was as per normal, and that the terrain was overrated. The plane landed rather smoothly and I was all ready to rush off the plane. I was stopped by one of our travel mates and informed that the airplane was only stopping at Guwahati, a small town in northern India for a few minutes. Well, only a brief stopover enroute… Lucky me, I could have been lost in small border town in India, beautiful it was but I am sure I would be lost to mankind forever.
Another hour of flight was what it took to reach Paro, Bhutan. The landing at the Paro airport was no less exciting than landing at the old Hong Kong Kai-Tak airport. It certainly reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies starring Harrison Ford. I survived the journey!
Guess what? We were supposed to see the His Majesty, the handsome young King of Bhutan that night! What if I threw up in front of him??