Readers' Submissions

Well, It’s Time To Do Some Plastic Surgery

  • Written by Anonymous
  • May 30th, 2007
  • 9 min read


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Well, it's time to do some plastic surgery, my female friend in Europe thought. Let's go to Thailand to do it cheaper. So I got a call, late last week. She wanted to do a minor standard procedure on her face, 45 minutes to 1 hour operation time under narcosis, price in western countries 1500 to 3500 USD according to a quick Google search. No need to stay in the hospital afterwards. I was skeptical. I would personally not do anything here, but I wondered, if it was worth the risk and if she would save money doing it here. I estimated that the cost would be around 1000 USD, in a 'good' hospital like Bumrungrad, BNH or in the Bangkok Hospital. I have a friend in Zurich who is a plastic surgeon. He said the procedure in Zurich would cost a bit less than 2000 USD in a good and normal, but not high end or fancy clinic.

I told my friend, that she will not be able to save money, since the flight would cost her more than she would maybe save. But stubborn as some women can be, she told me to check it out in detail. What came next was more than a surprise even to me, a hard boiled Thailand cynic.

First I called the BNH. I like that hospital, but recently they raised their rates quite a bit, maybe they spent too much money on the renovations. It does look nice, but does it really need to look like a hotel? I called them and asked to be transferred to the plastic surgery department. Hold a minute sir and I found myself in the emergency room. I was put on hold again and got eventually thrown out. I knew there was a clinic inside the BNH, but it was mainly frequented by wannabe transsexuals. But to get an idea, surgery is surgery right, I called them directly. A quite nice operator picked up, but then transferred me to a sales girl, who sounded quite arrogant. She asked me what I wanted. Just like that. What do you want. I did not want to put up with her and asked her to transfer me to a doctor. She refused to connect me and that was it for me. Maybe they don't need the money?

The next was Bumrungrad. They transferred me to the right place and they were minimally friendly, but they did not want to say any financial numbers. The nurse said I should go there and then they would make me an offer. I said it was not for me, but for a female friend and I described her, but they would not give me a price, even after I offered them to send in photos of her. They told me to send her there as soon she arrives in Bangkok.

Then it was time for the Bangkok Hospital. They were quite nice and offered a 2000 USD deal. Yeah you heard right. About the same as it would cost in central Europe. I am sure it's a good hospital, but I thought: so what is the benefit if people do it in Thailand? Maybe the nurses smile more when they hand you the bill. Maybe ten years ago. But I am too long in Bangkok with nothing better to do than to write a Stickman submission, so maybe just don't listen to me.

Then I thought, well, let's see if a clinic outside city center would be cheaper. I searched the internet and found a clean looking clinic, but far, far outside the city. It was also specialized in male to female surgery which seems to be very lucrative here. So I called them and they said that it would be better to write an email. I did, and I got an answer the next day. I was surprised, normally Thai companies don't reply to emails. They wanted 3000 USD for it. I thought. Mmh. Ok, here is a clinic, somewhere around Ladprao 100 and they want 3000 USD for it. Maybe there was an email surcharge? Well, they said it had no further hidden costs, but then I thought: So what's the reason to come to a third world country, if you can have it cheaper at home? I wrote back and said: Miss, you are not competitive and I told them that it would only be 2000 USD at the Bangkok Hospital. She wrote back: Thank you for telling us. If you have more surgery, please give us a second chance and contact us again. Nice try. Seems you have to bargain also for surgery here, like you do for T-Shirts in Patpong.

But I thought, hey there must be a decent clinic around here. A place where mostly the Thais go, but still with a good standard. Well I found two. Both hospitals are private and a bit outside Bangkok. I talked to a doctor in one place, he wanted 1500 USD for the procedure, but he wanted to do it without general anesthesia, which is possible, but not recommended. So it would probably be 2000 USD with general anesthesia. So, we still have western prices again and this time not a grade A hospital, just an unknown private hospital outside he city center. The other hospital I found was actually very cheap. 500 USD. I called them, said what my friend wanted to do, and they said immediately how much it would cost.

