I’m currently in Vietnam but have a few more scraps of Chiang Mai-related advice to dispense so rather than tack them onto existing posts I’m going to stick them up here. My next post will be (gasp!) beauty related (memba when I used to write about that?) and then I’ll move on to chatting about Vietnam.
First, let’s talk about the post office! I’ve been shopping up a storm but don’t want to fill and lug a second suitcase (yet) so I decided to post stuff home. There are several post offices in Chiang Mai, I went to the Si Phum branch and the experience was a complete breeze.
I wanted to mail a giant 3kg box and was given two options – International Parcel – Air (IPA) and EMS World package. It is still not clear to me, even after googling, what the difference is between the two but it seems like EMS is kind of like DHL. Both services offered tracking and I was told IAP would take two weeks while EMS would take less so, not being in a hurry, I picked the former and paid 1 480 baht which is R604. If I’d opted for EMS it would have cost 2 800 baht which is R1 143. You can check out the rate calculator here.
My best advice is to NOT wrap your own stuff. They’ll do it there – almost for FREE – and do a much better job of it. My huge hulking box cost less than R30. On top of that, they filled it with stuffing and cardboard dividers and all sorts of shizz to ensure my things didn’t roll around inside of it. I was really impressed.
My goodies are now winging their way to South Africa (tracking tells me they left Bangkok on 12 June) and, while I have faith in the Thai postal service, experience has made me worry about the South African bit so let’s see if it arrives intact. I’ll update this post either way.
Moving on, let’s talk about drugs! If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I struggle to sleep at night. Not always, but I’ve spent my entire life (childhood and adulthood) going through spells that might last days, weeks or months, where literally nothing is going to knock me out short of a tranquilizer dart. Before anyone hits up the comments section to recommend a cup of warm milk before bed please for the love of God just don’t. I’ve tried it all, I promise, and if I don’t get a certain amount of sleep, I’m not just moeg, I end up having a seizure. Girl has even spent a night in a very expensive sleep clinic, so it’s safe to say I’m totes beyond melatonin and meditation.
For the record, the sleep clinic was the BIGGEST waste of time and cash. They basically were like ‘golly gee, we can now rule out that you DON’T have restless leg syndrome and you DON’T have sleep apnea’ and I was like ‘I know, assholes! I’ve been sleeping with my partner (at the time) for eleven freakin’ years. He could’ve told me that for FREE.’ My ‘diagnosis’ was that I was basically just ‘nocturnal’ and, that when I couldn’t sleep, I should take a sleeping tablet, which is what I was doing already. Arrrgh! (My parents are also ‘nocturnal’, by the way. I come from a long line of non-sleepers.)
Anyway, I left my Zopimed, a straight up sleeping tablet at home, thinking I’d just buy it OTC in Chiang Mai like I’d done in the past. But noooo! For some reason you now have to go to a doc to get a script for it and yet they still hand out Valium and Xanax with a smile for less than R200 a strip. (In Cambodia it’s less than R30 a strip!) So that’s what I did. I just took half a 10mg Valium pretty much every night for two months and life was great. For a bit. I eventually built up a tolerance and was moving up towards the 7,5mg zone. And it sits in your system for ages causing you to wake up feeling like a zombie. Wanna spring out of bed and do a quick Pilates video before 8am? Nah, honey! You’re an extra on The Walking Dead!
So ja. To hell with that. No more Valium for me. I decided to suck it up and go to a doc (las!) to get my usual Zopi and that’s exactly what I did. I ended up at Chiang Mai Ram hospital, the ‘very fancy hospital’, simply ‘cos it was closest to me at the time. I found it so glossy and flash it makes our nicest Cape Town hospitals look like pooh and the service was next level amaze. Again, you take a number (I waited less than five minutes) and then go to see nurses who run a bit of admin on you before you see the doc. This means having your blood pressure taken, being asked a few basic health questions and hopping on a medical scale. (Guess who’s gained three kilograms since arrival? Looks like it’s not just my luggage that’s overweight! But much like my suitcase I’ve been stuffing myself with fabulousness and have no plans to stop. I have the rest of my life to enjoy a thigh gap. Now it’s time to eat, drink and be very, freaking merry!)
