Sunday, January 7, 2018

My trip to Bangkok

For 2018, I have a number of trips, both by land and by sea, planned. Unlike last year, I won't be doing a full world cruise but will be doing a 35-day segment, again on Holland America's Amsterdam. I will join the ship on February 2, in Auckland New Zealand, and visit ports in New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Philippines and Hong Kong before departing for home. 

Before Auckland I'm meeting two friends, Joanne and Karen, whom I met on my 2016 South America cruise. We're meeting up in Bangkok to spend a few days before flying to Myanmar where we have a 16-day tour planned. We will part company in Yangon. They return home and I fly to Cambodia to spend a week in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh before flying to Auckland to join the cruise. 

Well. With all that said, the trip to Bangkok, sadly, was not uneventful. I scored a nice upgrade on my United flight to their very nice Polaris class - lie-flat seats, great meals, free flowing alcohol, down comforters and lots of video entertainment on a screen large enough to actually see something. I was pretty stoked. That all changed about 8 hours into the 14 1/2 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. I had been trying to sleep. I gradually had started to feel hot, then cold, then a headache started (and no, I had not really had anything to drink save for a glass of Prosecco in the lounge and a small glass of sparkling wine on the plane before departure).  Soon, my stomach started acting up. Ugh. I tried to go back to sleep. My body clearly was not cooperating. The last couple of hours of the flight I was miserable. Had to visit the lavatory more times than I care to admit. I was definitely sick. Not good. Not happy. 

We landed in Hong Kong and I did my best to keep it together while waiting for my next flight over to Bangkok. Of course the flight was an hour late in departing. I worried I'd cause Joanne and Karen to have to wait for me at Bangkok, as we all three were scheduled to arrive within about 30 minutes of one another there. Karen flew in from San Diego and Joanne from Chicago. Turned out that Karen's flight was also slightly delayed. Anyway, my 2 1/2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok was also miserable. I had a middle seat and found myself really needing to get up and use the lavatory. The man in the aisle seat was very kind when I woke him to ask if I could get out. Airplane lavatories are really unpleasant places in the best of circumstances but the upside to that is that if you need to (ahem) puke, being in one can, ah, help things along in a speedy fashion. 

Well. Now that I've totally grossed you out, I'll move on. The flight landed, I met up quickly with Karen and Joanne, and we were off to our hotel. It was nearly 2 AM when we got to our rooms. Everyone was tired and we agreed to connect the next morning around 9. We had nothing planned for our first day as we knew we'd be tired and jet-lagged. 

I had trouble sleeping and was feeling sicker by the hour. My phone beeped close to 6:00 AM. It was Joanne. She was awake and unable to sleep. I told her I was sick and thought I needed a doctor or to go to the hospital. She came over to my room and helped me find my travel insurance paperwork (YES, this is why I ALWAYS buy travel insurance) and we called their helpline. It wasn't long before they advised to which nearby hospital I should go and we were in a taxi on our way. 

The hospital in Bangkok is called BNH. The place is like a luxury hotel. It's a private hospital, well-staffed and efficiently run. Their ER doctor was waiting for me and they whisked me into a private cubicle straight away. They took blood, started an IV with fluids and shortly decided I was suffering from bacterial food poisoning and announced that I'd need to stay overnight to receive IV antibiotics and that tomorrow I could most likely be discharged. Soon I was wheeled through the marble halls under chandeliers and up to a private room on the 6th floor. 

The nurses were all dressed in crisp white uniforms and wore matching white hats. I felt like I had been transported back to the '60's or something. Everyone was attentive and kind. They explained every time they came in why they were there and what they were doing. Even in my sickened state I was impressed. 

I tried to rest and sleep but it was a long while before I started to feel better. My fever broke later in the afternoon but it spiked up again overnight. I had to get up several times to use the toilet and every time I had to unplug the IV pole and drag it with me. And of course, every two hours like clockwork a nurse came in to take my vitals. Apparently it's a universal truth that there is no real rest to be had in hospital. 

The next morning I was feeling human again and when breakfast was brought to me, I was interested in eating. It was a plate of cute little mashed potato balls and some chicken broth and toast. Literally, just what the doctor ordered!  Speaking of which, I saw the doctor three times on the first day and first thing the next morning. He told me I could go home/back to my hotel and people would be by to start that process. The insurance and billing person came by and coordinated paperwork with my travel insurance point person. They presented me with a bill for $1,064. I handed over my credit card. Now, I was astonished at the low cost of my stay. In 2013 I paid a visit to my local ER at home for a severe allergy attack and that 4 hour visit cost me almost $11,000. So to spend an overnight in a hospital here for 10% of what it cost me back home for a short visit was incredible. Yes, our health care in the U.S. is terrific, but the cost of said care is totally out of whack. No wonder so many people retire and become expats in other countries. 

So, I was finally let go around 3:00 PM and was feeling much better. I'm armed with a bag full of meds to take for the next five days but I should be good to go on our planned tour tomorrow to Ayutthaya, a world heritage site outside of Bangkok. I missed the tour today to hellfire pass and the bridge over River Kwai. Karen and Joanne said it was great. 

Oh, and Snort is glad I'm feeling better. 

Sent from my iPhone

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