The one with all the bedbug bites

The one with all the bedbug bites

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have recently been inundated with complaints about my bedbug-infested life. I apologize. I am an only child, and thus need someone to validate my discomfort. Don’t worry, I waited until 6:01 a.m. California time before calling my mom in tears.

If you weren’t subject to my endless whining, let’s take a look at this whole bedbug saga. I offer absolutely no help on getting rid of bedbugs, as you shall see by the end of this.

I was distracted by the mosquito net canopy bed at Nyoman Murjana Homestay.

Sunday, 3:02 a.m.: The first night in my homestay in Ubud after a week in place on Gili Trawangan with dusty shelves that I am now judging, I woke up with bug bites all over my right arm. I was scratching like crazy, so I crawled out of bed, popped two ibprofen and smeared on some hydrocortisone cream and then snuggled back into sleep. Had been sleeping with a full mosquito net around my bed–it was the tropical canopy bed of my childhood dreams!–so a bit confused as to how this happened. Blamed myself for not covering myself in mosquito repellent before bed, as per usual. I was distracted by the canopy.

Sunday, 11 a.m.: Skype with my parentals. I’m irritable because of the 23 “mosquito bites” on my right arm, and I’m homesick. Sulk on the walk home, pop more ibprofen, smear more hydrocortisone.

Sunday, 9 p.m.: Remember the bedbug epidemic that broke out in NYC last summer. Frantically Google search images of bedbug bites and a slew of bedbug-related search terms. Proceed to freak out.

Bedbug bites

Monday, 8 a.m.: Show my arm to my extremely kind homestay hosts. They ask if I ate Balinese food, if it’s a reaction to the heat, if I spent a lot of time outside. No, friends, I get both prickly heat and allergic reactions. Thanks for the extremely sensitive skin, Mom. This is neither. I try to explain what bedbugs are. Apparently, they don’t bother Balinese people in their contented sleep. Either way, I convince them to change my sheets and I take everything I own to the laundry (convenient, as I just did 3/4 of my laundry the week before and thought I was sorted for a bit). Wash out my pack and packing cubes with very hot water. Spend the day watching cheap DVDs in my newly-sheeted bed and trying not to itch. I’m actually quite proud of myself at the itching I manage to avoid! This deserves dinner out!

Monday, 6:30 p.m.: Go out to dinner. Waitress stares unkindly at my blotchy arms. I’m sure she thinks I’m a leper.

Tuesday, 7 a.m.: No new bites! Winner!

Wednesday, 8 a.m.: 13 new bites on one arm. Right. Time to move. Try to explain to my adorable homestay hosts that while this is surely not their fault, I cannot sleep in that bed one more night without freaking out and taking obscene amount of pain-relieving sleep aids. Move to a new homestay.

What bedbug bites look like

Wednesday, 10 p.m.: Call my parents in tears because I am covered in approximately 76 extremely itchy bug bites all over my arms, hands, legs, back AND THE BOTTOM OF MY FEET. What I hear from my dad: “Find something with pyrethroid.” Right. (To his credit, he sends me a very informative and helpful email later in the day.) What I hear from my mom: “How much hydrocortisone cream are you using? Don’t you remember that girl on your soccer team who used too much Neosporin and got a reaction to it? Bedbugs are an EPIDEMIC. What if you bring them home in April? You are not infecting your grandma’s house. Leave behind your pack and everything you own, and start anew. And go to a doctor, for goodness’ sake.” Start bawling because despite not having many of them, I really LIKE all my clothes and they all fit so nicely in my pretty practically-new pack. Does that mean I have to get rid of my lovely Kindle case? And my Cath Kitson laptop case? Where does the madness end? And I don’t like going to the doctor’s (side effect of not having health insurance in America and always being irrationally worried about how much it will cost). And I look like a leper, and how am I supposed to party in Thailand when I am covered in hideous red marks? I am now still bawling by myself in my room, and I look like a strangled raccoon. I go to wash my face and calm myself down. There are no towels in this room. THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER IN THIS ROOM. Do the bedbug gods have NO mercy? Stop crying, pop more ibprofen pm, and go to sleep content in my new bed.

Thursday, 8 a.m.: Read a very helpful email from my dad that references the bedbugger blog. Talk to my mom, and she says she talked to my travel-savvy aunt and they might be scabies. Right. Something new to Google. Laugh on the way out the door, because, seriously, this is getting so bad it’s almost funny. Shouldn’t I be lying on the beach right now?

