What We Hate About Australasia

This is the nasty side of traveling Australasia. It is not pretty.

You know how we always talk about the good in traveling and all the great things that comes from it? Well, this is not that post.

Warning: Explicit and gross pictures are included in this post. You have been warned.

We’ve been pretty good at telling you the positives about our time abroad: all the places we’ve been, the sites we’ve seen and the delicious things we’ve eaten. Unfortunately, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Where there’s a good, there’s bound to be a bad, so it’s time to give you the bad, the ugly and down right nasty side that comes with traveling.

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Starting with the nasty. We love SE Asia but man does it bite.. literally. One of the few reasons why I know I can’t live here, as much as I love $5 massages and bangin’ beaches, is that I can’t stand the humidity, because with humidity comes nasty, winged bugs that bite. Hard. And it hurts. A lot.

We both are terrified of mosquitoes and spiders. And getting bites in the blistering summer is the most uncomfortable feeling, it can really put a damper on your trip. Our bodies don’t react well to them – Gerard’s bites turn a dark shade of red and mine swells big due to an allergic reaction.

Bug sprays are useless for us, plus too much DEET is bad for you. Most nights, we’re afraid to go out because we don’t want to get bitten and one of the reasons we splurge on air-con rooms is to avoid mosquitoes all together. It’s a losing battle for us and our bodies suffered a lot while we were in Australasia.

OK, ready? it’s not too late to leave the post. We won’t be offended in the slightest bit.

In Australia,

  • we spent 3-days on Fraser Island doing our best, but failed, to ward off March flies and other nasty bugs. We were eaten alive, it practically ruined my island experience.

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  • I thought my arm was a result of bed bugs in Airlie Beach, but it turns out I broke out in severe hives from sunblock and sweat clogging my pores. I had to take anti-allergic meds and was told I could only use sun gel and Cetaphil, a special body wash to cleanse my skin.

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In Kuala Lumpur, Gerard’s foot was attacked by mosquitoes in our room! It made it so hard for him to wear sandals, he was not in a good mood for days.


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In Ao Nang, Thailand, mosquitoes and ants got the best of my elbow when we decided to have dinner outside. In fact, they didn’t just get my elbow, I was bit on my shoulders and legs too.

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In Koh Phi Phi, Gerard went hiking and got two gnarly bites that scared the crap out of me. It swelled for days, I thought he needed to go to the hospital for shots because of the unusual size. We think they were spider bites because of the size and it’s firmness. It also hurt, not itch.

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In Hoi An, Vietnam, I got one of these on the back of each leg while having lunch. Guess I wasn’t the only one hungry.

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I broke out in hives again while in Thailand. Gerard was so upset when mosquitoes managed to get inside our fancy 5 star hotel while in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We both experienced a horrendous night in Hakone, Japan where we spent all night fighting off ginormous mosquito-like bugs from biting our faces while we sleep. And I can’t even tell you how often we found ourselves with random mysterious and unidentifiable bites in Indonesia.

I had several meltdowns because of this. At some point, we battled so many mosquitoes Gerard and I became expert swatters, we can kill them with our bare hands.. two at a time!

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So what do you think? Pretty gross, huh?! Battling with bites was something we expected when we decided to spend half the year backpacking Southeast Asia. However, I didn’t think it would affect us this much and for so long. I am still scarred to this very day from a few of the unidentifiable mysterious bites.

We’ve been through a bunch of anti-itch gels, creams and other remedies. The most effective one was Amcal burn & itch gel in Australia. The other was a simple yellow cooling gel that Thai masseuses rubbed on our bug bites. If you don’t make your way to either country, Itch-X gel is a decent solution.

What’s your go-to cure for the itch?

 

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  • Tracey – Life Changing Year

    Wow – you must taste good! We travelled all year and I got one tiny mossie bite in Thailand. I’m Australian so maybe I’m immune or something? Good on you for travelling when you know you’re on the dinner menu!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      LOL, we’re always on the dinner menu when in Australasia. Haha I’m so jealous you only had one tiny mossie bite. We’re so afraid of mossies, some times we avoid going out at night all together while in Asia. :P

