Well, Dear Reader, I’ve been recuperating since Christmas Day. Not because I partied it up. I wish that was the case but nope. Here’s what happened.

We decided to head for Paro to spend Christmas. Paro is about one hour from Thimphu in Bhutan. Our driver took us there around 9.00am on Christmas Day and we checked into Gangtey Palace: a traditional Bhutanese building erected over a 100 years ago by His Highness, Dawa Penjor, and converted into a hotel during the 1990s. Our room was lovely (El Hubs took photos and I’ll pinch them to show you in a future post). The hotel has lovely long-distance views over the valley.

We spent the day pottering around Paro and really enjoyed visiting the local Dzhong (or fortress). Paro is a touristy spot and there are quite a few arts and crafts places. There’s one good coffee and cake shop in Paro: Cafe Bistro, which is run by Rupa who is a pastry chef at Amankora (fancy hotel). She makes wonderful cakes and slices to suit the sweet taste of chillips (Bhutanese word for foreigners). The Bhutanese have not (yet) developed the Western fondness for cakes and desserts.

We had a late lunch and this turned out to be the dumb ass move. I won’t name the restaurant but you guessed it – food poisoning. We hesitated about eating lunch at all because we had coffee and cakes around midday. We weren’t sure about the food situation at the hotel – we knew it was some sort of buffet – but after nearly a month in Bhutan, we were really OVER Bhutanese food. I have to say I don’t like Bhutanese food much. It’s all about red rice, some sort of bitter tasting buckwheat pancake, lots of chillies. Yes, I know there’s more to it than this but, no matter how many times I sampled the local cuisine, I came away less than impressed.

Anyway. Off to the local restaurant we went and, a mere five hours or so later, we were both sick as dogs. And I mean SICK. Turn away now if you don’t want to read any further. Basically, I was spewing up black. Yep, black. Everything that came up was black. From about 8.00pm to around 3.00am, I was throwing up every hour or so. And each time, I was sick at least four or five times. Around 10.00pm, El Hubs also became sick. He was lucky (sort of) as he only threw up twice but it was pretty impressive! After midnight, I was getting a bit worried as there was no sign of the vomiting stopping.

Something we are conscious of here in Bhutan is that there are no private medical practitioners (so we’ve been told) and the hospital/medical facilities are basic at best. I don’t think it’s a country where you’d want to get very sick.

By about 3.30am, I had at least stopped vomiting but I felt mighty ill let me tell you. I felt like I had some heavy rock in my stomach and the mere thought of food sent me fleeing to the bathroom. In fact, I didn’t eat a thing for the next 36 hours and was dead scared that anything I ate would come straight back up. It’s taken me a week to feel human again. I’ve spent the last week dodging anything that could be remotely contaminated.

The whole incident has reminded me of Christmas Day 2004. We were in Portugal then and I caught viral pneumonia (the doctors said it was most likely from the air-conditioning system on the international flight). I spent Christmas Day in my mother-in-law’s apartment in the Algarve contemplating whether my number was up or not. The doctors had to resort to an antibiotic from the 1950s due to modern antibiotic resistance. I must say the doctor I saw knew what he was doing – El Hubs of course speaks Portuguese, so he handled the conversation and within a day I felt remarkably better. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law, who flew to South Africa to spend Christmas with her daughter, caught pneumonia from me and also had a less than pleasant holiday period. And then my sister-in-law caught it too and ended up in hospital. It’s amazing they’re both still speaking to me!

And so Christmas Day 2013 was again spent sick as a dog. I must say I’ve never had such a bad bout of food poisoning. It has knocked me around and I’m REALLY looking forward to returning home to NZ next week. I plan to feast on the wonderful, fresh NZ produce without having to worry about water-borne diseases or food poisoning.


The local Dzhong in Paro, Bhutan.


Long-distance view of Paro Valley.


The Dzhong looks out over the river in Paro.