Bangkok Revisited

The commemorative procession of royal barges was to start at 3:30 on the Chao Phraya River.  Tickets for the grandstands were being sold for 800B, but we could  view at a nearby park for free. I got a front-row spot by the rail by 3:00, and held it while David sat out of the sun as he didn’t have a hat on and I did. This centuries- old tradition of very long decorated barges takes place only periodically, this being the 16th time in the last 60 years.

There are about 2000 oarsmen on 52 boats (they are like long high-prowed war canoes).  Normally the King would officiate from the royal barge, but he is recuperating in the hospital presently. The crown prince took the honour and was greeted by the Prime minister before boarding.  Before the crowd got really thick a news crew arrived and the host asked if I was willing to be interviewed for the evening broadcast. Naturally I complied, although I hope that the viewers will be mesmerized by my wit and wardrobe, since I hadn’t done much homework on the reasons for the ceremony, which is what she was asking me about.

As the barges approached the blowing on conch shells, chanting of the rowers and the rhythmic pounding of long decorated staves on the wooden deck could be heard.   It
was haunting, beautiful music that evoked an ancient time and place, and transcended the teeming metropolis around us. As the first barge came into our view we could see the oars being raised together symmetrically, almost dance like. They proceeded slowly, often stopping, holding themselves steady in the current.  Some were decorated quite simply, others had incredibly gilded and ornate prows, fashioned as nine-headed nagas or mythical swans, standing 15 feet above the water. The whole procession took half an hour to pass us, on the way to the royal palace down river.  Then they cross the river to Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, where the Prince presents a robe to the monks. After we left I felt light and giddy, almost…cleansed.  The barge procession was a beautiful re-introduction to Bangkok, but we had more earthly matters to attend to.

The following day we made our way to  Bumrungrad International Hospital. I had been going through some tests in Canada and couldn’t get the conclusive answers before we left. I booked a CT scan on line. The lobby of the hospital looked like a five star hotel. Soaring ceilings, beautifully decorated, and very comforting. There was even as in-house Starbucks. The first thing that struck me was the high percentage of Muslims. Not Thais, but Arabs, many of them Saudis.  Everything I saw gave me confidence about the hospital and my CT scan was done that very day. In the room where I was
observed afterwards, an American living in Moscow told me he choose this hospital to undergo a similar test, prefering to have it here rather than in the USA  or Germany. I paid cash for the procedure since I could not get travel insurance after the first tests found something in Canada. With Dr.’s fee, blood test, the scan, the contrast (which I turned out to be allergic to), the medicine for my contrast allergy and the nursing fee came to a grand total of 15,169 baht. At the rate of 36.17 to the C$1 ( the highest we’ve ever seen) it was $418.  My  Canadian doctor thought if I had stayed in Canada a CT scan could be done in 6 weeks, but considering that she underestimated the schedule for the ultrasound by two thirds, I suspect I would have been looking at more like 2-3 months. The private clinic in Vancouver was closed for the weekend when I had all this news so I never got their price or timetable but I’ve heard it’s about $1000. When my friend Jerry was going thru cancer testing, he got fast service in San Francisco
because he had been a navy man, but when he got back to Calgary where he resided the technician said people waited 6 months for their initial scans and he was possibly
saving his life having the test done for cancer so early.

That evening Boris, our French friend, swung by our hotel to share a bottle of Burgundy especially bought for our reunion. He also considered Bumrungrad as the best hospital in Thailand, and it was nice to toast “a notre sante!”

We are on the bus now going to get the results. Wish me luck.

As we sat in the office, Dr. Chodchoy, who looks and acts a bit like the Dalai Lama, smiled broadly and said,” The news is good!” No stone, no mass, no cyst. All clear, as well as the other organs caught in the scan.”

To celebrate we took a taxi to the GMG airline office in Silom and booked our tickets for Kathmandu. If therehad been a surgery necessary we would have possibly stayed and had it done here, as our schedule in Canada doesn’t give much time for recovery.

All in all we stayed a glorious 10 days in our beloved Bangkok, longer than necessary for the work we got done, but it is such a treat to merely be here. The food is such a big part of our love of Thailand. The spicy curries, pad Thai, green papaya salad, tom yam soup… all were enjoyed within the first couple days then repeated often for good
measure. We relish the idea that ice coffee, salads and half fresh pineapple (pealed, sliced and chilled for $ .27) is all safe to enjoy. This is the only stop on our trip we would trust for such luxuries.
local pirate dvd guy
 A number of our regular Bangkok mates, unfortunately, aren’t around right now, although one – Peter from England – is arriving the day we go to Nepal.  But our Thai massage ladies, my manicurist, David’s hair dresser, the staff at our hotel, the waiters at the Gecko bar, even our dentist who we see each time through, all made us feel at home. In many ways we do feel like we’ve come home when we get here, considering we spend almost as much time here as in our apartment in Vancouver.

3 Replies to “Bangkok Revisited”

  1. Marguerite Stevens November 16, 2007 at 9:25 am

    The word is actually spelled embellished. So embarassing. Loved the story
    about the boat parade. I suspect you were interviewed because of the
    chartruse hat or perhaps the nose. Carry on. Love, The Mother


  2. Marguerite Stevens November 16, 2007 at 9:28 am

    That should be chartreuse but pink is you best colour.


  3. Hey…you were on Thai TV!! Wow…you should be famous by now. So glad that nothing serious after your glamorous experience at Bumrungrad hospital. Take care and hi to David. Love from Joyce & Simon


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