If you give your wife a headache, chances are, she will get sick.

When she gets sick, you do the best you can to make her feel better in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  But if that doesn’t work, chances are, she will want to be a medical tourist.

So you buy a plane ticket and fly her to Bangkok, Thailand where the Bumrungrad Hospital is her favorite place get better.  Just to be sure, you phone Bumrungrad before departure to schedule appointments for her.  Miraculously, the flight goes smoothly and only half an hour after landing she is escorted out of the airport by the Bumrungrad Hospital welcome staff, into a deluxe mini-van with air-con, headed straight to the hospital! (turn left after clearing customs-and you will need a confirmed appointment)  Two hours after landing the first specialist sees her!


However, chances are, that if you don’t leave right away for the best medical treatment you can get – whatever you have is only going to get worse! (new family rule #1: if you are thinking about leaving then LEAVE!)

Once all the doctors visit her, they agree that she has Herpes Zoster Opthalmicus, aka shingles of the eye, aka a recurrence of the dormant chicken-pox virus.  Because treatment was not prompt (see new family rule #1), and to avoid long-term/permanent damage to the eye, they admit her as an in-patient on IV drugs.

But, as an in-patient connected to IV for most of the day she will get bored stiff and miss her family too much so you make plans to travel with the whole family!  You will need a place to stay of course, and we always choose the Citadines 11 on Soi 11.  The rooms are spacious, with a little kitchen furnished with the basics for cooking and eating in and all the other mod-cons one might need.  Plus, for those needing to stay longer there are laundry facilities on the top floor along with a good rooftop pool and fitness center.  Walking distance there is the Villa Market grocery store, multiple local eateries, not to mention lots of good street food vendors.  Another bonus of staying at Citadines 11 is the free, and readily available, tuk tuk service that takes you to select destinations, Bumrungrad Hospital included (otherwise you can easily walk there in 5 minutes).

Once you arrive she is very happy to see you, but soon you too get bored stiff and need to keep yourself and your child entertained for at least a handful of hours a day.  So you make a plan … on day 2 we will …

Have a coup and be under martial law!  Perfect timing.  This puts a damper on the Bangkok nightlife past 10:00pm but with a 7 year old in tow this actually helped to make out hotel room a quieter place to sleep at night!  And it puts a damper on plans to stay in and watch Roland Garros tennis on TV since the channels are off-air with a screen that says “normal broadcasting will resume soon.”  Day 4 rolls around and there is still no TV and a curfew, but we now have have a list of things to do!


