Makeover At Bumrungrad, And Tidbits On Airport, Taxis And Skytrain
The wife and I decided that we should reward ourselves for getting old and ugly and not killing each other by now. An eye bag removal surgery for her and an Extreme Makeover for me as you will see later. We searched the internet including Stickman’s
website on hospitals in Manila and Bangkok and decided on the Bumrungrad. Some of you may have read the website on the death in Bumrungrad but hey, there are two sides to every story and what hospital never had a death? As to the lawsuit amongst
some of the hospital bigwigs that I read, all I see is greed that’s all. So the decision was made by the wife and me that Bangkok here we come! And a nice rest in a Pattaya resort afterward.
We made our hospital appointment by internet about a year in advance, right before the Thai baht went up and that is my typical luck but what the heck, can’t take it with you right? For my wife’s upper and lower eye lids the package deal is 56,000 baht (approx US$1,750). For my eye bags removal which requires surgery at the lower eye lids only, the package deal is 34,000 baht (approx US$1,060). I did say extreme makeover for me right? Yes, hair transplant too. My hair transplant package for 2,000 grafts was 195,000 baht (approx US$6,100). The doctor told me after the surgery that he transplanted 2040 grafts instead of 2,000 at no additional cost. There was also a bill of 2,300 baht (approx US$72) for medicines and miscellaneous fees. The total for both of us is a little over 288,000 baht or US$9,000 (at 32 baht/dollar) for the surgeries. It would have been only about US$7,000 back in the good old days not long ago when it was about 41 or so baht /dollar. At first I was wondering how to exchange and drag almost 300,000 baht (that is about a ton of papers for you folks who had never been there) from the bank to the hospital. I then thought about the option of money transfer but the system seemed too complicated and unreliable. Then I chose to use my credit card even though knowing that the bank will get me severely on exchange and fees but it still seemed to be the least of all evils.
First thing first, got to change the subject for a moment here – the women! I don’t know what it is but the young Thai women seem to be getting prettier and prettier. We all know that there are various physical features on Thai women but there is this specific facial feature along with the light skin that mesmerizes me. I think they are from the Chang Mai area or some place up north. There seems to be more of them than the other times I visited Bangkok.
Back to the subject on the hospital, it is a nice big beautiful place with very friendly staff.
No doubt about it, the Bumrungrad doctors and nurses are wonderful. My wife and I took a gamble without any knowledge of the doctors but I would strongly recommend the two who did our surgeries. They were very skillful and professional and on time for the appointments. Have anyone ever heard of a doctor in the US who was ever on time?
Dr. Komwit Kaew did the eye lids on me and my wife. The surgeries took about an hour each and we were done one after another in the same afternoon and our son walk us back to the hotel after a short rest (the Zenith Hotel in front of the hospital, an excellent hotel especially for those planning on visiting the hospital). My son and I even had dinner at the hotel restaurant that night but the wife rather sleep. I almost fell off the chair when I saw the restaurant bill though. The price of just about everything in Thailand has sure gone way up since my last visit. Anyway, our stitches were removed in four days. My wife’s lower lid was stitched from behind the eyelid so it is invisible anyhow. There was no sign of any surgery on my wife’s face after the removal of the stitches and no discomfort at all. Within four days she looks great without the old eye bags and at least several years younger. As to my eye surgery, I had no pain or discomfort either but hey, I am an old guy and it takes longer to heal anything but signs of the eye surgery were mostly gone after two weeks.
The thought of a hair transplant was a little odd and extreme to me at first but my forehead was beginning to look like a low tide on a beach. Dr. Damkerng Path inspected me and advised me that 2,000 grafts ought to do it. He said that it would take 12 or 14 people to work on my surgery for about 6 or 7 hours. For some reason I did not receive his e-mail on the surgery date (his assistant showed me a copy) and he had given the appointment to someone else. Knowing that we planned to go to Pattaya after a week he squeezed me into a 3pm surgery on a Saturday. What a skillful surgeon! No pain and discomfort. The first check up was four days after surgery at his private office away from the hospital. He sure has an impressive place with beautiful nurses and assistants. Mmm. I ought to stop falling in love so easy.
For a place known for international visitors, the Bumrungrad ought to have better signage or doormen though. We were directed to several wrong places before someone finally took us to where we were supposed to go. So, for those of you who might be visiting for a makeover, for check-in and registration ask for the Plastic Surgery Center. It is connected to the main building but is actually another building behind the main building on the 4th floor. Wonder if it is so difficult for the hospital to put up a sign at the main entry for us dumb jetlagged foreigners showing Plastic Surgery Check-In with an arrow.
Man, I was surprised at what seemed to be hundreds of Middle Eastern patients in the hospital. I was in Saudi Arabia 25 years ago for several years and the company sent me to Athens, Greece for my surgery when I got sick and one would think they have some pretty snazzy hospitals in the Middle East by now with the tons of oil money flowing in from your and my pockets and building all sorts of fancy things there.
