T’was the night before Wednesday, and all through Bui Vien Street (HCMC, Vietnam). Many creatures were stirring, many of them backpackers.
If you’ve never been to Bui Vien in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I can tell you it’s like Khao San road in Bangkok. If you’ve never been to Khao San road, then imagine your nearest city’s party street with a lot of street vendors and people begging you to come into their bar. It’s a fun experience, loud too. Overall, Bui Vien is a great place for people-watching and cheapish drinks.
So there I am sitting with a friend drinking my $2 mango smoothie, observing the young Vietnamese crowd, when all of a sudden I feel a pinch on my left big toe. Immediately lookingatown to my bare foot and flip-flop on the ground, I couldn’t see anything that could have caused the pinch. Maybe I had caught a sharp edge in the concrete. Perhaps a stick? Nope. Nothing. I didn’t see anything. Needless to say, I was perplexed alongside my friend because I started to think she thought I was crazy.
“Maybe it was a rat”, she joked.
“Huh… Maybe”, I replied unwillingly.
So, we continued drinking our smoothies while I freaked out internally a bit more about what it could have been still. That’s when out of the corner of my eye, protruding from the standing platform for a bar, I saw him. The little rat bastard peeking again towards that glory of white meat he tried to nibble at on my big toe.
“There he is!”
Now confirmed about the mysterious source of toe pain, my mind even went crazier. Rabies. Tetanus. Rate bite fever. This can get seeally quickly. So not feeling like paranymorey more that night because a FREAKING RAT BIT ME, I went home and looked up hospitals that could keep me from dying.
Now you might be thinking that I don’t need to be worried because the little f*cker didn’t break the skin. Maybe so, but I’m not taking chances. Have you ever seen people at the end of their rabies journey? It’s really sad.
So I hopped on my Yamaha motorbike and booked it to the local clinic asking them what to do it a “con chuot” bit my toe. The ladies at the clinic couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, which I can fully understand. Some big white boy got his toe bitten by a rat on the party street. It’s like a word soup and salad that you won’t ever forget how it tastes in your mouth.
So… Doc prescribed me to get Verorab, a rabies vaccine course lasting for 5 shots and one month of treatment. As an American, my mind is thinking of $1,000 for seeing a doctor and getting a rabies vaccine series. Rabies be expensive yo…
Before I get the first shot, I had to pay for it. Lovely. Paying before receiving the service would be a great experience, but again, the American in me started to worry about the cost. Then came the bill.
Seeing a doctor fee…
75.000 VND → $3.50. Woah.
Verorab — 1 shot.
250.000 VND → $10.50
Total cost: 325.000 VND (~$14 USD)
I couldn’t get the cash out of my wallet fast enough. No insurance deductible, copay, confusing coverage claims. Just 325.000 VND. Healthcare wrapped up with an effective and price-sensitive bow. My favorite style.
Each time I revisit the clinic every 5–7 days for my next shot, the smirks and laughs come back. “Con chuot!” “Du ma con chuot!” The staff really loves the story, and they are also trying to get me to marry their single daughters. Apparently, rat-bitten Americans are a catch here in Saigon.
It’s been a fun ride through the foreign healthcare system, and I can honestly say that I’m probably the only person who can say that they’ve been nibbled on by a rat on Bui Vien street while drinking a smoothie.
It’s stories like these that encapsulate the nomad experience. Fun. Problem. Resolution. Nasty animals. Humor. Resilience. Marriage proposals. It’s fun, even if it is annoying.
Maybe your own rat is waiting to bite you on your next adventure. So grab your backpack and a nice big slice of cheese, and book your next travel journey! Who knows. You might end up rabidly married.