In this post I describe the realities of travelling to Indonesia with lymphoedema. I had no idea what to expect from Indonesia. Well, I say Indonesia, but I only visited Bali and for a brief period, due to a certain volcano, Surubaya; the country’s second largest city. It really is a wonderful place, full of smiles that stretch across some of the friendliest faces I’ve ever encountered. Everyone wants to say hello. Everyone wants to be your friend. It took me a week or so to get use to waving so much. I’m from the UK. The South of the UK, near London. We don’t say hello. We hide from conversation, and panic when we catch someone’s eye accidentally, diverting our gaze to the adverts that line our underground trains. If I were to tell you every moment of my time in Indonesia we’d be here all year. So instead, i’m going to cover the noticeable lymphoedema related elements and save the day-to-day highlights for a separate post. Bon. Overview Bali is place that has seen a real surge of tourism in a short period of time. For some locals this has been wonderful, for others not so much. But if we put the argument for the consequences of tourism aside briefly, I’ll talk you through what you can expect from one of my favourite ever places. Lots of fruit. Lots of mopeds. Insects of every variety, from the swat-worthy fly to the infamous mosquito, the praying mantis and beyond. Hills, rice fields and mountains. Big beaches, arching palm trees and unlabeled spirits – drink this at your peril. Dogs, cats, rats and bats and plenty of roosters. Geckos, lizards, turtles and cork-screwing dolphins. The food was great, we ate mostly in what the locals call warungs – i.e. restaurants. However, in places like these, don’t expect a loo seat and never expect toilet roll. If you are looking for comforts closer to home there are plenty of cafes and restaurants catering to tourists. We, Charlotte and I, visited during the rainy season (mid-November) which meant, unsurprisingly, it rained. But not how I expected. It wasn’t torrential downpour every hour of everyday. No, in fact, it came in bursts usually only once in the day for an hour so. But boy did it come down. Starting in the south near Seminyak, we headed north passing through Ubud until we got to Lovina. After that, we departed the mainland and visited a small set of beautiful islands to the east by the name of Gili. Then, in an attempt to flee a brewing volcano, we headed out of Gili and caught a flight to the biggest island of Java. How did my lymphoedema get on? Quite well, actually. Although it was hot, which took some acclimatising, we were never too from water to swim in. Pick your accommodation carefully for somewhere that looks hygienic (inside and pool area) and make sure to pack aloe gel – apply it daily to your problem areas. See more travel tips here.
I tried to drink a fresh coconut every day. They are so cheap in this part of the world and you won’t have a hard time finding them either. Make sure you walk when you can to build up fitness and stimulate flow in the lymph, but don’t be afraid to take a taxi when your body tells you it needs a rest. Often I felt fine, but then all of a sudden I needed to stop, find shade and rest. That might just be my most important tip – listen to your body! We were never on the road for too long and even on our longest journeys we travelled by car with our own personal driver. His name was, and I’m sure it still is, Bagus. But more on him in a later post. Drivers are of minimal cost and allow you to customise your journey, stopping for rests, lunch and areas of interest. Good food is plentiful in Bali and cheap too. Both Charlotte and I agree that we have eaten the healthiest food in Bali. Things to be aware of For all the fun I had in Indonesia, the country is still developing and there is still widespread poverty once you look past the westerinsed cafes which dominate key tourist spots. Not only is this saddening on a moral level, but it also plays into treating lymphoedema as well. In most places the streets aren’t clean. Combine this with torrential downpour and you have yourself streams and puddles of bacteria. Keep an eye on this. If you are wearing sandals, you will find yourself hopping around them daily. Pot holes punctuate the pavements and could be lethal if you are not paying attention, especially at night. Look out for exposed nails and sharp items on the ground, fences and buildings. We had to change our route unexpectedly when Mt Agung started to show signs of eruption. This meant emergency budget needed to be allocated to flights, with more time spent planning an escape route instead of caring for my leg. Just be aware you are sitting on a very naturally active part of the world in Indonesia. I’m not an insect kind of person. We saw a praying mantis which was a treat, but anything that bites or stings I tend not to be the biggest fan of. Indonesia was full of them, although with plenty of bug spray you should be fine. I have worn trousers most of this trip just as a double layer of protection. If you don’t drink enough water the heat will win and your lymphoedema will suffer. It’s simple, drink water regularly. On one or two occasions I became overwhelmed by the constant need to pay attention to my leg, but this is part and parcel of travelling with a chronic swelling condition. What was the usual go-to remedy? Water, water and more water. There’s a shoes off policy which is common across most of South East Asia. If you’re visiting a temple, a hostel and even some shops, expect to take your shoes off. Make sure to bring wipes with you, as well as a pair of socks to wear indoors. Should I visit Indonesia with lymphoedema? This a completely personal choice. We all experience lymphoedema differently, we all react in different ways. For example, when I’m stressed my lymphoedema suffers, but I’m not too bad on long journeys. I didn’t spend months getting fit. In fact, I was only a few months out of A&E when I hopped on my first flight. You need to know your body and its limits but, I urge you not to be afraid of travelling. Yes it’s harder for us than it is for most. Yes you WILL have plenty of frustrations along the way. However, no amount of swelling, if kept under control, will beat the feeling of discovering the world beyond your doorstep. Make a plan, cover all scenarios (including the risk of cellulitis), stay hygienic and you will be absolutely fine.