Back in Bangkok! We arrived yesterday without much trouble on the two day journey here. For the first leg, Luang Prabang to Vientiane, we hired a private minivan for $140. The tourist VIP buses would not allow us to bring our bikes on board, and the public buses would have been a 12 hour, 100 degree, sweat and vomit filled nightmare. So we were very willing to pay an extra $100 to avoid that experience again. We were joking that we’ve already been worn down by the third world enough that we’d rather throw money at a problem than suffer through the “experience”!
From Vientiane we had to cross the border into Thailand before boarding the night train we’d reserved to Bangkok. A mini-bus picked us up, threw our bikes on the top without tying them down, and whisked us away to the start of the Friendship Bridge. We had to get out here and walk through the checkpoint which took us a long time because we had to reassemble our bikes and panniers. At the other side of the checkpoint, we were supposed to meet another mini-bus for transport to the train station but because we were so slow we got abandoned by our tour group. So, we rode across the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong and into Thailand. It was more fun than riding over in a bus like everyone else!
Next we boarded the night train to Bangkok. We reserved a 1st class sleeper unit which turned out to be a nice surprise in terms of comfort. It had two beds in the compartment, air conditioning, a little sink, and a waiter that would bring you dinner, beer, breakfast…and he would also rip you off a little bit if you weren’t careful. We weren’t careful enough and ended up getting overcharged for breakfast. We paid for everything and also gave him a tip because he was such a nice guy, and then as soon as he left it dawned on us that we had just been ripped off! Practically every time we take public transport this happens; it is very frustrating. We can’t decide if it is a cultural thing and he thinks it is OK to cheat us because we’re rich westerners, or if he is just an unscrupulous character. Anyhow, we left Nong Khai at 6:30pm and arrived at Bangkok at 6:30am. Jamie kept saying that our compartment was just like a jail cell, but I was so comfortable and happy with my books, snacks, and A/C that Jamie decided I’d actually enjoy jail as long as I had enough books and food to last me through the years.
In Bangkok we found a guy at the train station with a pickup truck to take us to our hotel. We were instantly covered in exhaust residue as we whizzed through the dirty streets; Bangkok Fingernail is about to make a comeback!
As soon as we got to the hotel we checked email and were very happy to find that I’d gotten an appointment at Bumrungrad Hospital for 1:30 that afternoon. We went to the hospital a little bit early and hung out at the in-house Starbucks to people watch while we waited. We were amazed at the number of different nationalities milling around in the hospital – people must fly in from all over the world to get treated there. We saw people representing maybe 40 different countries waiting to get treated; it was definitely a high grade people watching experience.
The actual doctor appointment involved lots of waiting, as usual, but the facilities were all very new and modern. When you arrived at the hospital you filled out one form with your information and got your picture taken with a digital camera. Everything was then input into the system and sent ahead of you wherever you went to check in. The picture idea is ingenuous because when the Thai staff attempt to call out names from 40 different ethnicities it is very confusing. I was “Miss Sadah Cat-ee” instead of Sarah Kathleen, which I found quite difficult to realize was me. But because they had a picture of me they’d just walk right over and pick me out of the crowd and lead me to the doctor.
After asking me a few questions and squeezing my arm a bit, the doctor decided I needed an x-ray and sent me over to that department. As soon as I walked into the radiology department a man materialized out of nowhere and said “Hello Ms. Sadah. You need an x-ray on your right wrist? Please follow me.” The system was flawless and efficient – I was impressed. Everyone in the hospital spoke perfect English and they also employ interpreters to cover almost every other language in the world. Wow! I got one funny question as I was sitting down to get my x-ray. The technician asked me, “So, what is your problem?” It made me laugh and I wasn’t sure what information he actually wanted from me, so I just said “I fell of my bike and hurt my wrist.”
As for the final verdict on my bird bones, the diagnosis is pretty good. There is no big fracture, and the scaphoid bone is unharmed. Yay! There is a crack in my radius and lots of swelling around it, but the doctor thinks this will feel better in about two weeks. He also said that sometimes you can’t see wrist fractures right away and so he wants me to come back in one week for another x-ray if the wrist is still hurting. He gave me a wrist brace to wear for the next week to hold everything still which is great – I was not looking forward to the possibility of a cast in this hot humid climate. I am sure my arm would be covered in green fur after 6 weeks in a cast! This is all good news because now we know that we most likely won’t have to stay here for 6-9 weeks waiting for it to heal and I don’t have to have surgery! The cost of my appointment and x-ray was astounding, especially considering how nice the facilities were. Here is what my bill looked like:
Doctor’s Fee: $15.10
X-Ray Radiologist’s Fee: $3.93
Wrist Brace: $37.60
So, it looks like we’ll be here in Bangkok for about two weeks and are trying to decide what to do next in terms of our trip. We are considering sticking to our original plan of China and then India, or going to India right now and attempting to cycle the Himalayan region of Ladakh, or maybe flying to Eastern Europe to do some cycling there during the summer months.