We’ve been in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, for over two weeks now. Before we came, I had heard that Chiang Mai is a black hole that sucks you in, but if our travel plans were waylaid, I was assuming it would be for fun things, like hanging out with elephants, cooking, and chatting with monks. We did those things – more on that later – but would have been well on our way to exploring the rest of Northern Thailand or even into Laos if life hadn’t happened.
First, our netbook went completely kaput. It wouldn’t start up, not even in safe mode. Luckily, I have constant tech support by my side. Sean worked his computer magic for a couple of days building a bootable thumb drive, recovering important data we never backed-up (like pictures!), installing a new hard drive, giving Windows the heave-ho and installing Linux, and then fine-tuning everything to make sure it all worked with Linux. Or something like that. The moral of the story is, if you aren’t traveling with your own tech support, or even if you are, back everything up NOW because you never know what is going to happen.
Just as we were about to leave Chiang Mai, spiffed up computer in hand, Sean started running a fever with body aches, culminating in his first hospitalization ever! Turns out he acquired a bacterial infection, probably from something he ate, although for the life of us, we can’t figure out what was the culprit, because nothing seemed amiss. He ended up in Chiang Mai Ram Hospital for two days in order to receive IV antibiotics, officially making our decision to purchase World Nomads’ travel and health insurance a good one. They were very on the ball, and worked with us and the hospital to make sure that he received quality care.
The hospital was World Nomads’ recommendation, and other than all of the medical workers being Thai and the retro nursing hats some of the nurses wore, it could have been a hospital at home. Well, except the part where we had to ride in the back of a pick-up truck to get to the hospital. And the part where there was a blaring rock concert outside the hospital on the first night. Or the part where it was super-efficient and cheap. A couple of days before Sean was admitted, he went to the ER to be checked out. We were in and out in two hours, including getting lab results, and the whole visit, including two prescriptions, was only $45. No wonder people come to Thailand for medical care. The two day stay, which was mostly covered by our insurance, came to a grand total of $900. Sean had his choice of private rooms, which came with cable televisions, a kitchenette, and free wi-fi. Once again, he proved to be too tall for Asia – the nurse had to remove the foot of the bed so he could fit. The moral of this story is, for all of our consternation about eating in India, you never quite know how your food is handled anywhere in the world so eat up and get insurance.
Once Sean was released, we hung around Chiang Mai for a few more days to make sure he was fully recovered. Just as we were ready to head out, we were waylaid for the THIRD time. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say FedEx and United States Customs are the grinches that stole Christmas. The sordid tale involves non-responsiveness from FedEx, long aggravating phone calls, 3 hours filling out customs forms, and hundreds of dollars in shipping fees, with the end result being that our Christmas gifts for our families were re-routed back to Bangkok, where we are not. Supposedly the package will end up at the Chiang Mai FedEx tomorrow or the next day for us to deal with, so it looks like its Christmas in Chiang Mai for us. The moral of this story is, shipping stuff home is more trouble than its worth (considering our track record includes this fiasco, stolen shoes from a package sent from Spain, broken pottery in a package sent from Morocco, and a missing sculpture last spotted at the Johannesburg post office in a package sent from South Africa).
Actually, the REAL moral of these stories are life happens…no matter where you are.
p.s. Stay tuned for scenes from Christmas in Thailand tomorrow, then next week, more from India to round out the year.