• Hannah

Stranded in Penang-Part 13

Updated: Mar 15

Because Mike's school senior management were requesting that staff start to return to China, (although there was no confirmed opening date for campus), we decided to fly back on 11 March. The day before we were due to fly, Emily and I went to the top of Penang Hill where they have made a canopy walk through the rainforest. The others were on a long hike. It was lovely to stroll under the cool, green 'roof' of the forest, serenaded by cicadas and bird song, and breath in the sweet, leafy fragrance. We saw a giant squirrel and a 'blue beauty' bird, (not close up, but thank you zoom lens- can you spot it below?).


In one of the 'Andaman' tents, they had a screen showing promotional footage of Penang Hill and one particular commentator was offered a flower to taste, to which she was surprised, but she found it to be very tasty. This made quite an impression on Emily and during our walk afterwards, she asked a lot of questions about flowers. After the questions had subsided we walked on, enjoying the peace. Then Emily spotted a delicate, white star-shaped flower and asked me if she could pick it. I agreed as she is always so keen to pick flowers and it was a rare opportunity to allow her to do so, due to it being in the wild. Half way down the canopy walk, I hear behind me a small scream, then something like 'Mummy I think the plants are in my mouth'. Turning round, I see Emily is crying and jumping up and down, rubbing her eyes, screaming as though in pain. Her yells are broken by coughing and spitting and tears, she is saying 'it hurts mum, its spicy, it's in my throat, in my heart'. It seemed her mouth was swelling slightly and my mind flashed back to the spice garden we visited yesterday where they were growing toxic, so called 'suicide' plants. In my core I knew something was really wrong and was overcome by a rising panicky feeling, hauling Emily up the hill, mentally planning to ask for assistance and call emergency services, I was reassured that she was still crying and therefore breathing and I got her to sit down. Through the tears and coughing, we established that she had drank some of the 'flower juice' and after five minutes the coughing and spitting slowed a bit. Checking her mouth, I was relieved it hadn't actually swelled and we walked on in caution. Reassured that she could polish off a packet of smarties and apart from me feeling sick, (probably due to the previous panic), our afternoon resumed. Emily was her 'normal' self, with good appetite.


Feeling sad that it was our last evening in Penang, once back in the air b & b, we packed and tidied our lives back into the suitcases. The entirety of my being was dreading the journey back to China the next day, as we had reports of people being held up on the plane or on the tarmac in Shanghai airport for 7 hours or more while they carried out health screening. We set the alarm to wake us at 4.30 am to go to the airport. Our sleep was cut short as Emily awoke at 11.30 pm, and several other times thoughout the early hours, vomiting violently...