It’s stinking hot. The sun is blaring on another beautiful day in Bali, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it must be around 37 degrees. I’ve worn a white singlet top and my skin is already starting to singe in the 5 minutes we’ve been walking from our hotel to the beach. There is a thick layer of grime covering me, the kind which can only be experienced in an Asian country.
Despite the scorching heat, Matt is starving. It’s lunchtime and the big dog’s gotta eat. While I’m struggling to stay upright, clutching a bottle of water to my chest like it’s a pound of solid gold, Matt’s on the prowl for food.
There is a bevy of cafés and restaurants on our street, each one with shaded lounge chairs, big umbrellas and comfortable brightly-coloured cushions. The cafés and restaurants have views of the beach and, most importantly, air conditioning and free wifi. But Matt has something else in mind, he is on a mission, and we march right past them.
It’s like a really bad episode of Man vs Wild, except what’s really happening is I’m on my honeymoon in Bali and my husband has a craving for Nasi Goreng that, apparently, restaurant quality food won’t satisfy. I am getting first degree sun-burns through my SPF 5,000 sunscreen and am probably on my way to extreme dehydration. Til death do us part? Try ‘Til the last week of our honeymoon do us part’.
“There it is!,” Matt declares proudly. I look up and focus my eyes on what he is pointing at. On the hot sandy beach sits a small metal food stall, shaded by a large yellow and red striped beach umbrella. It consists of a counter, glass covered shelves and a wok. There is no refrigeration and no sink in sight. The glass shelves hold containers of cooked food I can’t identify, except the chicken carcass with flies buzzing around it. I look over at Matt, he is beaming.
“Chicken Nasi Goreng, please. What are you having, Phoebe?” Ummm, what? Did I just hear that right? Chicken Nasi Goreng. CHICKEN?! In case you missed it in my description above, I’ll summarise it for you again. It is the middle of the day in Bali, an appalling 37 degrees and we are standing on a beach in front of a street food stall with no refrigeration or hygiene standards and Matt wants to eat the chicken, sans flies I assume. He’s officially lost his mind.
Looking terrified, I study the contents of the glass container. I need reassurance and smile tentatively at the lovely woman who is eager to serve us, she smiles back a big, friendly toothless smile. Thank god I’m vegetarian. I order a Nasi Goreng with corn fritters while my ‘better’ half sticks with the Chicken. It comes to a grand total of $2.50.
I’m not sure how familiar you are with the term ‘Third World’ but generally, eating outside restaurants in a third world country is strongly discouraged. But this doesn’t matter to Matt and for reasons I cannot explain, he is determined to get his hands on ‘authentic’ Nasi Goreng and, undoubtedly, ‘authentic’ gastro. He wolfs down every last bite of his chicken Nasi Goreng.
It takes longer than I thought, but by breakfast the next morning Matt doesn’t look very well. His skin is a funny shade of ash grey, he’s sweating profusely and having a hard time swallowing. Normally accomplished at working a breakfast buffet, he sits at the table staring at his empty plate, concern etched across his face. I am guessing the suspicious chicken doesn’t seem so good anymore.
Suddenly Matt’s body goes rigid and he jerks back in his seat, sitting bolt upright and clutching the chair’s arm rests. “NO!” he screams in a panicked tone. He jumps up from his chair like he’s been shot out of a cannon, shouting “I’ve got to go.” He snatches the room key from the table and runs off toward the elevator, shoving tourists and small Balinese people out of his way as he goes.
Two hours later and Matt still hasn’t surfaced. I am settled into a prime spot on a sun lounge by the hotel pool, reading a book. I look up from the page and squint at the moving object on our hotel room balcony, it is my husband. The sliding doors are ajar and Matt, on all fours, has crawled his sorry carcass over and stuck his head out from in between them. He looks weak and desperate, struggling to lift his arm to signal for my help. I sigh and put my book down, we board a flight for Singapore in exactly 4 hours.
The next 36 hours are traumatic. That afternoon, on the plane to Singapore, I find myself clutching two full airplane ‘sick bags’, one in each hand. Matt used them while in his seat, only 12cm away from me. After we land it is clear this little problem can’t be fixed with some Imodium and a bottle of water. We go straight to a Singaporean hospital where he is immediately admitted and kept overnight, while I spend the last night of my honeymoon alone in an airport transit hotel room. My honeymoon is everything I dreamed it would be.
Trust Matt to spend $1.25 on dodgy chicken which ended up costing us $2,500 in much-needed medical treatment. I meant it when I said ‘in sickness and in health’ during our wedding vows, I just hadn’t expected him to test the boundaries of those words so soon.
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