Bangkok Chiangmai Hospital and My Bad Back

Jumping right to the conclusion: whether you go in for a bad back or anything else, review your medical bills carefully before paying and make sure you ask for what you want from the moment you set the appointment . . .

I spent a $100 or so more than expected to address my bad back. The customer service and administration reviewed my complaints and eventually satisfied me. I finally got the exercise tips I went in for, but a lesson was learned.

I followed up my blood pressure issue in Chiangmai this trip (Jan 1- Jan 8) See: Since Thailand is known for it’s massages, I figured the Bankok Hospital therapists might know the best excercises to help my low back. I’ve had this condition (alignment problem in low back) for a good 35 or 40 years. Since Thailand is noted for both massages and kick boxing, this seemed like the place to go. I like massages and probably hurt myself with my Taikwondo kicks when I was young.

Unfortunately time was short the day I visited. All I wanted was to get some pointers on exercises that I should and shouldn’t do, and perhaps have a physical therapy session showing me the best treatments. The doctor insisted that I get an Xray before giving me advice. This was beyond what I really wanted but he assured me that it would only cost between 25 and 50 USD. He also asked about whether I had a back brace. When I told him no, he said he would give me one.

After the Xray he diagnosed my condition as spondylolithsis, a condition that I had already told him about. Since I was late for my bus back to the Hostel I was quickly given a brace by a tech and I paid my bill. It seemed high, but I didn’t really have time to review it. It was for both the visit to the heart specialist and the back issue.

My back doctor made an appointment for me for the following day to see a “consult specialist”. After reviewing the billing I discovered that the heart specialist and blood pressure medication totalled about $26.80 and the back related expenses totalled $185.47 The back brace that the doctor said he would give me cost $53.57 and the Xray related services, which were quoted to me at between $25 and $50 cost $85.71.

I didn’t appear for the appointment the following day out of fear of further charges. At that point I hadn’t received any physical therapy or advice of significance other than don’t do sit-ups and don’t bend the back.

The doctor seemed pre-programmed: Consult, Xray, Diagnose, sell a back brace, refer to the next doctor. I reviewed the entire event with the hospital administrators and I eventually got the therapy advice I needed. It was complimentary. Also, the Xray and brace were helpful, so I can’t really complain about the value. I simply relearned something I should already know: just because somebody speaks English doesn’t mean they listen to English well, or even that they are listening.

There is another point that came up as I talked to the administration and quality control boss. When coming into the hospital, it is important to be clear on what symptoms you have, how long you have had the symptoms, what prior treatment you have had, and what you want in way of treatment/results. Then, get an estimate of the costs.

The Chinese hospitals I have been to seem to have a good system. They bring you in and you pay a nominal sum to talk to the doctor, and then decide what needs to be done. Then you go to the cashier to pay for the treatments in advance. With paid receipt in hand, you go and get your treatment. That’s a Chinese system.

As a foreigner, if it is convenient, it is probably a good idea to sit down with some translation software and write out your issues and expectations prior to your visit. If not convenient, maybe the intake people can handle enough English to perform this function.

One of the leaders in the hospital spoke really excellent English. It turns out he was in the US military and served both Bush presidents, two campaigns, in Iraq. After retiring from the US military, he worked a few years in a US hospital before returning to his native Thailand. I got really good service from him, not only at the hospital, but he defended my country as well. He even went back to his native land and saved Trump the trouble of deporting him.

I can recommend the Bangkok Chiangmai Hospital for your health care needs. As noted above, you need to be clear from the outset what you expect and need, but the pricing is good and the people are competent and quite nice.

Chiangmai Airport and Bus to Suneta

Last visit to Chiangmai I had a bad taxi experience. I was charged 300 Baht ($9.26) for a ride to the hostel from the airport. The price should have been about 150. So this trip I used a bus, for 20 Baht ($0.62).

To access the bus system and go to Suneta you leave the airport terminal from Gate 1. That is a left turn out of the baggage area all the way to the opposite end of the terminal. Go out the gate and turn left about 150 meters to the bus area. Bus #3 is the one you want and tell the driver to drop you at the Tha Phae Gate. Follow the directions here:

Guiyang’s Brutal Weather Forecast

One of Guiyang’s most attractive features is its moderate weather, except sometimes in the winter it is downright freezing. A good friend from Montreal has about the same weather as my home town, Traverse City (TVC). He said he has never been as cold as in Guiyang in the winter.