  • Sal

    The picture of the hives on the elbow is what I get every year, anywhere in the world where it is hot and/or humid. I was recently in Thailand where I got in on my elbows, my hands and fingers, my toes and my butt all at the same time and I also had Giardia. Luckily, I am use to the hives, just not the parasite! The key to hives is keeping cool….hard to do in a tropical/humid climate. Mine usually go away after a few weeks and reappear somewhere else. The hands are by far the worst!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      After my hive break out in Australia, I was afraid to hit the sun, only staying in shaded area and keeping cool. Hives are definitely no fun. I’m glad I’m not the only one.. though I’d never wish this on anybody. :)

  • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

    OH DARLINGS, this post could not be more timely! I’m reading this in a tiny room in Trat Thailand where it’s a mosquito graveyard. I think I have something they love in my blood because I easily have about 20+ bites on me right now and I’m the same, I hive like mad. Matt is OBSESSED with killing each and every one of them. We’re about to live in the jungle for 6 weeks … pretty scared to see what kind of things bite us there, yikes! Thanks for showing the other side of travel!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      The jungle?! Ah man, best of luck you guys. We had to say no to the Amazon because of this bite problem. So sad..

  • http://www.myinnerg.com Justin McClelland

    Those are some CRAZY shots. I think you two one-up me in terms of hatred for all things that bite. The hives elbow pic reminds me of a time when I fell asleep at night on a beach chair in Thailand.

    At the time, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a sand-flea. I woke-up fine. However about 12 hours later, my entire back and legs began to look just like your elbow did. Those things tore me up. Fun times.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      I’ve heard of a similar story Justin. I’d love to fall asleep on the beach, but I’m afraid the same thing would happen to me. Bug paranoia status.

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  • http://twitter.com/georgieonthego George on the Go

    It’s always horrible when something ruins a trip like that. It tends to colour your whole view of the country

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It really does.. we try not to let it completely change our views of a country but it’s hard some times.

  • idelish

    Ouch! Yeah, these are the ugly parts of traveling that not many people share. Great that you actually documented them. Often, I’m in so much pain/itching that I don’t even bother to take photos anymore lol. Good to know you survived and came out alive! :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It happened so often I just had to take pictures. Lol, glad we came out alive too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kstanphill Ken Stanphill

    Looks like me after my 1st trip in the Philippines in the rainy season.You have a fungus, bug bites and the worst is the bite on the arm that swells up after starting from a small bite it will eat your skin away if you don’t take anti-bio. It took 3 months to get over all the bites after getting back to the US.My 2nd trip the same thing started again and a guy at the hotel gave me some cream and said it was from swiming in the ocean,that all the bactera washes down from the mountains and you’re not used to it.The cream got rid of everything in a day so I went to the Pharmacy and got a tube and it works wonders.All the bites were gone after a day using this cream.I can’t remember the name but go to a parmacy and they willl know what to give you.They don’t sell it in the US and my dad has a vietnamese DR.so I had him ask the Dr what it is and she said it’s 4 cortisone creams mixed together and just use a little because it’s very strong but it did the job.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      4 creams in 1?!!! Sounds like my kind of cream. If you ever remember the name, let us know. I’ll have my cousin bring it from Vietnam. Haha

  • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

    ouch! shnikes, you guys must have really sweet blood (at least that is what my mom used to say). We havent been bit hardly at all in SE Asia so far. So weird how that happens. :( – any way, thanks for sharing some of the real side of travel!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Yes. I like to think we have sweet blood too. But I would give anything to enjoy Asia or any tropical destinations like you guys do without the bites!

      • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

        do you guys sometimes wear pants, even when it is too warm? sometimes we did that in Africa…where the bugs were even nastier than Asia.

        • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

          Haha. That would be a yes. But I don’t think that’s had to happen too often. Great, I was looking to Africa too. =P

          • http://HoneyTrek.com/ Mike Howard – HoneyTrek.com

            you will be fine, just take your malaria pills. thankfully you can wear pants and socks through much of africa without looking silly :)

  • http://www.thepaperplanesblog.com/ Alana – Paper Planes

    I keep thinking I’ll get used to the bites, or the bugs won’t bother me as much anymore, after almost two years in SE Asia…but they still do! :/

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Two years? We have no hope then.. lol.