Thursday, 9 a.m.: Ditch yoga and go to the Ubud Medical Clinic. Nice lady doctor looks at my arms, gives a sympathetic tut, and promptly puts an injection in my bum. My first-ever shot in the bum! Lovely memories, Indonesia. Prescribes an antihistamine to take once every 24 hours, anti-inflammatories to take twice two times a day and a topical cream. All for the bargain price of $65. You can bet travel insurance will be getting THOSE receipts. (Did I mention I also called my travel insurance last night? And cried to the too-sympathetic lady on the phone? She said I could fly home fo’ free! Let’s be serious, it’s not that drastic. I’ve got two months of buckets and beaches coming up.) Anyway, home free! I’m cured!

Thursday, 11:55 p.m.: Can’t fall asleep without ibprofen pm, but am worried about getting addicted to pain-relieving sleep-aids. Finally do some yoga breathing after two hours of tossing around and cursing having Wifi where I stay and the madness that is an iPhone because I always end up thinking of things to Google. Then, I’m right on the brink of sleep. I feel something crawl on my arm. I reach for my iPhone and light up the FIRST BEDBUG I’VE EVER SEEN. Right. No sleep tonight. Stay up until my shuttle to the airport leaves at 7 a.m., writing and listening to music and eating a chocolate bar with a light on and ponder how this is my first non-partying-related all-nighter.

Friday, 5:31 a.m.: A GIANT COCKROACH JUST CRAWLED ACROSS MY BED. I am going to cry and then die of a bloody exhaustion-induced panic attack in this bug-infested room.

Friday, 11 a.m.: Fly to Thailand. Airplane pressurization will kill all bedbugs in my pack…right? right?

If not…guess who is buying ALL NEW CLOTHES IN THAILAND?

Note: I’m honestly not sure where I first got infected. For the sake of other travelers everywhere: I stayed at Pondok Lita in Gili Trawangan, and I’m seriously suspicious. 

Another note: I would like to thank my parents for being absolute STARS in dealing with their prone-to-tears daughter in Asia who called at all sorts of inopportune times this week and ignored their advice while simultaneously whining. Even with 23 years to get used to my hypochondriac-yet-anti-medicine ways, it’s still not easy. Merci beaucoup! 

  • Tatianainflux

    Aww, all I can say is bless your heart (I know, I’m super Southern). I hope your next travels are better!

  • Poor you! I hope you feel a little better by now. Did the bedbugs survive the flight? On a brighter note, at least you managed to write a witty, funny report of your event, despite it not being funny at all!

  • Anonymous

    Oh my god. You poor thing!! If it’s any consolation, this was excellent storytelling. I was captivated! So what happens now? How WILL you get them completely out of your system?! Was it scabies after all?

  • Oh my God you poor thing!!  I got bedbugs bites (hell, I’m prone to any sort of bite…) when we rented our first apartment in St Kilda.  Saw one crawling on the hood of my hoodie on the sofa and decided it was time to go (hoodie got thrown away too)

    I really feel for you, it’s awful being away from home and having any sort of ailment and not having your parents or anyone to reassure you.

    Hope you’re feeling better now, if anything at least you gave us a bit of a laugh reading this post.  Obviously not at you though, WITH you 🙂

  • Kristen

    I was part of the terrible bedbug epidemic last year on the East Coast and let me tell you, it will be fine! I would suggest thoroughly examining your bag (seams included) to see if there are any bugs. They’re not microscopically small, so you should be able to see if they are there or if they left shells behind. Once you do that, you don’t need to wash all your clothes – just throw them in the dryer and that will kill any bugs you have. Once you are sure you didn’t carry any with you, examine the bed you are staying in – the mattress in particular. I found that they left behind what looked like ink splotches in the corners of the bed that I could also see on the fitted sheet. That should give you a pretty good idea of if they are there. GOOD LUCK! I feel your pain!

  • OH MY GOSH. Gross gross gross! You poor thing! I hope all traces are long gone by now and your skin can heal. I’m not an only child but I would have cried and complained more than you did. I just know it. *shudders*

  • Anonymous

    Look at all of these comment Christine! I told you people would need to read this page turner. Joking aside, I feel awful for you. I hope things are getting better! I haven’t had an encounter with bed bugs, but I guess you are looking on the bright side of things: new clothes.

  • Holy moly – that sounds awful. The bedbugs sound bad on their own, but when you mentioned the cockroach, OMG. GROSS. Hope things turn out better for you in Thailand!

