The three stages of happiness:
Spot the kitty. Approach the kitty. Pet the kitty.
When I first came to Thailand I was on a mission to capture everything exotic and “Thailandy”. Since I’ve returned it has not been such a focus.
It’s amazing how quickly something so beautiful can blend into the background.
Today, in between going to the hospital and renewing my sim card I took a few moments to stop off at a few of the temples scattered around the edge of Old City.
If you spend any amount of time out of your home country then sooner or later you’re going to want some medical help. It might be for something minor or you might be unlucky enough to need some major assistance. Either way, you will be in a weakened state when it comes down to it so it can’t hurt to brush up on the etiquette before you need to do this for real.
I had to go to the hospital today. I should have done this about 4 countries ago but each time it flared up it wasn’t convenient to take the time out. I was either about to board a plane, on holiday with my parents or just generally failing to adult.
This wasn’t the first time I had ended up in a hospital on this side of the world. I’d been in for a similar thing in my first month of being a digital nomad. It was a lot worse that time I was rolling around on my bed in proper pain. I was a long long way from my mummy. Despite having made friends at the hostel I was still a long way from anyone that I could turn to as well. It was a tough time. I realised just how weak and exposed I could feel out here in the world.
This time it was more of a mild annoyance hence why I had been putting it off to just travel around and have fun instead.
But having been to a hospital in Bangkok and now in Chiang Mai, I have spotted a standard pattern for what you can expect. You may have different ideas running through your head but let me say that my experiences with the Thai medical system have been nothing short of amazement. They are super clean, super modern and super efficient. Here is what you can expect:
Before you set off: Don’t forget your passport and any other essential notes you don’t have in your memory like your Thai address, phone number, and any information about travel insurance if you have it.
I also went armed with a wedge of THB, my credit card and the medicine I had been self-medicating with up to now.
For me, this was a case of just asking somebody. Another friend at the hostel in Bangkok had been poorly the week before. She had visited two and recommended the second one to me as it was the most modern.
Here in Chiang Mai, I turned to the ever helpful MJ who owns In The City Hostel which I’m staying at right now. She directed me to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital which is just on the northeast corner of Old City. Easily within walking distance of my accommodation.
After dragging yourself to the nearest hospital you need to head for the biggest looking entrance you can see. They actually have people stood right inside the door and if you hesitate and look like you need assistance somebody will attend to you in seconds. The first step is to be taken to the new registration desk.
I actually barrelled into the place so quickly this time around that I didn’t spot these helpers on arrival. I only spotted them on the way out as they were helping the next wave of unlucky tourists to get situated.
You will find that everyone speaks great English inside the hospital which is important when you want to describe the nuances of how it hurts when you do this or how this rash wasn’t there yesterday.
The first step is to head to the new patient desk. You will be given a form and they will take a photocopy of your passport while you are filling it out:
They will want to know, in broad terms, what is wrong with you. They will also sit you down and take a quick photo.
After that, you get a ticket. Clutch on to this for the whole journey through the hospital, it is your ID. Once you have this ticket a nurse will take you to the next stage if it’s a long way away. In Bangkok, I was taken through halls and up an elevator before being told where to wait. In Chiang Mai I was told to head over to counter number 4 and give them my ticket:
After they checked I was in the right place I was asked to sit down in the rows of seats and wait. I pulled my phone straight out and set about playing my latest puzzle game du jour. The waiting time in both cases was under 20 minutes.
They had asked me a few questions and then I had replied Chi (which is yes in Thai) and then they were like oh do you speak Thai? I quickly realised I was out of my depth. This was no place for me to be acting like I was multilingual just because I’d learned the half-a-dozen most popular Thai phrases, so I sheepishly said no. After that, I stuck to my mother tongue for the rest of my visit.
The gross bit: I have an ear infection, the doctor said it is from dirty water getting into my ear. I suspect that it’s because I used those little cotton bud sticks and cleaned my ears out a little too well, exposing my ear to the ravishes of non-potable water.
Potable water means drinking water. Did you know that? I didn’t until just a couple of months ago but it seems that it’s a widely known phrase. It went into my vocabulary builder anyway so it’s not getting away twice. Not sure how I missed it all these years!
The examination both times started out with a quick chat, then they told me they were going to take a look and performed the initial examination. In my home country, this is where your journey would end, with an appointment to return some days in the future. Not here in Thailand, both times they have said yep this needs some work and moved straight onto a procedure.