I told my friend in Europe about it and she said to go there and check it out for her. Well, this place is in Thonburi, but since today the traffic was not so bad, I drove there. My driver said this hospital was very famous for plastic surgery. I told him to wait for me and he should not be surprised if I would come back with silicon boobs. They had an interpreter, she was ok, I personally could not warm up to her, she was not rude, but she was not especially friendly. I took about half an hour to see the doctor, there were many many people waiting, but I think I got preferred treatment. It was not bad by Thai standards but light years away from BNH treatment. I felt they were also a bit pushy to sell and the doctor did not make an overly competent impression. He could barely speak English. I would not have surgery there, even it were for free. I am sure they are able to do the job, but they would not be able to advise you or 'fine tune' or customize the procedure for you, as responsible surgeons would. Just check how the Thais who had plastic surgery walk around. All with the same nose, never mind if it really suits their faces or not! Due to the experiences here in normal life, where I never really get the things the way I want them, how would it be if a Thai would start to mess around with my or in this case, my friend's face? They would make me look like Mickey Rourke, for sure, and then say: Wow, you look great. Once they did something like that. I went to bleach my hair. I know, I know, I was new in Bangkok at that time. It turned out orange and I almost had a heart attack. But the whole hairdressing saloon applauded and said I looked like Brad Pitt. I am very sure the same would happen, if you had surgery done here.

But back to the story: Seems you have to go to a Thai level to find plastic surgery cheaper than in the west. At least for minor procedures. Maybe you have to bargain at the hospitals? I am not sure about big operations, maybe they are cheaper here. But then, hotel cost, flight, this all adds up. Ah yeah, and of course the risk. What are you doing if you have complications in the recovery? Sorry, I been to Bangkok to save money, please sort it out in Europe or America? I am not sure how the health insurance would react to this. Maybe they would say: Well, you should have known better. I personally have nightmares about being treated for serious things in Thailand since the Tsunami. A friend of mine was in a city hospital, quite a good one. The first day I came to visit him, he was hanging between life and death. By the time I was about to leave his room, he started to bleed like a pig. I asked my girlfriend to call the doctor. She came back after 15 minutes with 3 nurses. They did not know what to do and started to laugh. So I put pressure on his wound and waited about 30 minutes more for the doctor to show up. The doctor said: Why did you call me, it's nothing… and I have a lot of work. He was alone in the whole hospital at night. Well after some intervention from the embassy, they started to care a bit more for my friend. Eventually the foreign minister of the country he was living in came to visit him and they were all very proud at the hospital. Well that was during the Tsunami. Another time when I was visiting a friend in the hospital, it was a Japanese woman, the wife of a friend who worked at the Japanese Embassy. She got hit by a car in Pattaya. Well, of course the driver of the car who hit her was the wife of a policeman, so nothing could be done to her. Anyway, she stayed at the big factory hospital we all know. I found her very agitated when I came to visit her, after walking down endless corridors. I asked her what's wrong. She said, look at my pill box. I looked at her pill box and found that it had not her name on it, but someone else's name. We called the nurse. So sorry, the nurse smiled, these are the pills for the patient next door. Mai pen rai hahah. Hi hi hi. Welcome to the land of smiles.

So, if you want to do plastic surgery in Thailand, please do it at your own health or financial risk. But then, maybe you are lucky, who knows.

Stickman's thoughts:

Parts of this story are downright scary.

I think it was in one of Jake Needham's excellent novels where a Western character is talking to a Thai character about planes and the Thai says something along the lines of "You mean you're not scared when you fly with Thai? You have seen the way we service other things so why do you think our planes would be any different?"

On the surface a lot of the best hospitals in Thailand look very good, and many people are happy with the service they receive. But if I got sick, really sick, I would not hang around. I would take off back to the West to get sorted.