6 ideas for outings in Bangkok while your loved one is in the hospital   

  1. Take a half day cooking class.  A google search will bring up many choices.  Apparently some are more high-end than others.  We chose the Bangok Thai Cooking Academy because it was significantly cheaper than the other options AND it was located downtown (we got there in two minutes with the hotel tuk tuk).  The class starts with a visit to the local market where you are introduced to many local fruits, herbs, and vegetables that you will use in your cooking.  The class size was very small (in our case us plus another gal, though I think they go up to six people per course) and you are walked through all the steps of prepping, cooking, and serving a 4 dish Thai meal.  At the end of the course you are given the recipes and instructions for the dishes you prepared.  Super fun way to learn a new skill.
  2. Learn about snakes at the snake farm of the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, part of the Red Cross Society, whose mission is to educate, understand, and improve the lives of snakes in Thailand.  From Bumrungrad we took a taxi (70 baht and about 20 minutes) and got there just in time to tour the serpenterium before the 11:00 venom drawing class.  This is the oldest snake center in Asia, and 2nd oldest in the world, where the snakes are kept and cared for to make anti-venom serum.  There is an outdoor serpenterium where you can observe many different types of snakes, from pythons to cobras and everything in-between.  Indoors, there is an exhibition center that helps you learn all you might ever want to know about snakes.  Every week-day at 11:00 there is a de-venoming demonstration in the exhibition center, and at 2:30 there is the snake show where they show/explain the different types of snakes and how to handle them.  The King and Siamese cobras where definite highlights.  Tickets are 200 Baht for adults and 50 for kids.  Highly recommended.  Fun and very educational!snake
  3. Go mall touring.  If the heat and humidity bothers you and you fancy walking around indoors, then a visit to one of the many malls dotting Bangkok is a great way to spend a few hours.  Each mall seems more ritzy glitzy and decadent than the first.  Consumerism at its finest!  Where else in the world can you pop into a mall, watch a movie, and then buy a Ferrari on the way down the escalator!  Terminal 21, themed as an airport where travelers “board” gates to different cities around the world is particularly impressive in my opinion.  Siam Paragon is another very popular mall.  Highlights of this mall are the Kidzania, bowling alleys, and Ocean World.  Many opportunities for doing cool things, though the wallet will feel a lot lighter for it at the end of the day.  By chance we stumbled onto the Central World Mall and while walking around found a little ice skating rink, aptly named “the rink.”  210 Baht for an hour of skating, but don’t forget to bring your socks!
  4. Street food for dinner at the entrance to Sukhumvit soi 38.  If you take the BTS to Thong Lo, it’s right below you on the even-numbered side of the street.  All day long, but especially in the evening (after about 6pm) it is hopping with some of the best street food in the city.  I highly recommend the fruit shakes from the guy with the blender, kao mun gai (singapore chicken rice), and lad na (thick rice noodles with gravy, veggies, and chicken if you like).  Cheap and really, really good.
  5. Kinokuniya bookstore.  Huge, comfy places to sit, awesome selection, prices reasonable.  Good children’s selection.  On the third floor (what they call the third floor) of Siam Paragon.  There is also a very good branch in the Emporium mall, third floor, at the Phrom Pong sky train station.  If you come into Emporium off of the train, it’s directly up from you one floor.
  6. Explore culinary delights.  Aside from the plentiful and delicious Thai food, whether from street vendors or proper sit down places, Bangkok also offers many great restaurants from around the world.  Burkhara Indian restaurant for great Indian food.  Bei Otto for a fix of German sausages and potatoes (they also have a deli offering all the traditional German specialties).   Crepes & Co is just yummy hearty fare, though Mediterranean food is how they market themselves.

Now back to the story …

After a few days we settle into a routine and the days pass by, always expecting things to get better quickly but alas that is not the way viruses work.  Slowly slowly though Dawn’s condition improves, and we start looking forward to the day when she will get dismissed!  Eventually said day comes around and Bumrungrad hospital impresses yet again – everything is thought out and purposeful to make life as easy as possible for patients and their families.  Check-out worked something like this: the accounts office prepares the bill, the nurse brings it to the room for signature, the meds get delivered to the room, and the porter shows up to help with any luggage or transportation needs, and off you go!

However, if you are sick, chances are, life is a lot less stressful if you have insurance coverage.  On their website, TieCare International states that “providing you with the most comprehensive and cost-effective benefits backed by concrete customer service is our top priority.”  While many companies pay lip service to how great they are about everything, our experience with TieCare actually confirms their commitment to the service of their clients.  At every step of the process, from pre-approval to getting a letter of guarantee for the hospital to checking in to make sure we were doing ok, TieCare felt like a partner and not “the insurance company.”

Finally, if you give your wife a headache, chances are, you will need some help along the way.  An understanding administration that actually cares about your well being and those you love is crucial.  Thanks Jim, EJ, Theresa, Michael and Brenna!  Thanks also to Ms. Melat and Ato Fasil for stepping in and taking care of our classes, and the ECE and MS teams for helping our to make sure everything ran smoothly.  Finally, thanks to the parents of our students for their understanding and support.  ICS Addis prides itself in being a close-knit community, and moments like these serve as a testament to our school spirit and culture.  Dawn and I were able to focus solely on getting better knowing that things at school were “taken care of” and this peace of mind was invaluable.

Putting my teacher hat back on and taking a leaf out of the IB learner profile to reflect on the past couple of weeks what did I learn?  Two things.  First, always make sure you have an “exit” plan for when illness strikes.  Basically, where will you go and under what circumstances will you leave?  Lesson two … don’t give your wife a headache.

Author’s note: special thanks to Sarah Shafer for her daily tips.  Your Thai experience made us look and feel like local farangs!