Category: Travel Tip

Travel Tip

Day 404: Photograph your clothes before you give them to the laundrette

One of the great benefits of living in many parts of the world is that laundry services are the standard way people get their clothes washed. This means the businesses are plentiful and cheap. For me, back home, it’s a luxury to get something like this done.

You either need a mummy on-hand or you take it to a laundrette and end up paying more to get it cleaned than you paid for the item in the first place! So of course, I eagerly take advantage of these services when I can.

However, it’s easy for your laundry to get mixed up when you send it off to get cleaned. I’ve lost a few pairs of boxers and other people I’ve travelled with have lost bras and tops.

When you only have a few pieces to your name – and you probably brought quality items from home – it can be heartbreaking to lose them.

But what can you do to minimise this? I’m glad you asked!

Before you bag up your laundry, spread it out on the bed and take a few photos. It’s quick and easy but it gives you peace of mind when you are wondering if you got everything back.

Also, having a photo to show them gives you a better chance to get it back if it has been misplaced. It can be hard to describe it if anything goes missing and a photo sidesteps any language barriers.

Worse, sometimes it doesn’t occur to you until later on. You might have already left the area, or the other person might. One time we lost a bra but gained one as well. The laundry was returned in the morning but we didn’t notice the mistake until the evening.

We went down to the front desk and found out that the other person that had done their laundry at the same time had already checked out and left the city with our bra swapped into theirs.

A photo check could have saved the day and got these items back to their correct owners!

Pro tip: When using the laundrettes, in Asia at least, they often use cold water. The clothes are cleaned but not cleaned.

If you are one of those people that does a sniff-test it and thinks “I’ve got a few more days” then bear in mind you should be washing them before they get too rank. You will end up with a stinky suitcase as well if you try to play this game.

Travel Tip

Day 286: How to go to hospital in Thailand

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:

Your passport is required!

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.

Picking your hospital

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.

Arrival

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.

Form

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.

Forms in various languages, red was English

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.

Ticket

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:

Waiting

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.

Examination

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.

Wrap up

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.

Payment

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.

Waiting to pay

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.

Prescription

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:

You get a goodie bag from the pharmacy

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.

Healing

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:

Looking like Plug from The Bash Street Kids

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).

Travel Tip

Day 254: Tourist SIM card buying guide for Bangkok, Thailand

This was the second time I had arrived in Bangkok. I was emboldened and feeling a lot more at home than I did when I first touched down on day 1 of my digital nomad journey.

Because of this, I decided I would head to the store after getting settled in rather than buying my SIM straight away at the airport.

The transfer-in from BKK to the city centre couldn’t be more simple. You get on the train on the bottom floor of the airport and it is one long single track. A ticket all the way to the end costs just 35THB and if you need to get somewhere else in town it stops at stations along the way that connects with the BTS train system that goes around the city.

I already knew where my hostel was. It was a place I had gazed through the window with curiosity many times on my last trip, but I hadn’t booked before now. I had been caught up playing a game of how-cheap-can-I-live on my first visit to Asia. Enchanted by the incredibly low prices of everything I got addicted to seeing just how low I could get my daily outgoings down to. This time I was here to treat myself better, so I was booked in to a style hostel and knew exactly where I was heading.

I felt confident enough to step out into the world without having data on my phone and if you do too and want the best deal then this is the

Anyway, back to the SIM card you are here to learn about!

Which telecoms provider?

The big 3 are AIS, DTAC and TrueMove.

If you are travelling around Thailand and want to visit the various islands then it could be worth doing more research on other websites. I have seen pages with coverage maps and depending on where you want to go, your choice of SIM provider might be influenced by their reach.

For me, I found myself emotionally tied to AIS and that’s who I have used each time I have been here. How did they get me? Well, I read about their hotspots, for example in CAMP, Maya Mall, Chiang Mai, where you can connect to their superfast WiFi if you have an account with them.

As there was not much to choose between the big three providers this is what swung it for me.

AIS Flagship Store in Central World, Bangkok

The day after I arrived, I headed over to their flagship store to buy my SIM. I was within walking distance so I took a short stroll, but depending on where you are you might want to jump on a train. You are aiming to get off at either BTS Siam or BTS Chit Lom, they are both a short walk to Central World (CTW) which is a huge multi-story mall in the Siam area of Bangkok.

The shop is located on level 4 so head up on the nearest elevators and then walk around until you find it, it will just take a few minutes. If you open the map above using the View Larger Map link then you will see an extra feature which doesn’t appear on the embedded map – you can click the floor on the right-hand side to see which stores are on which floor and where they are exactly located.

You will know when you see it, it has the AIS logo plastered outside and all around, and is made up of floor-to-ceiling glass panes with the full AIS range of products inside.

Here’s a shot of the store entrance:

The buying process

One of the nicer things about buying from the flagship store is that the staff all speak a high level of English. You are also buying directly from them so you aren’t going to get tricked with any prices.

Finally, the other nice option is you have the full range of contract varieties available to you – often the resellers that you find around airports and streets will strip back the number of options available to you in order to get you to make a quick decision and not be overwhelmed.

A salesperson will approach you pretty quickly when you arrive. Tell them you want to buy a tourist sim and they will guide you over to a desk directly. If it’s a busier time of day you might get given a number and asked to sit down for a moment. I’ve experienced both but never had to wait that long.