  • Ali

    You made me itchy just reading this! I got bit by sand flies in New Zealand, and the bites were so awful and itchy, they made me cry. Yuck. I hope you have better luck going forward!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Hahaha sorry. I had several meltdowns last year – the most memorable one was in Thailand. Better luck to you next time as well! :)

  • http://twitter.com/lazytravelers Lazy Travelers

    im so glad you guys posted this- no one ever talks about this kind of stuff! it can definitely affect how much you enjoy your trip. the wino breaks out in similar hives on her elbows and knees almost any time she sits in the sun somewhere tropical (and sometimes even on the jersey shore). NOT OK. thanks for the honesty, my loves!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It really does put a damper on your trip.. especially at the Jersey Shore! :P

  • ct92.hubpages.com

    That is some nasty bites!
    I have never been to Australia or Asia, but considering how many bites I get in a cold scandinavian summer, I can only imagine the annoyance and pain of THAT.
    Hope you are “doing better”. :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      You get bites there too?! Ah man, I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia. :(

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    Oh my! You guys struggled. Mozzie bites in that part of the world are awful. That rash you got from your sunscreen really looks like bed bugs. They are the worst. Ric got a bug bite in the Philippines that became extremely infected. It was easy to fix, antibiotics and cream, but the island we were on didn’t have a doctors office. He had to wait a week, until we could reach one. Got a little scary.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      See, I need to be near a pharmacy or doctor – it’s too dangerous without the way our skin reacts to bites.

  • http://twitter.com/TheWrldWanderer The World Wanderer

    Hahahaha, okay, I hate to laugh at this, but I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. I was actually so lucky in SE Asia and barely got bit, but it was another story for my friends. In fact, they bought some strange green cream that smelled like Vicks in a market in Laos, and it took away the itch…until it started turning the bites into blisters! We sat in our hotel in Nha Trang, and I had to pop the blisters for my cousin in this whole little operation that only seems normal during traveling. Ohhh, this post took me back for sure! xxx

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It’s a painful memory but it is kind of funny. Oh, the blister ones are the worst! Too bad we didn’t get any photos of those! Haha

  • CaptainandClark

    Girl, my body reacts the same to bites! It looks like I have planets emerging from my skin. There have been countless nights where I make Chris stay up with me trying to kill the lone mosquito that haunts me. Chris NEVER gets bit and I seem to fall victim time and time again. It literally drives me crazy!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      I swear there were nights when we’re afraid to sleep too! We have to kill every last mosquito otherwise it’s another fearful, sleepless night. LOL. I hate Chris! :P

  • http://travelingted.com/ Traveling Ted

    I grew up camping in Wisconsin and Minnesota where they jokingly call the mosquito the state bird. In Minnesota we have these spiders that are bigger than baseballs. After those experiences growing up I tend to find the mosquitoes and spiders in jungle areas overseas a little tame. I was in Asia during the dry season though, so I am sure it is worse when it rains.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      LOL, state bird from hell! You probably don’t even itch or swell, huh. I hate you a little right now. :P

      • http://travelingted.com/ Traveling Ted

        I itch and swell like everyone. I guess I have gotten used to them. Mosquitoes have always been a necessary evil to camping that I have learn to tolerate. A couple of years ago we were in Canada and they were HORRENDOUS. There were swarms night and day. We came up with a new calculation to determine the horribleness of the mosquito situation at night. We called it the mosquito per beam (MPB). You turned on your headlamp and counted the number of mosquitoes in your light beam. This trip it seemed they were in the thousands.

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    Whoa….that’s some craziness right there. Pretty sure MJ and I couldn’t hack that one. We get one little mosquito in the house and she sends me on a mission to hunt it down…

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Haha.. finding one mosquito in an entire house, now that’s a challenge!

  • Cathy

    Kieu! This post is so funny. I just got back from a month long trip in Cambodia and I got bit only on my feet for some reason. It was about less than 10 bites which I thought was pretty good considering all the horror stories I’ve heard. On my last day at the airport at 11pm, I somehow got 14 new bites on my legs. =( the flight was horrible because all I did was scratch. I’m scratching as we speak. =((( glad you shared this post!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Cathy! Hehe.. all on your feet?! Aww, must have been one hell of a plane ride. You’re making me scratch as I read. *shivers*

  • http://twitter.com/mrsoaroundworld Ana Silva O’Reilly

    oh nooooooooooooooo I am not the bravest of girls and would definitely struggle. Plus I must have sweet blood as mosquitos spot me from a mile! good post

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      We’re so good it hurts. LOL

  • Ashley Marie

    In Ecuador, I had similar mosquito bites that bit during the night. I had so many on my feet that my foot was swollen for a couple days. The bites would come back every month! It was the worst, but Ecuador was breathtaking and worth the bites.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Aww Ecuador is on our list too! Must remember to pack lots of sprays and cream then for when we decide to go. :)

  • vitasoy

    I would recommend picking up a cheap mosquito net from your local REI. I use it at home (in the bay area) to save myself from the occasional 4am mosquito hunt.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      We got bit while inside a net a few times! LOL. They’ll always find their way..