Warning – additional gross-ish bit: Now I must admit, I was somewhat spoiled in Bangkok. The Dr had two mysterious flatscreen tv’s mounted up in the top corners of the room. When he started the procedure they sprang into life. It was deliciously hideous. I was both repulsed and entranced at the same time. And I could not look away. The tool he was using had a camera mounted and I could see what he saw inside my ear. It was a mess but he worked to extract the bad bits. There was no pain. He said that there were no pain receptors in there so he could get on with it no worries. The sensation when I saw him remove the bad bit was utterly unique. It was like watching one of those standard medical procedure tv shows but as he pulled it out it coincided with an enormous sense of satisfaction as my hearing came back after being lost for the past three days! I kind of wish I could have got the video.
Ok, the gross details are done with now. After that, in Bangkok, I was then quizzed by the Dr about my knowledge of the safety, living cost and university quality of varies cities back in England. He was Thai, but it turned out his child was going to be going to uni in England and he was worried about which one would be the best but safest place to send her to. In the end, he applied a sort of bubble sort to reach his decision. Manchester or Leeds? London or Leeds? Leeds or Birmingham?
I think he was happy with his advice, and after the wonderful work he had just performed on me I was more than a little bit in love and would have helped him with any questions he had whatsoever.
After the fun was over the nurse takes you back out to the main waiting area. They prep your details on the system, transferring the notes the Dr has just passed along, so the next stage is ready for you. The nurse then took me over to the payment desk.
Even if you have insurance you still have to pay now, claim later. They have an announcement system which reads out the numbers in Thai. I sat there silently cursing myself for still having not learned the numbers yet. But they were ready for me and when it got to my number it switched to farang mode, doing the whole announcement in English.
At the desk, I pulled out my credit card to make the payment. The prescription was printed off with the rest of the invoice paperwork and was whisked over to a window in the wall which opened through to the on-site pharmacy.
The total bill for this wondrous service? 1989THB. That comes to roughly £47. Pretty reasonable in anyone’s books! And it includes the cost of the prescription as well.
As you might be able to make out, if you squint, the first 700THB was the Dr’s fee. The prescription medication cost 1029THB and then the remaining 200-300THB is the cost of the bits, the nurse and general hospital costs.
I kind of like the way the prescriptions are presented here in Thailand. You get a little goodie bag and walk away feeling like you have just been to a children’s party:
They prescribed me Ibuprofen, which I was already taking. This costs about 10thb for a packet in a Pharmacy on the street. The ones in my goodie bag are Neurofen brand name ones. If I had realised that before I had paid I could probably have turned them down and maybe saved a few bt. Not the end of the world but I just feel compelled to try to optimise things so that sort of things niggles at me.
So I am on antibiotics for the next week, alongside ibuprofen and ear drops. The ear drops have to be done to both ears which means I can look forward to doing my best impression of Plug, from The Bash Street Kids in the coming days:
And that’s it. A pretty simple process, great value for money and super clean and high quality throughout. I recommend you cultivate your own medical situation as soon as possible so that you can have this experience too! (Disclaimer: If I actually have to disclaim this you are probably already a write-off).
Nomad friendly? No.
Not every day can be a glorious winner as a digital nomad. I somehow messed my sleep up and woke up early, then went back to sleep and slept until gone 12. After that, I had my breakfast and just never really managed to get into the swing of things.
I’ve said this before, even if I get my 8 hours in, unless they are at the right time, with me waking up in the morning, they don’t seem to count. Despite knowing this I have run the worst-managed sleeping cycle that I possibly could for basically all of adult life.
After wasting most of the day I decided to at least stay true to my new plan of trying out more mid-range cafe’s. I had walked past The Glass House so many times, during my first visit to Chiang Mai and during this return trip, always peeking over the fence at it and planning it for “one day”.
It’s not hard to catch your eye as they have got a great setup with lights in the trees and stylish surroundings throughout:
Now maybe I’m not being fair on the place as I ordered beef burger and wedges. I know it’s western food and maybe they do some really tasty local dishes, but it’s one of the things they advertise outside on a specials chalkboard and they have a broad range of western food items on their menu so I think they brought this upon themselves.
It started off well, stylish table, koi friend swimming in the pond next to me, water feature gurgling away. They brought me a free little shot of something to welcome me. As soon as they delivered though I was greeted with the sadness:
The plate looks like its missing some stuff with that huge gap. The burger was basically the size of a 99p one in Burger King. The bun had a chewiness to it that betrayed the fact that it had just been defrosted in a microwave. The meat was actually quite tasty but it was one of those ones that are processed frozen meat like you would get at a fairground in the UK.
