There are some inevitable truths when it comes to backpacking and travelling. You will most likely get sick or inflicted with something that tests both your strength and your patience. Normally its a case of a bad tummy, bed bugs, head lice, a motorbike accident, infected bites or wounds but alas our group decided that pink eye would be it’s thing. This walk through guide, especially for North Vietnam travellers, aims to get you through the worst of it whilst keeping your sight and your dignity. The three of us copped slightly varied types of the pink eye but it seemed to follow these similar stages.

Red eyes 

The eye ball becomes a bit more blood shot especially in the lower part of the eyeball and they felt sore and dry, similar to a bad case of dry eye. People may also comment on how stoned you look.

All things goop 

This was the nightmarish moment where you realise in a panic that you have caught this god damn curse as your eyes get a bit itchy and glazed over. It looks like spider man has shot yellow and green webs all over your eyeballs and you will generally feel both a satisfying and disturbing feeling every time you wipe it out. You will also have moments of thinking you’ve suddenly gone blind, don’t worry this is just an exceptionally large bit of mucus floating across your eyeball. Perfect.


Yup this refers to the morning you wake up with your eyes stuck together like super glue and you briefly think that all those sins have finally caught up to you and you have indeed made it to hell. This will be confirmed as you blindly run to the bathroom, via walking into the wall, and slowly wet and pull apart your eyelids. Note: you may feel a bit like Neo in the Matrix, being born again and feeling like it’s the first time you’ve used your eyes.

Devil’s apprentice 

After you’ve unstuck your eyes you will go through varied degrees of wiping goop and sticky stuff off, having your eyes suddenly weep out liquidy stuff, looking in the mirror and admiring the scarlet colour of your eyeballs, screaming in pain when you open your eyes, screaming in pain when you shut them. Then to top it off, in your exhaustion you’ll fall asleep for a nap and be right back to where you were that morning. Please be warned that crying in self pity only makes you feel like you’re crying tears of acid, avoid at all costs.

Violence against women 

Violence is something we all hate, you will look like one of the TV commercial victims with two puffy eyes and dark circles underneath. Goop will have eased up but the searing pain will still be present and your eye balls will feel like they just excreted Mexican food from them.

False hope

 Oh yes, this occurs about the third day in when your eyes are now only 95% bloodshot and you’re feeling better, swelling will reduce and you’ll feel less stuck together in the morning. And while you confidently decide you can manage sunlight and totally make it to a restaurant to socialise, you will come back in sunglasses with your tail between your legs and in desperate need for iced water to be poured directly to your eyeball.This stage will also leave your eyeballs constantly glazed over, a bit like suddenly developing 10/10 vision.

What goes up must come down

By day four you will be able to partake in normal activities such as eating a meal, talking to people and walking without bumping into walls. Wear sunglasses. No matter how amazing you think you now look, the bloodshot eyes will scare off people and they will refuse to touch anything you just touched unless it’s been doused in alcohol solution. Your eyes will still be glazed over, probably a good thing as you’ll miss half the horrendous looks you receive walking down the street.

After about 6-8 days when everything is finally looking up you will make a desperate plea to any god you can think of and trade good behaviour for the next week if they promise never to inflict such an affliction on you again.

Your best friends through the journey.

Get a private room, blow your budget and get a room with a TV. You won’t be able to do anything for a few days and you don’t want to spread it around your dorm. As soon as your eyes feel sore and red head to the pharmacy and get saline eye drops, antibiotic eye drops or ointment (chloramphenicol). Abuse Asia’s amazingly relaxed pharmaceutical laws and get strong pain killers with codeine or an anti inflammatory. Get cotton tips to wipe out mucus and soft tissues, using your fingers is a stupid idea, it only spreads it. Get some food and drinks while you’re there, you might not feel up to leaving the ‘Dungeon of Doom’ for a day or so. Warm compresses and tea bags on the eyelids feel great, a cold compress when they’re inflamed is magic. I was lucky enough to have my gal pal also in bed with a bad case of the samesies so we swapped disgusting play by play photos and Facebooked all day about what life changing show National Geographic or HBO was playing .

So there you have it, a walk through the worst week my eyes have ever had to endure and they’ve seen Miley Cyrus twerking. Enough said.

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