  • What a nightmare! I hope that Thailand will be a completetly bed-bug-free experience for you. I’ve only ever had them once and it was aweful. My arms looks like had some weird disease, people would give me weird looks, and they itched like crazy took forever to heal. I so feel for you!! Guess where my bedbug bit me? In a pretty fancy conference hotel in Dallas. Unlucky for me, I only figured out that it must have been bedbugs after it kept getting worse every night – and by that time I was on my way home. Enough about me though… I heard that heat kills these bugs, so washing your clothes  in hot water should do if you still find any I think.

  • Anonymous

    hahaha but sad sad sad. i got a shot in the bum in costa rica too. and yes, i did start by showing the lady by bare shoulder in preparation…haha. WRONG.  i hope thailand salt water can cure you itchies!!

  • Jan

    I only say this because my hand is touching wood as I write, but I have never been bitten, although I have stayed in places that look like I should have been.  Your bed looks way more luxurious than our usual abodes.  Looks can be deceiving!  Poor You.  Commiserations.

  • Eekkk!! That’s not being a child. Bed bugs are the worst. I think I got them at one point in Europe and in Asia, but was never sure. They’re are a pain to get rid of too. I hope you get better lil lady 🙁

  • Arghhhh, I am SO ITCHY after reading this! 
    Wow, that sounds so incredibly traumatising. And the pictures! UGH! I’ve never had bed bug bites before, and hope it stays that way after reading this! 

  • Maggie High

    Oh my goodness, how terrible! I hope you recover soon and can manage to rid yourself of bed bugs forever. I agree with Lindsey from Lost in Cheeseland, this made for excellent storytelling! At least something good from it, eh? 

  • Anonymous

    Awww thank you for the Southern hospitality! Feeling much better already–meds kicked in and no new bites!

  • Anonymous

    Haha I’m glad everyone is enjoying this–this is the tone that I usually take when sending emails to friends from home. Might have to use it for more of my posts! And yes, no new bites and meds have kicked in. Hope they’re not just sleeping and waiting to pounce later in the trip!

  • Anonymous

    This is my email-to-friends storytelling voice (in which I whine a lot)–might have to use it more! Anyway, I’m in Thailand and haven’t had any new bites so now I’m just crossing my fingers. I don’t think I’ll be bringing ANY clothes home from Thailand though–no way my mom is letting my pack in through the front door at home!

  • Anonymous

    Haha don’t worry, by the time I had stayed up all night and seen the cockroach, I was laughing too…you just can’t make things up like that!

  • Aw I can’t even imagine!!! I hope you are all better now and didn’t have to buy ALL new clothes ;). Bed bugs are really hard to get rid of (in houses/etc.) I have heard so I hope that you’ve finally been freed of them! 

  • Eeeeeek, I hope I never experience bedbugs. ever. I already have an irrational fear of bugs that fly/buzz/sting (um, so pretty much all bugs)! Hope they aren’t attacking you still!

  • I always check for bedbugs when I first look at a room before I put money down and agree to stay there. The best way is to lift up the mattress. Use one finger to spread the seam that runs along the bottom edge – you know, that round part. Look in the corners. If there are bed bugs in a room you will almost certainly see them here (and they’re not active in day time, so if you back away quick you’ll stay clean). If the host/owner gets offended, stare them down.

  • hope you feel better by now!! bed bugs are a real pain. I had them in beds in thailand and mexico, but what I usually do is just keep the light on and cover my eyes with a tshirt as they only come out when it is dark. and I always, ALWAYS, check beds before moving in a hostel!! 🙂 
    have a wonderful time in thailand, just read you are on koh phi phi – ahhh perfect!

  • Jan

    I did not realize that leaving the light on would keep them at bay.  Thanks Kristina, I will remember that if they ever start gnawing on me in the middle of the night!

  • Friendjessica

    Christine, I’m a cry baby too just ask my friends at church.  I’d be crying right with you but since I’m in our insect free home, I will enjoy the laughter you brought me of your plight while traveling.  Now I know you LOVE NICE, but thats the only place I’ve ever stayed where I woke up to a bed of fleas and bites all over.  They bombed our room with a fogger, we came back opened the windows to air out, checked the sheets and went to sleep, only to wake up with the darn bugs back….these were tiny black hopping things – so fog every morning, slather on the anti itch cream, sleep and repeat.  Have fun in Thailand, it’s one of our favorite places Phuket….lets us know if you ride a tuk tuk.  Keep safe and breathhhhhhhhhhhhh in and out……love aunt cesca

  • I got them at the Old Swan Barracks Hostel in Perth, the pharmacist that I went to gave me a topical ointment to put on twice a day and told me to wash everything I owned in HOT water (bye bye white shirts…) and to put my backpack in a garbage bag and duct tape the top shut and leave it for 24-48hrs as bedbugs only live for 24 hrs…

    I completely sympathize with you – bedbugs SUCK!