Yes, can’t skip the subject on the new airport. When the date for the surgery trip approaches I was a little concerned with what I read about the new airport, especially where in the airport to catch a taxi without being excessively ripped off. Have no fear my friends, I couldn’t believe it when I approached an airport policeman who pleasantly welcomed my question. I don’t recall ever seeing a friendly Thai policeman. Well, he told, or more like gestured me to turn right after coming out of the immigration area, walk toward the end of the hall and take the last set of escalator to the lowest level. Looking out toward the sidewalk at the lowest level and there is the taxi kiosk consisting of two tables with a couple of rough looking guys “welcoming” arrivals with the typical hot-and-bothered attitude that most loser-type in a perceived “position of power” seem to have. I arrived in Bangkok a day ahead of my wife and the teenage son. When I arrived the first night the taxi fare from the airport was the typical 400 baht as the old airport and I gladly paid. The next night after I picked up the wife and kid the man-in-charge behind the taxi table rudely asked for 800 baht plus tolls. I know that there are three passengers now but I said hey last night it was 400 and he promptly waved me off like a fly and mumbled some garbage. His sidekick brought us over to a large taxi across the road and I was afraid the driver wants even more so I asked him how much he charges. 700 baht plus tolls he said. OK. By the way, the driver was nice to us and he has a SUV type of taxi and since the wife and kid had literally tons of luggage as though they were going away forever so we used him for our subsequent trips to Pattaya and later from Pattaya back to the airport (1,500 baht each way plus tolls) instead of taking the mini-bus from the hotels. I tipped him well too. Before the airport trip from Pattaya I checked several taxi places in Pattaya and they all quoted about 1,500 to 1,800 baht for a large vehicle so the wife and I decided to call him instead. While waiting for him at 5:00am in the hotel at Pattaya we had the biggest fear that he may not show up. What can one possibly do at that time of the morning if he didn’t? By George he was absolutely on time coming all the way from Bangkok. If you don’t mind a little advertising here, his name is Wootichok (Woodchuck is easier to remember) and his cell phone is: 087-785-0171. A good guy but he can’t speak English. We had to ask the hotel desk to make the phone calls in Thai. We had to pay for the phone calls of course.
By the way, for your planning purpose, the total time from Montien Hotel in Pattaya to the new airport is less than two hours at that time of the morning. It was three hours going from the Indra Regent Hotel in Bangkok to Pattaya due to the mid morning traffic. Checking in at the Bangkok Airport was easy as their security screening was close to zilch. That kind of made me nervous though. However, the transit stopover in Hong Kong was a pain because the security checks there seemed more serious.
While I am on the subject of the airport, I was also a little concerned prior to the return trip home because of the mess and confusions I experienced in the old airport. Again, have no fear my friends. As you enter the airport there is a large computer screen showing the ticket counter row number base on your flight number. Look it up and line up at the row it shows. Also, forget about the 700 baht departure fee that we used to pay and the internet still shows. They stop charging departure fees now. Two things to remember though: The airport coffee and foods are total rip offs and seemed more so than other airports, and the departure lounge is a direct copy of the 18 century prisons you see in the movies. Don’t go in until you have to, and be prepared to walk a depressing and long tunnel-like corridor and be caged in. Yes, you can find the toilets there if you are willing to look for them and to walk some distance. Whoever designed the departure area ought to be locked up there for life as punishment. They sure know how to send off an otherwise happy tourist with a negative final memory. While I was in Bangkok I read a newspaper article that the new airport did not make it to the top 5 list of international airports. Duh! Surprise, surprise. I was in the Tokyo airport many times and this time my flights stopped at both the Singapore and Hong Kong airports and the reasons the new Bangkok airport didn’t make it to the list are so obvious. And being an international airport in a country thrives on tourism, why do they pick such a long name that no one in the world can pronounce or remember?
Without knowing how much time it takes for recuperation after the surgeries, just to be safe we reserved a room at the Indra Regent Hotel 3 days after the surgeries for 5 more days (before going to Pattaya for vacation), so we wouldn’t be coop up in Zenith too long and to keep the family away from the rather seedy area. That might have been a mistake because we didn’t really need much time in Bangkok for the recuperation, and the Indra Regent is sort of out of the way even though the hotel itself is rather nice. I have written a review on all three hotels (Zenith and Indra Regent in Bangkok, and Montien in Pattaya) on the Sawasdee website for those who may be interested. Now let me get to the subject on Bangkok taxis and skytrain.
We took taxis about six times in Bangkok (excluding the airport trips). Four of the taxis refused the use of meters. The “fixed” price between the Indra Regent Hotel and the hospital or MBK (a huge upscale shopping area) seems to be 100baht. One taxi asked for 150 until I countered with 100. The two that were willing to use meter came to be less than 50 baht each for the same trips but I tipped them generously for their honesty.
If you stay around the hospital area it is much better off taking the skytrain due to the horrendous traffic. Here is for you folks who want to go from the hospital or the Nana area to the MBK: Take either the Ploen Chit Station (from the hospital or Zenith take a right turn at the main road and walk about 5 minutes) or the Nana Station (if going from the infamous Nana Hotel take a right turn at the main road and walk about 5 minutes), pay 20 baht and punch Zone-2 at the machine for a ticket, take the On-Nut line and get off at the Siam Station and walk directly across the platform to pick up a transfer to the National Stadium Station. That’s it.
One last advice, don’t bother with the group tour to the Royal Palace as we did (the boy’s idea). Take a taxi there and pay the entry ticket when you get there if you are interested in seeing that sort of places with your own eyes rather than looking at photos or the internet. You will save a bunch of baht for other things plus not having to waste time making the requisite stop at the gem place that you should have heard about by now.
It would have been nice to hear more about the surgery and hospital.