Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ties to Thailand

If you read my previous blog post you would know that we were here mainly for the dental work. But no point staying in a place for a month and not having a look around. So in between dental visits and recovery time we ventured around and beyond Bangkok.

In Bangkok our trips included a ferry ride on the Chao Phraya River, Ko Kret Island, Wat Arun  (or Temple of the Dawn), The Grand Palace, Nonthaburi, numerous shopping explorations and tiny art galleries and an afternoon at the cinema seeing Wonder Woman. Hey, it was good and in English. We learned the subway, skytrain and bus systems and how to say hello, good morning and thank you (the great multi linguists that we are). Elizabeth even spent some time at a local cat haven to get a much needed cat fix.

We also visited Lumpini Park, and Benchasiri Park multiple times. Benchasiri is a fantastic  park for people watching. Any evening of the week you can see masses of people doing aerobics at the motivation of an energetic instructor yelling over a loud PA system. There are two outdoor gyms with facilities including weights, two children's playgrounds, a skate park, volleyball and soccer courts, friendly cats (and not so friendly), a jogging track encircling the whole park, and more. Once we even found a group doing a form of Tai Chi with swords. It also has a beautiful lake in the middle and lovely views of the surrounding buildings, especially speccy in the evening.

We did a wonderful day trip to the Bridge on the River Kwai. You can take a train from Hua Lumphong Train Station that runs on weekends, which stops briefly at the bridge for you to look around and take pictures, and then goes over the bridge and on to Nam Tok and the Sai Yok Noi waterfall near the Myanmar border. You are given several hours to look around and walk up to the hilltop national park, and then taken back to Bangkok. At about $20AU, a bargain!

At one point we had a week between appointments since I needed to recover from a tooth extraction. We took that opportunity to go to Chiang Mai for a few days to visit our friend Dianne. One of the best things we did here was go to the Elephant Nature Park. No elephant rides or circus tricks here; this place is a sanctuary for elephants rescued from those types of activities as well as elephants injured by stepping on land mines while being used as beasts of burden by loggers. You see them relaxing and enjoying themselves along with buffaloes in a beautiful valley encircled by soft hills and tropical greenery. There are also sanctuaries there for abandoned dogs and cats. We learned that elephants experience terrible pain and trauma being 'broken' by beatings to make them docile for riding and circus performances. Please avoid the places that use elephants as performers and support wonderful sanctuaries like this one. https://www.elephantnaturepark.org

*** A note of warning from Elizabeth - other companies in Chiang Mai have chosen similar names to Elephant Nature Park but use unethical methods of discipline such as prodding the elephants with nails hidden in their hands. One of the most joyous experiences at Elephant Nature Park was watching from the bank as the elephants bathed themselves in the river and then clambered out and snorted themselves with their favourite sunscreen - dust - without any prodding. And it's far more comfortable to walk alongside elephants than to ride on them. You can observe them so much more intently by gving them their space and be happy knowing that they're happy. So make sure you choose the correct company (website above). Ok, here endeth the lecture. Love and pleadings, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Dianne grossed me out while we were exploring the old town by eating that horrible, foul smelling, banned in most places, Durian fruit. I pretended not to know them and sat on a bench by myself watching community aerobics. A nice activity that happens in many public parks in Asia. Eventually Elizabeth finished her fruit and joined the aerobics.

From here we took a day trip to Chiang Rai, including a boat ride to the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet on the Mekong River banks. It also included a visitor's pass to Donesao Island in Laos, bonus! In reality this is just a marketing opportunity as you were only there long enough to run the gauntlet of market stalls selling clothing, jewellery and whisky containing various animal parts. Being vegetarian we do not agree with treating animals this way, so did not sample or buy. I will take my whisky clear and with ice thank you.