Anyway, my doc looked like a teen beauty queen. Like, she was one of the most beautiful Thai girls I’d ever seen. I kind of had to suspend belief that she was over 17, let alone had graduated from med school. She happily prescribed a bunch of Zopi and BOOM, I was on my way. The doctor’s visit cost less than R200 (can you believe it?!) and, weirdly, the pills themselves were more expensive – a tad more than double the cost in South Africa. I’ve since been told that when you get a script at CMR you should fill it outside of the hospital’s pharmacy as they’re notoriously expensive but I’ve yet to do a price comparison. (Thai hospital chemist vs Thai street chemist.) For more on legal drug shopping in the east get clicky here. Snapping up the very same birth control I use at home in Thailand where it’s OTC, has been a single purchase that’s saved me thousands of rands!
But ja. Valium. It’s dead to me. So I stopped taking it and guess what? I started developing what I thought were terrible flu symptoms before realising I WAS GOING THROUGH FREAKING BENZO-WITHDRAWAL! Nausea, sweating, shaking, vertigo, vision drama, the works! Do you know how un-fun it was to arrive in Ho Chi Minh, a city you were dying to explore, and have to spend two days in your hotel room ‘drying out’ like a regte junky? WHEN ALL THE SALES WHERE ON?!
Fortunately, this eased up once I ceased to ‘cold turkey’ and tapered off as per the advice of a doctor. Also, on the bright side, I got to watch just about every TV show in the world, eat noodles in bed (when you get to the point that the thought of food doesn’t make you want to projectile) and WhatsApp my friends dramatic shizz like ‘Helllooo darling! I’m in Saigon recovering from my benzo addiction. How are the children?!’
Western medicine isn’t the only thing that’s going for a song in Thailand. You can indulge in Eastern medicine too for even less. I managed to mess up my shoulder (flying, sleeping in a million different beds, hunching over a laptop) and really enjoyed a cupping session at The Centre of Thai Traditional and Complimentary Medicine (TTCM). The cupping – using proper super sterk glass cups and a flame to create a vacuum, not that lightweight plastic kak – worked like a bomb and was included FOR FREE with the acupuncture sessions I paid for. I had two of them and they were just R140 a pop! The moment they were placed on my shoulder the ‘pulling’ was so intense I wanted to scream and then BOOM, everything relaxed and life went back to lekkerness. Just a word of warning – placement is everything. So if you attempt cupping somewhere and find it doesn’t work for you, bear in mind that your practitioner might not be targeting the muscle properly. As with any tool, it’ll be useless in unskilled hands.
All the medical care I’ve received in Thailand has been fabulous and to a very high standard. You can read about my crazy cheap yet brilliant trip to the dentist here. Getting an eye test and glasses made here is much cheaper than back home too. Same goes for a regular health screening. I’m also due for a pap smear so, when I get back to Chiang Mai next month I’ll probably end up at Lanna Hospital which is less flashy than CMR but they offer ‘Lady Programme 3’ for just R1 300 which includes a pap PLUS 15 other tests that range from a complete blood count and lipid profile to liver and kidney function. Talk about value!
I also got Botulax the other day, the less expensive Korean version of Botox. This is something I’ve done often, and, as always, it worked a treat. You need to use more units of Botulax than you do Botox, but it’s much cheaper per unit (Botox is very expensive in Thailand) so it ends up costing less. (To give you an example, it was R1 200 to do the lines around my eyes which is on par with the cost of Botox back home.) If you enter a clinic and they give you a crazy prize for line-zapping, just ask for ‘Korean Botox’ and watch the price drop.
Now, there was something else I wanted to say but I’ve forgotten what it was. If I remember I’ll update but now I want to run away because I’ve just been told that avocados are R5 for a kilo (WHAT?!) at the market. I’m currently in a ‘homestay’ (I think I paid R270 a night, check it out and die from awesome) so it’s basically a fancy hotel room (my suite is 35 square metres!) but in a family’s converted mansion-house and all guests (who I’ve gotten to know) have access to the kitchen so I’m keen to make everyone a big ole’ bunch of guac!