It seems that the occasional brutal weather is a combo of rain, snow, wind, and humidity. If you look at this forecast, note the humidity and wind. It can take your breath away. I live about at the 45th parallel in Traverse City, but no Traverse City winters have prepared me for this stuff.

I just checked Traverse City (Northern Michigan). . . Wind and rain is about the same, temperature is about the same too (Dec 27, 2018). There are two differences: humidity is in the 60s and 70s in TVC while it is in the 80s and 90s in Guiyang. The other difference is we walk more here and wait for buses outdoors. In TVC cars seem to get you much closer to your destination. Oh well, it’s a cold snap, about as bad as it gets here. TVC gets a lot colder . . . 20 below zero is not that uncommon.

Guiyang’s elevation is about 3600 feet compared to TVC elevation of about 650 feet. Even though Guiyang’s latitude is about the same as Miami, Florida, it gets a lot colder here than in Miami because of the mountains. Guiyang’s weather during three seasons is quite nice. The mountains moderate the subtropical climate. From Christmas to the middle of March the weather can be just so, so.

Living on the Great Lakes in Northern Michigan has it’s attractions. Sometimes cars parked by the water get sprayed so bad with water that ice piles up on them. Sometimes the cars get so heavy that it pops the tires. Also, the ice on the lakes can be fascinating. . .

Hot Night at the Obsession

(Click for full size photo)

It was a cool, late November evening and the usual suspects were gathered at the new Obsession Jazz Music Restaurant and Bar. Things were warming up quite nicely when the Guiyang Orchestra finished their jazz concert. Apparently some of the musicians weren’t done playing because they came to the Obsession. Then the night really got hot. . . .

A Hot Night at the Obsession (Youtube)

A Hot Night at the Obsession (Youku)

(Youtube is best outside China and Youku is best in China)

By the way, I was working with a cell phone — Huawei 10 Plus, which is quite a good little unit for sound and video. Unfortunately there were a few operator errors. You might catch the hand in front of the camera. Also, I accidentally chopped a guy’s head off (sorry about that). Maybe the most annoying problem was with the guy beside me that kept pounding on the table. His table was next to mine and was actually touching. You can see him kind of keeping beat by the disruptions in the video . . . oh well. Finally, the oversized music stands are good for hiding behind if you are a shy musician, but they are murder if you are watching the show or trying to film it. In fact, there are a lot of problems with this video, except the music.


Guiyang Happy World.

This week I went to Guiyang Happy World 90 minutes away from my medical school.

I haven’t been to a theme park in a long while. I was looking forward to it but, like all of my experiences in China, I’ve learnt not to use my Indian life as a parallel or point of reference to anything in China. I was expecting something a little more gritty and undoubtedly a little more dangerous than the parks I’m used to back in India.


The first thing that hit me about the park was the complete lack of life. Aside from a few groups of friends and the odd family, the park was barren. It was like an old abandoned theme park that you’d read about in Stephen King horror story. I was half expecting a 7ft clown to dash out from behind a carousel and capture us for use in a haunted house.

On the flipside, no crowds = no queueing for the rides. Me and Nargis hopped hopped through the park without once waiting in a line.

There was the usual set of rides. The big juggernaut of a roller coaster at the entrance and exit and the set of intermediate rides in between; the pirate ship, carousels, the logflume, dodgems, finding Nemo-themed choo choo trains and so on. Being the tight fisted people we are we made a mission of going on everyone of them.

If you’ve ever bought anything from china (you have) then you may be aware that build quality is not exactly a priority in this country. With this in mind, some of the rollercoasters had a very real edge to them. Not only were they scary rides, they also had that quaint chinese quality about them that maybe, just maybe, that they might collapse mid ride. This ran through my head when, as I was getting strapped in for one particular ride (see below; the mammoth yellow one), two workmen to the left of me were balancing on top of the structure tightening the bolts for us.

Half way through the day was the logflume’s turn. Thinking about it, logflumes are always terrible. You get one rush off of them and, unless you buy a raincoat at extra cost, you’re getting a wet behind for the rest of the day. As you can see from the gallery, we saved our cash and took the full force of the flume. No regrets.

Once done with the rides, we hitched a ride on a black taxi with the a beautiful divorcee. She was quite happy that she won custody of the child and, apparently, to share private matters with strangers. If you’re to take anything from that, don’t ever divorce a chinese woman. She will air your dirty laundry.