Originally our plan had been to travel up through Vietnam after Cambodia, but Jo needed to get some hospital treatment in Bangkok and so we organised for appointments at the world renowned Bumrungrad hospital-more on that later. With our 60 day visa in hand (courtesy of Lucky Lucky Motorcycle shop), time for our return to the Thailand via Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. Upon arriving you certainly don’t get the feeling that you’re in a big city, it’s a far cry from Phnom Penh, and has the atmosphere of a large town rather than a city-much akin to Kampot where we had been previously.
With only a couple of nights here as a stop gap, there isn’t too much to mention apart from our visit to the Battambang Circus-Phare Ponleu Selpak, a NGO which gives youths from deprived backgrounds the opportunity to learn circus skills very much in the ‘Cirque De Soleil’ style of performance. It is rated as the one attraction you have to see in Battambang, and so we were delighted to find out that there was a performance on the eve of our arrival. The performance was from those who were studying at the school, and it was absolutely brilliant-well worth a ‘big up’!
So with not too much to report from the rest of our time in Battambang, we ate well and enjoyed watching some Taekwondo on the riverside…We once again boarded the bus to Poipet and the ‘Wild West’ border-time to try out the visas!
Fortunately, we were through the border with no problems, Lucky Lucky proved true to their name and we we granted a stay of 60 days in Thailand-PHEW!
Back in Thailand, back to a rail service-the five hour journey seemed much easier to cope with on our return-I think that you just get used to the travelling after a few trips. Getting back into Bangkok and first frustrations raise their heads at the train station-basically the taxis in Bangkok are extremely cheap, as long as you get them on the meter. Problem is, if you look like you need a taxi, or if you’re going to an area that the taxi driver doesn’t fancy-they either refuse to put you on a meter and quote you a ridiculous cost, or they just point blank refuse to take you! At the end of a hefty day of travelling, my patience is pretty short and my frustrations begin to show as driver after driver refuse our fare. One driver said that he would take us, but it would be 300 baht (about £6), but I wasn’t having it-I was determined to get in a metered taxi. It took about ten minutes to finally find a driver that would take us on the meter-total cost for the journey…78 baht (around £1.50), a small victory admittedly, but extremely satisfying! It’s a very strange situation when you get taxi drivers just refusing your business, definitely something that I couldn’t get my head around.
The reason for our return to Bangkok was that, before we left Blighty, we found out that Jo needed a minor operation, and that the recovery period for the op would be four weeks, during which time you’re not allowed to fly. We really didn’t want to delay our adventure and effectively tread water in the UK; especially seeing as we had left our flat and given up our jobs already, so we made the tough decision to get the operation done in Bangkok. Fortunately Bangkok boasts some of the best international healthcare facilities in the world, and the hospital that we were to be going to, Bumrungrad International, actually features as one of the top ten hospitals in the world for international patients. They treat 1.1 million patients each year, with over 520,000 of those coming from outside of Thailand. I cannot stress how much of a different world it is going to this hospital in comparison to healthcare in the UK. In Bangkok it is BIG BUSINESS, and this is evident as soon as you enter the building. Like something of a cross between a five star hotel, and a major international airport, it really is quite incredible! There are restaurants, coffee shops, and (to our disgust) a McDonalds…even a quite extensive gym, all within the confines of the hospital. What is quite bizarre is the way that things are processed with respect to your treatment-at the first appointment Jo met with the surgeon to discuss the procedure, and the was promptly put through a number of tests including a chest x-ray and ECG before they would even agree to operate. At the end of the evaluation we were given the go-ahead for the operation, and it could be performed within the next two days. It’s at this point that you’re given a break down of the various tests and consultations that you’ve had throughout the day-and then you need to go to the cashier (of which there are loads dotted around the place), and settle the bill for the costs incurred thus far. It really is an extremely business-like and efficient way of ‘getting things sorted’.
So, two days after the initial consultation and we were arriving back at the hospital for Jo to go into surgery, it was to be performed under general anaesthetic and so we were both, understandably, apprehensive about having this done so far from home. This element certainly was not helped at all by the fact that once we got to the reception, we were promptly told that I was not allowed to wait with her, and that she was to go through to the theatre preparation area immediately….I just had to go back to our hotel and wait for the hospital to call! As I’m sure you can imagine, something of an emotional goodbye and I was left to stew for a few hours waiting on news from the hospital, as Jo had to face the surgery preparation alone. Thankfully everything went without any problems and 8 hours after leaving Jo at the reception I was overjoyed to be meeting her and getting escorted back to the hotel together….After passing by the cashiers office obviously!
Now just four weeks of relaxing to plan to make sure that there is a full and speedy recovery-so now to get out of the craziness that is Bangkok and find something a little more relaxing-next stop the ancient city of Ayutthaya.