I opted for the cheese upgrade which was a good job because if I had not then it would have been a lonely burger. Inside that bun was exactly two things, a cheap patty and an unmelted cheese square. You can see it was joined by a total of about 9 wedges.
Food scoffed. Tummy rumbling. Wallet 175thb lighter.
Didn’t get a photo of the menu, it was too dark as I was leaving. I might be able to update this with a day shot later…
Most items were in the region of 100thb to 250thb with a 350thb steak outlier.
My beef burger was 150thb, with a 25thb cheese upgrade.
They had a pork/chicken burger option for 125thb.
I remember seeing Chicken with Cashew Nuts for 165thb.
It was a proper restaurant setting so definitely not feeling nomad friendly. They did have free WiFi though.
Not highly. It seems like it could be a good place to bring your parents if they were over visiting but for standard nomad life, I don’t think I will be returning.
I don’t know why I feel bad for it, but I kinda do. I feel like I’ve kicked a puppy. I’m sorry restaurant but you just didn’t deliver and if I’m not going to be honest then what’s the point in this?
I snapped a few scene setters to try to show off the awesome decor. There was also a huge cross-section of a tree trunk that was for groups down the middle that I didn’t get a picture of. And a little wooden swing outside.
Nomad friendly? Yes!
I came back to Thailand with a renewed determination to spend more money than I had last time. Everything is so cheap here. I use an app to track all my money and it is just so tempting to play little games with myself to get a lower and lower score. Over the last few days I spent hardly anything on my food for the day. It went 166thb, 135thb, 112thb, 60thb and then finally last night 50thb. For reference £1 is 42thb.
I was going down the rabbit hole again without even really trying to.
I had joked just the night before while messaging with my Mum that 60thb was really the lowest score I was going to get. The next day I woke up late, like lunchtime late, but the wonderful Pii Pum still cooked me my “breakfast” as part of the daily package here at In The City Hostel. That evening after stopping off at a food market for some food, I was walking back when I realised I had just spent 50thb in total for food that day.
I had to take action, so the first thing I did was buy some cakes from the 711; just to break the chain and bump the numbers up. Then I made a commitment to inject some more variety into my daily rituals. To spend more time eating at the mid-range cafe places, instead of just heading to the nearest roadside food seller. Visit spots with nice interior design, free Wi-Fi and some unique menu items.
So that’s how I ended up here today, at Lyceum Camp:
I was walking around looking for somewhere and as I went past this place I saw the menu, on a stand outside. Straight away it met my budget aims. There was something I liked the look on, right on the opening page: chicken steak with black pepper, side salad and chips for 149thb (£3.38). I decided to go in and pick something.
I had commented recently how the change over from a public to private space in Thailand is seamless. This restaurant was not an exception. The place has got some nice styles to it. To my left, stylish tables, decorated ceilings, intricate windows. To my right a few more tables and then it just changes over to a kind of office. A wall of filing cabinets and an office with people busy working on something. When I approached the counter, a lady got up from this table and came over to hand me a menu. It makes sense I guess to maximise the space but it just seems strange from an English upbringing seeing these places mingle together without any kind of partition. I saw the same in Koh Lanta in a supermarket and then later on in a coffee shop though so I wasn’t too fazed.
The whole place was laid out nicely, with a central area for casual sit down customers, a nomad / study / solo customer area to the left, a big fancy round marble table in a conservatory-style setup and also a section out front with some laid-back lounging chairs to watch the world go by. I greedily sat down at the 4 person marble table to enjoy its luxury haha. What?! There were no other customers at the time!
I spent a borderline embarrassing amount of time flicking back and forth (Thai wait staff seem to expect you to order very quickly). Originally I had set out on the walk with the notion of a burger, but I want to try new things when I could and this creamy red noodle dish had instantly caught my eye. The menu said it was a dish called Korean Noodle Kimchi Soup. I’m very glad I tried it because it was delicious. It was very spicy but just right for me.
In that bowl, there was noodles, some tofu, a scrambled egg, various greenery bits, onions and a creamy red spiiiiicy sauce.
I think it was probably too tasty to have been healthy so I just refused to look that up.
There were multiple other things on the menu that I definitely would like to try. My aim is to go to at least one new place a day now but maybe I can work around this imaginary limitation I’ve set myself. If I exploit the loophole of going back to work there for a few hours then that’s legit, right?