We also saw the White Temple which was one of the most beautiful temples I have seen since the Taj Mahal, and dropped in to see the Kayan people with the long necks. They believe that the long necks make them beautiful, they certainly look fragile, but we were assured it is mostly an illusion. Their necks are the same length as ours, it is the shoulders that droop. They come over from Myanmar to earn more money than they can there and send it home and return for family visits. There are conflicting stories in this region about their treatment and freedoms but I can only go on what we were told by asking them questions with the answers translated by our guide.

Although we were in Thailand for medical reasons, we really enjoyed our time there and getting to know an area in a bit more depth than would normally be the case when travelling. Whether it is for dental work, catching up with old and new friends or visiting the cats and elephants, our ties to Thailand will see us returning soon.

The White Temple



Elephants at Play

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bangkok and the one about the dentist

In our other life as full time housesitters we came across a couple who have all their dental work done in Bangkok. At a third of the price in Australia and with a recommendation on which company to use, we decided to give this medical tourism thing a go. Without medical cover since the late 80's I hadn't been for a proper dental checkup in nearly 30 years.

First impressions were: very thorough, very professional, super attentive and caring. They had different specialists for basically every type of treatment. There was the normal fillings and cleaning dentist, the crowns expert, a surgeon for the big stuff like implants, and a root canal professional. Most work would commence within minutes of the appointment time, after a blood pressure check due to the fact you're normally hot and sweaty coming in from the Bangkok tropical heat. A nice assistant would come down to the extensive hotel lobby style waiting area, escort you into the lift and deliver you to the appropriate specialist.

My dentist was impressed with the state of my teeth considering the lack of ongoing care, genetic deficiencies, extensive overcrowding and age. Thankfully I am not TOTALLY irresponsible and HAVE ALWAYS brushed twice a day and regularly floss. That being said there were numerous issues, a lot due to the overcrowding which has seen the loss of teeth and resultant gaps over the years. A treatment plan was put into place with my first appointment for a couple of fillings that very afternoon. They are geared to getting to work straight away and work weekends and into the early evenings, as travellers often have limited time.

The work progressed with a couple of hiccups. They tried to rearrange my appointments in ways that were not convenient or did not make sense to me, but when I expressed concern they agreed to stick to the original plan. Also, and I don't know if this is just me, but whenever they would remove an old filling (and we're talking 30 years plus) there always seemed to be an unknown disaster underneath waiting to surface. Cracked tooth, infected root, why is it never good news? To their credit they would always give me a mirror and explain ad nauseum what was going wrong, like the distorted mangled mess reflected back made any sense to me.

Dental work has progressed a lot since my last appointment - the work was much less painful with quicker recovery than I expected (or is it just that these guys are so good). I was particularly worried about implant preparation surgery where they put a post into my jaw. There was cutting, drilling, pushing, screwing to the point that I swear they were creating miniature furniture in there. But the pain was surprisingly small and I was able to eat within hours with my mouth feeling quite normal the next day. Any medication necessary is dispensed directly by the staff: no scripts, no pharmacies and exactly the amount you need.

One major advantage to having it done in Thailand is massages!!! After one  particularly gruelling 5 hour session (my choice, I just wanted to get it over with rather than multiple appointments) with aching shoulders, neck and jaw, I dropped into one of the 3 billion massage joints between our hotel and the dentist and had a 60 minute neck and shoulder massage for $14 AU. Problem solved :-) Obviously the other advantage is that you can get your teeth done, have a holiday with trips to the Bangkok tourist spots between appointments, and still come back in front on the cost at home.

I came away from Bangkok feeling well cared for and that I had been treated by professionals, with respect and at a fair cost. There were never any issues with billing as the initial consultation was free and they would bill you as the work was done and, even with the extra jobs, the final cost was within the initial range of estimates. I would thoroughly recommend getting your dental work done this way. While there we stayed at the S Box Sukhumvit Hotel which was a half hour walk to the dentist, quite comfortable and reasonably priced. If you're in my situation don't be afraid to investigate this option.

Website: http://www.bangkokinterdental.com

For things to do in Thailand between appointments you will need to wait until my next post...