  • http://twitter.com/L_e_a_h Leah Travels

    Alright, I would be eaten alive. Somehow those damn bugs always like to bury their little teeth and stingers into my flesh. Ugh!

  • suzyguese

    Wow! Those are some bites! I am one of those people that mosquitoes and insects love too. When I studied abroad in Sicily, i was attacked nightly until the weather changed. Looks like I have something to worry about when I visit Australasia.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Yeah, just take the normal precaution and you should be fine. Australasia is still definitely worth it!

  • lola

    gross! ewww. i feel so lucky that i didn’t get eaten alive in Cambodia. i have NO CLUE why i was spared but this post does make me nervous to visit Australia!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      We only really got bit in Fraser Island while visiting OZ. Outside of that it wasn’t too bad.

  • http://twitter.com/rogerelizabeth Phil & Elynn

    My goodness. I am not looking forward to our trip to SE Asia during their monsoon season any more. I’m extremely allergic to bug bites, mites, fleas etc. But mostly, I hope we don’t catch any bedbugs or scabies while in the hostels.. D:

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      oOo, I’m praying for you too. :)

  • SPskiinstructor

    If you go into SEA expecting not to get bitten, you’re going to have a bad time! Just suck up the pain, don’t complain, throw on some citronella to keep the bugs at bay and then you’re going to have a good time!

  • Ashley & Justin MerriLing

    I didn’t think there existed a person in the world who could have bigger problems with bug bites than I do…but I was wrong…it’s you guys! I totally hear you on how awful it is! Not sure if you made it to New Zealand, but if you ever do…beware the sand flies! They are the worst biting bug I have ever encountered…

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      New Zealand was our first stop, but we didn’t spend a lot of time on beaches. I’ve heard about them sand flies.. glad we didn’t have a run in with them. Hehe

  • Kait

    “What’s your go-to cure for the itch?”

    Hot water. Very hot water. Histamine cells are very temperature sensitive, get them hot and they will burn themselves out, once they are spent, it takes days for your body to make more.

    Now, I should say that this will hurt. It will hurt like the fires of hell, you will curse the very god(s) that gave you birth, but after 30-60s in the hottest water you can stand (just below scalding temp), you will be 100% itch free for most of the week. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it works on most any type of bite or rash, and you can get it anywhere.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      See, I would have totally tried this had I known. Gerard on the other hand, I’m not sure how hot he can handle – he has sensitive skin. Still, we would have tried everything to cure the itch. Thanks for the great tip!

  • http://twitter.com/AmbitiousTravel Ally F

    Aghh I can’t stand mosquitos so I’m not looking forward to this while traveling. I was told to (as gross as this sounds) wipe your saliva over bites which surprisingly does work, however not a week, its more a short term fix

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Saliva?! LOL, umm.. it sounds weird but hey, we’d try anything to get rid of the itch. Next time. ;)

  • Bug times

    I’m sorry but every country has its good and bad. I am from Aussie living in Canada and find the bugs in some places here worse the Aussie. As for the sun cream everybody knows (Aussies do anyway) sun = sweat and sweat opens your sweat pours. Which when u put a cream on, they get blocked up fun sore times after this.
    Saliva does work ice as well. Or just be an Aussie for a day and drink the itch away :)

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Haha.. I like that last suggestion. If we could only be Aussie. You guys have the best accent! :P

  • reeder

    I use Picaridin instead of deet as I’m evidently quite tasty to bugs. It works well.
    http://www.rei.com/product/800712/natrapel-picaridin-insect-repellent-1-fl-oz
    You can also chemically coat your clothes with permethrin.

    Also use a physical sunblock with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Remove it with oil. Pack a rash guard and a hat.

    Or just go to cold places in non-mosquito season. Though do seem to cost more than warm places, though :)

  • BakoymaTravels

    Wow, some of those bites look gnarly! I sympathize, I really do, I’m one of those people other people wanna hang around because all the bugs love me and leave them alone :-P

    I’m sorry to hear it put such a damper on your trip, but thank you for sharing and tipping us off about good remedies <3

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