  • Anonymous

    The problem is I have not seen one clothes dryer in Asia! Oh well, now i’m just being eaten alive by actual mosquitoes…it’s always something! Glad someone else can relate though 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Bites are already fading away! I suppose this is the MUCH less glamorous side of travel, my dear…

  • Anonymous

    Ha! I do need to use this as an excuse to go shopping 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Ah the cockroaches don’t bother me SO much…they’re everywhere in Sydney! But in my bed was definitely the icing on the cake that night!

  • Anonymous

    It’s crazy how they can strike everywhere! I was talking to my mom and felt that it sounded like I was a dirty person or something-who gets bed bugs?! But then she was mentioning all the high class places they’ve found them, and I realized it’s less about me or the place and just about having the bad luck to come across them!

  • Anonymous

    Thailand beaches definitely helping! Salt water cures everything!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the sympathy–have been learning more and more that bed bugs can strike anywhere, from the worst to the best of places. Luck of the draw, I suppose.

  • Anonymous

    Feeling better already, but that was definitely a bit of a rough spot–suppose that’s the downside of traveling!

  • Anonymous

    I would never wish bed bugs on anyone! I hope you avoid them too 🙂

  • Anonymous

    ha exactly! I had something to write as I stayed up all night 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t spotted any more bites–now have just been attacked by mosquitoes in the humid Thailand jungle! It’s always something, I’m telling you… 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I think I’ve gotten rid of the bedbugs, only to get attacked by mosquitoes in humid Thailand jungles! Thus is life 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I still haven’t seen any ON the bed! That’s the problem. Oh well, need to keep my eyes open in the future.

  • Anonymous

    Yes considering sleeping with the lights on in the future if I ever have an inkling of a suspicion. Hoping I don’t have to!

  • Anonymous

    Haha yessss lots of breathing was done–I went to yoga as soon as I thought I could stand the itching! Apparently you can find them everywhere-Aunt Sandra has been sharing her stories with me too, ridiculous!And yes, I rode a tuk tuk in Phuket, am now in Phi Phi and am off to Railay next! Lots of love xo

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm the bag i nthe garbage bag could work–so annoying to do all of this stuff when you’re traveling! Think I’ve finally gotten rid of them–let’s hope!

  • Yikes, that looks painful! I’m kind of paranoid about bedbugs and dirty bed sheets so I always stick to my sleeping bag. I hope things start looking up in Thailand 🙂

  • OMG you poor thing. I can sympathise with you, although they weren’t bed bugs. I got attacked by sand fleas at Melbourne beach in Florida once. I had no less then 250-300 bites covering both my legs from the knee down and the backs of my arms. You could not see a normal part of my skin, my entire legs were just little bumps. I was so itchy and scratched until I bled. I was living in the US at the time and feared expensive doctor appointments so I survived on hydrocortisone, anti-histamines and what I actually found to work the best was calamine lotion. I remember being in tears at times and one night the itching was so bad I had to bag up ice cubes and sleep with my arms resting on them. I never want to experience that ever again – it was horrible!

  • Anonymous

    So far so good! I’m just getting too un-paranoid about bugs after living in Australia…need to step my game up!

  • Anonymous

    That’s what my homestay owners thought it was–sand fleas! But I hadn’t been to the beach! Absolutely horrible…something I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy, so horrible!

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  • Katharyn Hunka

    laughing out loud but soooo sorry for you!
    (had a similar problem in our apt and the management refused to believe it  could be something other than bedbugs and blamed us and hullabaloo ensued and somehow we finally got out of our lease and moved. luckily it was Feb and we could leave all bags, mattresses, furniture outside for 48hrs to hopefully kill whatever it was! still a mystery!!)

  • I am so sorry that you are going through this.  We were just recently returned form Thailand, and I had some itchy bites appear on my legs after we returned, so I feared the worst…thank goodness that they went away and I haven’t seen anymore (so I am assuming that that aren’t bedbugs…)

    Hope you get rid of yours soon, if you haven’t already!

  • Anonymous

    Ahhhh can laugh about it now that they’re gone, but geez, what an ordeal! Glad it’s over!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, all gone–so now I can properly laugh at it! Nothing I want to repeat though 🙂