Please excuse the terrible pun in the title; I really don't know what I was thinking.
Vientiane in Laos is the sleepiest capital city I've ever set foot in. Traffic is languid. Days are lost roaming the quiet streets in search of cups of iced coffee and observing people as they unhurriedly go about their business. There is little more to do in Laos.
Stray dog taking an afternoon nap in Laos
While hanging around Vientiane waiting for my Vietnamese visa to come through from the embassy, I woke up one morning with a horrid eye infection.
There is something quite mortifying about having an eye infection and I found myself avoiding eye contact (sunglasses would have been perfect if I hadn't broken them the day before) as I began the walk to the pharmacy four blocks away.
Sunset in Vang Vieng
As soon as I left my hostel I was accosted by a group of tuk tuk drivers offering fares. To save my self the embarrassment of walking around with a squinty eye I agreed to the lift and was quoted 45 000 kip (about $5) - an exorbitant price for Laos; nearly the cost of my bed for the night. My return price was collectively laughed at – a tactic many employ during bartering to encourage the customer to think they’re making unreasonable offers.
We settled on 15 000 kip and instead of the nice modern pharmacy with an English speaking technician that I knew was nearby, he dropped me in front of a roadside shack.
Kind of like this one but with boxs of medicine.
Well, I’m here now, I may as well go in.
Approaching the old lady in the shack I said “sabaaidii”, (hello and about a third of my vocabulary in Laotian) and I pointed at my swollen eye. She looked at it and brought over some eye drops, took a second look and wincing, gave me a little tube of ointment. All up I paid a dollar for it.
School in Laos, children would often run up to the gate shouting "hello!" and waving furiously when they saw me
Always on the cautious side I googled the name of the drops and ointment.
The eye drops were fine but a search of the ointment showed it is only prescribed to pets in the developed world.
I wondered if I should still use it. Could it do any harm? After much consideration I couldn't think of a reason why an eye infection in a human would be any different to that in a cat or a dog. I decided to use it sparingly and in two days my eye had returned to normal.
cows out for a stroll - like a dustier version of New Zealand
Which begs the question - why is it acceptable to sell pet medication to humans in the developing world if it's only acceptable for dogs in wealthier countries? Are people in Laos selling it for human use because it's a cheaper alternative and have little other choice?
A little research reveals drugs for humans and pets are often made in the same factory and are just slapped with a different label and dosage at the end.
What do you think? Did I take a huge risk using the animal eye ointment? Want to read more about Laos?