At the desk, they will have a chart with all of the tourist sim options currently available. It should look something like this:

Prices valid as of May 2018

As you can see, this table has many options and you can go for your preferred style. First, you pick how long you want the sim to last. You can buy limited or unlimited data packages. If you buy a limited package then check the After Used Up column which tells you what happens when you run out. Sometimes its the end of the line, often your speed is just reduced for the rest of the days of your contract.

You should also pay attention to the Speed column. This is the maximum download speed. I opted for the 6mb package which was more than fast enough for my needs, but if you plan to use it a lot then you might want to splash out on the 3g/4g packages. This means that it will go the maximum speed the network can handle. This could be up to 30mbps on 3g and 50mbps on 4g, but those top end speeds are rare. Either way, it should be quite a lot faster than 6mbps, which is why there is quite a significant bump in the cost between the two top end prices (6mb, unlimited data, 30days was 600THB and 3g/4g unlimited data 30 days is 1650THB as of May 2018).

The 600THB package is what I got and it was perfect for my needs.

When you have told the sales assistant which one you want they will take your phone and the money. They will want the price on the list + 49THB to buy the sim card.

I suspect if you were savvy enough you could do this all for yourself because what happens next is they take your money, walk out of the store, and around to a set of fancy touchscreen vending machines.

One machine is used to convert your money into vouchers, then a second machine will be used to order and dispense your sim card. The sales assistant will do all that for you while you are sitting and watching through the window of the store. Then they will come back, load it into your phone, do the activation/setup process and hand your phone back to you.

There is no extra fee for getting them to do this so you don’t need to go out of your way to be a hero and try to do it all yourself.

Pro tip – get your messages in English

The first time I got my SIM I was inundated with messages written in Thai. At first I thought they were spam but then I got curious and started translating them with Google Translate. It turns out that AIS is regularly running promotions, so you will get notifications with things like “1gb free internet this weekend, activates Friday night” sent to your phone.

This was confusing and after a while I realised I could probably change these messages to English. Searching on the AIS website I managed to track down the codes and with a few attempts, I got my messages to arrive in English.

You are a professional traveller though! Do not put yourself through this mini ordeal. When the SIM has been configured and the salesperson tries to hand you back your phone, just ask them to put the code into convert the text messages to English and they will do this for you. Tada! What a seasoned expert you are, effortlessly navigating this hurdle.

Pro tip – tether to share with your laptop

These AIS sims will let you create a hotspot using your phone. This means you can share your phone data as a WiFi network to your laptop and you can be productive even if you don’t have normal WiFi. If you got the unlimited data package then this is perfect. If not then be careful about what you are getting up to. Streaming YouTube videos will soon chomp through your data.

It’s also unlikely your laptop will realise what type of connection it’s on and it might start downloading system updates in the background or otherwise accidentally abusing a line which it normally expects to be unlimited data.

Pro tip – keep your SIM afterwards

You will probably be back again and you can save the 49THB / 100THB fee when you arrive the next time. Just show the salesperson you already have a SIM and they will reactivate that one instead of selling you a new one.

Added bonus, if you gave your mum your phone number for emergencies then she doesn’t have to add another one this time!

Walking to the SIM card shop

Buying at the airport

If you really want to hit the ground running then you also have the option of buying a SIM at the airport. You will find yourself walking past stalls at multiple stores that you can buy a SIM from.

In Bangkok BKK, there is one that is right after you get off the plane before you even go through immigration. I used it when I first arrived because I was a scared little puppy and I wanted to feel safely connected to the world before I ventured forth. If memory serves they don’t do an AIS card though so I would skip that, head through immigration and get one from the main hall. In the main hall you will see generic mobile phone shops at first, and if you walk further along you will also find an official AIS store.

If you have arrived at the other airport, DMK, then you will find an AIS store just before you exit to the taxi area.

The number of options available is usually reduced down to about two or three simple choices. The staff don’t usually speak great English so this makes sense. Price wise you will pay a little bit more but not much. When I looked they wanted 600THB for one of the slightly lower packages, and the SIM you need to buy will set you back 100THB instead of the 49THB at the flagship store. Not a huge amount and if you need it, for example, if you plan on getting a Grab, then its worth just grabbing a quick card.

 

 

 

Travel Tip

Day 244: No beer with your meal

This one has been simmering for a while. I keep thinking about it but haven’t tried to do anything about it until yesterday when I finally said to myself:

Don’t order a beer with your meal.

Today I sat down and… yes you guessed it, ordered a beer with my meal.

Now I’m not against having a drink with your meal but when you’re travelling solo you need to invent reasons to leave your accommodation and go do things. It makes sense to go out for a walk, pick somewhere to eat, and have your meal. Then when you’re satisfied you can get up, go for some more of a wander, and then stop somewhere for a beer (or coffee).

This way you get to have a healthy walk and see some more of the city you’re in.

After getting the beer with my meal for the second day in a row I found myself bloated and not wanting to do anything after that. Hopefully, posting this tip will make me remember when I next sit down at a table.

Update: The next day I went for a meal and didn’t get a beer. During my post-meal walk, I actually decided against the after meal beer this time but I felt less bloated and I had the option!

Update #2: It worked I have now stopped ordering drinks with my meals for the last week and a half.

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