Chapter 13: No really, the hospitals are nice here

Trip Start May 10, 2006
Trip End Dec 17, 2006

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

On the way to Australia I made a stop in Bangkok, Thailand, for medical follow-ups. A little over a year ago (July 2005) I had a root canal at the dentist with a temporary crown put in so came back for the real thing. Also I had eye surgery to repair a crack in my skull below the left eye socket caused by [big] Simon at the end of the Africa tour (see entry from rtw trip). The fluid from around the eye was draining into the nasal area so the doctor did a bone graft from my right hip to repair the crack. Apparently the graft didn't take (the body didn't accept it and keep it supplied with blood) and I began to have problems again (the left eye was physically lower and frequent headaches). I gave myself 3 weeks in Bangkok for appointments and follow-ups. Despite what most people think, the hospitals really are nice here. Brand new buildings, the latest equipment, plenty of staff to take care of you, staff trained in USA and Europe, plus it's like 10x cheaper than home. The last time I was here I ended up spending 26 days in Bangkok and during that time came to really dislike this city...

I arrived into the new airport at Bangkok in the morning of Oct 17 and was greeted by big yellow banners that said "long live the king". My first thought was, "elvis?" but then I remembered their reverance for the king of Thailand. At the baggage claim I waited and waited for my bag but it never came. When I went to talk to the people about it, they were already aware my bag was still in limbo but on its way (on a different flight). This is the first time my luggage didn't arrive in nearly 50 flights round-the-world (note: it was Gulf Air). I caught the bus from the airport into the city because it was cheaper. What I didn't know was that I would have to wait 45 min for the bus then it would take an hour to get to the edge of the city where it got stuck in traffic (traffic in central Bangkok is horrendous). I got off the bus early and rode the SkyTrain the rest of the way. Found the hostel [on Sukhumvit Soi 1] and got checked in. Soon after I went to Bumrungrad Hospital (right next to the hostel) for allergy tests. I just wanted to confirm some of the things I was allergic to and see if there may be other things. Here's a list of what I'm allergic to and how bad (scale is 1-5 with 5 being the worst):
sesame seeds = 1+
clams = 4+
crab = 3+
oyster = 3+
shrimp = 3+
almonds = 2+
cashews = 2
peanuts = 3+
oranges = 2
peaches = (they didn't have a test for this one)
ash tree = 1+
cottonwood = 1+
eastern oak = 1+
maple mix = 1+
bahia grass = 1+
bermuda grass = 1+
johnson grass = 1+
national weed mix = 1+
mixed mites = 4+
cockroaches = 2
I know I'm really allergic to shellfish, peanuts and peaches as they make my throat close up so I'm surprised those weren't higher on the scale. I got an epepen (damn expensive) so I can jab myself with adrenaline should I have a bad reaction. After the hospital visit, I went to the cinema and saw The Departed. The cinemas in Bangkok are state-of-the-art and only like $3. Back at the hostel there didn't seem to be anything going on.
The airline delivered my bag to the hostel the second day so I had clean clothes again. Had a few days of dentist and doctor appointments and wasting time around Bangkok. This is just a big, dirty city. I find little appealing about it. In fact I only took two pictures while here (though I have plenty of pics from other visits). It sickens me to see all the old, ugly western guys here picking up on young ladies (and men). I wish their economy was better so the girls wouldn't have to resort to that to earn decent money. It poured rain a couple of the days which kind of trapped me inside at times.
Dr Arthi said the CT scan showed there was still a crack below my left eye and the fluid had drained again. He scheduled surgery for the following night. On Oct 21 I went into Bumrungrad in the evening. I wasn't allowed to eat or drink most of the day so I felt kind of crappy when I arrived. The nurses had me get all ready and it wasn't long before I was down in the pre-surgery room. Various nurses kept stopping by to visit and talk to me. Not sure what that was about. Nurses, the anesthesialogist and anyone else that came by kept verifying that I didn't have on any necklace, rings, left clothes on under the surgery gown, etc... "Well, actually, I didn't want to mention it but I do have a kangaroo under here. Oh, and a llama. Errr, there's a horse too. And a giraffe, 4 monkeys, a goat, 7 chickens, a tasmanian devil, an ox, a family of pygmy marmosets, a zebra plus lions, tigers and bears...oh my!" Soon the room was more like a zoo than a hospital. I was taken into the surgery room and was soon out...
...I woke up in post-op a bit out of it. They had me there a little while before taking me back to the room. I had two days of recovery in the hospital mostly just laying in bed watching tv (they had movie channels). My body was hurting from laying around too much I was getting bed sores.
Had a few days of recovery at the hostel after that. My vision was messed up which caused me to be disoriented when I tried not to walk around so much. I did see the movie Stormbreaker that I thought has one of the most blatant false advertising campaigns ever - it advertises Ewan MacGregor as in the movie but you only see his picture a few times.