As I left I stopped to take a few shots of the menu so you can get a feel for what’s on offer and the prices:
Lowest price: 55thb for fried rice with pork
Highest price: 149thb for a chicken/pork steak with chips + salad
Average: around 100thb for ramen bowls, spaghetti carbonara, or a chicken teriyaki, omelette and rice bowl.
Yes, it seems to be. I didn’t have my laptop with me so I didn’t actually do any work but if you look on the picture below you can see it is set up as rows of individual / 2 people tables and each one has a power socket right at table height on the wall:
They also gave me this WiFi code which clearly stated a 1.5hr expiry. I would say that’s the maximum you should wait before either leaving or spending more money but that limit + the sockets at least set-out boundaries that are encouraging.
It was school finishing time when I arrived (I knew this because I had just passed the school which is further up the block). While I was eating, two separate school girls arrived and set their tablets up in work mode and started revising:
The place was pretty empty apart from that so if nobody else is trying to get sat I would definitely feel happy working there for an hour or so.
UPDATE: I went back a week later and worked there for a few hours, nobody batted an eyelid. I got something to eat and kept my WiFi code in my hand. Then after I’d finished eating I got a coffee, logged in (starting the countdown) and worked for the full amount. I was writing a particularly tricky quote and actually ended up overstaying a little bit.
🎶 He was a snakey boy, I said see ya later boy, he wasn’t slithering up on me. 🎶
First sighting for me in Thailand. Only popped to the 7/11 for a cheeky packet of biscuits and ended up dodging 3 cockroaches, 2 rats and 1 snake.
I mean I call it dodging but they actually had zero interest in me, they just wanted to get from one place to another.
But therein lies the rub.
You see, just the other day I had found a silly little cockroach that had flipped himself over in the bathroom. Given the choice between sending him on his way or having to clean up squashed critter in my bathroom, I selected the charitable option.
But when it comes to memos it appears that cockroaches are a little behind on the times. No, it would appear for all intents and purposes that no memos whatsoever are delivered to the cockroach kingdom.
Yes, I’m quite confident about their lack of memo receiving because when I took an empty water bottle and tried to tippety-tap it over, back to the side that gravity prefers in this region, it didn’t stop to read any memos.
But Matthew, I hear you say, cockroaches can’t just disappear.
And you would be right.
I first started to realise this when I felt the tickling on my arm. It turns out my brain was a lot slower than the cockroaches, because when it found that all of a sudden its many feet now had friction at their disposal the first thing it did was not flee the scene, exposing itself to a squishing, but run straight up the bottle and onto my arm.
It was so fast and so gross that, well, I’m not sure if my brain couldn’t or just wouldn’t admit to what had happened. Instead, it looked at the bottle confusedly, twisted it around a bit and wondered if I had accidentally squished it. Where did it go? Why didn’t it run away?
And then there was no more putting it off. We were all on the same page. The cockroach knew where it was. My brain knew where it was.
It was on my arm.
I let out one of those screams that start off with a clearly audible version of disbelief and work their way up the tonal scale. The bottle went clattering across the room and my arm started whipping backwards & forwards faster than Ali-G saying booyakasha.
Mr Roach was now in for his turn at being surprised as he suddenly found himself bouncing against the wall on the opposite side of the room and landing back upside down again.
I HAD TOUCHED A COCKROACH.
There was an immediate and intensive session of soaping my hand and arm up while keeping an attentive eye on the upside down guest over the way.
This time he either finally got the memo or just applied some classic cockroach common sense because he managed to flip himself and took the wise decision to flee the scene.
I did the same and locked the door behind me.
Now, I know I gave him mixed signals by holding hands with him so quickly but I am really hoping that neither he nor any of his friends attempt to get a second date…
Met a kitty by the side of the road 😻.
Got speaking to a nearby shop owner and turned out there was four kitties plus a mommy and they were all really hungry.
It’s a tough time for a smol kitty at the moment as it’s low season here in Koh Lanta. The ladies shop was one of the only ones open. Everywhere else had their shutters down and wouldn’t be raising them for several more months.
The nice lady had taken to feeding them in the morning, but couldn’t leave her shop until it closed at 7pm so they were all super hungry little meow boxes when we arrived on the scene.
Obviously, as soon as we heard this we turned around, went straight over the road to the supermarket and picked up a bag of kitten nibbles. It drew quite the kitty crowd. That little grey furball must have eaten about twice its weight in nibblets!
We left the lady in charge of the rest of the bag so these kitties have a few days of good eating ahead, hopefully, more kitty fans will come along to keep things going…