This Polio vaccine was the one remaining thing my pincushion-ed self needed for West Africa travel. To obtain it, I moseyed to the West of Thailand’s capital to famed Bangkok Hospital.
Of course, by “moseyed,” I actually mean I got really lost, ended up in an area with no breakfast options and turned to street fruit, and ultimately walked three miles in the sweltering heat.
Luckily, I had allotted two and a half hours to get there (I know myself well, now!) so I arrived five minutes early for my one o’clock appointment.
Listen: Bangkok ROCKS for medical care! This is a very good thing, given the number of tourists who blunder into injury from stupid pastimes like “Motorcycling Without Knowing How,” and “The Shooting Range” (cheerfully pictured, upper left).
Indeed, people travel from all over the world for the friendly, high-quality, inexpensive medical care in Thailand. When I arrived at Bangkok Hospital, the waiting room in the International Wing was a stunning mix of Western, Indian, Arab, and African patients, with a particularly large population of Muslim women swathed in full black burqas.
Bangkok Hospital does a fantastic job of catering to each of its international patient populations. There is a “Japanese Wing” (pictured, right), lined with lush bamboo plants. There is an Arabic-speaking Muslim wing, replete with a money exchange service for Arab countries, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.
“Are there any side effects of this vaccine?” I asked as the cheerful Thai nurse prepared it for me.
“Very rare,” she smiled. “Main side effect is saying: ‘Ew, this not delicious.’ Now open up mouth like a little baby!”
The total cost of my mini-physical exam, the doctor consultation, and the vaccine was a mere 800 Baht ($24), which will presumably be reimbursed by my Health Insurance plan. Good deal!
Thailand is a medical tourist destination for good reason. And here’s a fun fact: Thailand is also the “Sex Change Capital of the World”! A major cause of this is that Thai culture embraces a “Third Gender”: The “Ladyboy” or, in Thai, “Kathoey.”
Wherever you are in Thailand, you will see gorgeous women who, upon closer inspection, are actually men. They sport makeup, sexy lady’s clothing, and various degrees of hormone treatments and gender operations.
Thais accept these transgender “ladyboys” with an ease that surprises Western tourists, perhaps due to the tolerant nature of Buddhism, Thailand’s main religion.
Just last week, I was remarking on the beauty of the waitress was who was striding towards me with my coffee. When she arrived, however, and declared, “Here’s your coffee,” the voice was actually male!
In more intimate realms, I have heard numerous stories of Western tourists who kissed a hot Thai lady, or even brought her home, only to realize “she” was a hot Thai ladyBOY!
Apparently, these Kathoey are so used to being attacked by Western men freaking out, that most carry strong protection in the form of knives, mace, or more.
So there you have it. Thailand has it all: medical tourism, sex change tourism, dental tourism, beach tourism, temple tourism, and everything in between.
“Thailand is an extremely accommodating country,” remarked one expat who moved here from Australia years ago. “If something is not how you want it, there is always someone willing to help change it, if you’ll pay.” From sex changes to vaccinations, how true this is!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!