On Oct 26 I flew to Macau (I found a cheap flight online - $115 r/t). From there I caught the ferry to Hong Kong and met up with Nick in the evening. I was going to try to avoid drinking since my eye was still recovering, but that apparently wasn't an option. We met up with a couple British friends of his that evening. From traveling and meeting so many British guys who think they're the sh*t and drink like fish, I wasn't too impressed. (No, this doesn't mean all Brits are lame. Some of the best people I've met while traveling are from the UK.)
While Nick was at work on Friday, I went out to Stanley Market. Also sat around lazy in his apartment. I met up with him in Kowloon in the evening and we joined some of his co-workers for drinks and food. Later we met up with other friends on the Hong Kong side.
I was lazy again on Saturday. Wasn't feeling great in the afternoon so didn't get to cheer Nick on at his rugby game. That night we met up with some very nice Canadians (Neville, Morgan, Dilky and Dave) that Nick knows at a bar. They were eager to hear stories from my travels and very jealous (when a VP from a company is jealous of you, that says a lot). All were supportive of what I did and thought it was great that I took time off work at an early age to go out and see the world. Neville was especially interested and made sure that I wouldn't have to pay for a single drink. These guys are great! About 1am we ventured off to another bar for the experience of it. It's full of Chinese girls and western guys, and I soon got the idea that there's something going on here. Maybe it was that the girls were grabbing me in places they shouldn't. Our group huddled together by the dancefloor so as to be safe. Just stayed for one drink before going. It was interesting.
Slept in the following morning. Nick was hurting from rugby so just wanted to lay around the apartment. I went up to the park to see the monkeys. Also explored around the SoHo area a bit. Met up with the Brit guys again that evening for dinner and drinks. I wasn't feeling so great (cold coming on) so went home early. Well, early being 1am.
I woke up with a cold, sore throat and feeling generally crappy. Nick saw me off at the ferry terminal to Macau. Nick was a great host - way too generous and always eager to make sure I was having a good time. So got to Macau, to the airport and flew to Bangkok. Taxi back to the same hostel. Had dinner and was feeling bad (fever) so just went to bed early.

Felt a little better in the morning (no fever) and took the bus to Rayong. From there I took a boat to the island of Koh Samet. I stayed in a bungalow by Ao Phai beach. There are lots of little restaurants, bars and bungalows in this area. It was very nice to be out of the busy, big city. Just somewhere where I could relax by the beach. I checked out what movies the restaurants were showing so went to the one with the best for dinner. Watched a couple movies then to a bar for the Halloween fireshow and live music. The band and staff were all dressed up plus some of the guests. Some cute Thai girls there but I just don't know that I can trust that they like me and not my money. I should get a shirt that says "no job and no money" in Thai.
Had a couple more days of going to the beach by day, movies at restaurants then to bar (though the scene wasn't as happening as Halloween night). It was a great getaway for a few days and reminded me there are good places in Thailand.

I had to get back to Bangkok on Friday (Nov 3) for a follow-up doctor appointment about my eye. It was rather pointless ("how's the eye doing?"), as I thought it might be. I should've just stayed on Koh Samet. So I had a couple more days in the dirty city of Bangkok. I probably should've taken in more sight-seeing. I did stock up on some DVDs while there.

I flew out for Australia the evening of November 5. As much as I dislike Bangkok, I was a little sad to be leaving. Maybe it's knowing that there are so many cool places nearby (islands, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). Or maybe it's that I actually like the chaos of these second-world countries. Or possibly it's when I get to Australia I have to start looking for a job and that's a return to the "real world". The holiday really is over...
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