I woke up in the morning with a crusty eye and a plan to go to Chiang Rai, three hours north of Chiang Mai. Since my eye wasn’t itchy I decided to ignore it and just catch my bus. Once I arrived at the hostel in Chiang Rai (probably the nicest/cleanest place I’ve stayed despite being on a semi abandoned road) I took a look at my eye. Yeah…it was glassy, red and more gunk had accumulated around it. This was definitely a case of conjunctivitis, but I really dreaded going to the doctor in a foreign country, by myself. Then again, I don’t think pink eye clears up on its own.
Lucky for me the hospital was a quick 10 minute walk from the hostel. I say this because the first time I went there I realized I didn’t have my passport and had to run back to the hostel. It’s disgustingly humid here, by the way.
20 minutes later I was back, prepared, glistening radiantly and thankfully able to immediately find the information desk. A woman popped her head up when I approached and stared at me wide eyed. She was extremely friendly, but for some reason I felt a little off put by her. I finally realized it was because she was wearing those contacts that removes the pupil, which made her look like an insect. It’s fine, I got over it quickly, because she was so sarcastic! When I said I didn’t speak Thai she responded, dead pan, with a Why not? Then immediately busted out laughing. The first sarcastic Thai person I’ve met, and I love it.
I filled out an information sheet that could have doubled as a dating profile. I think the only thing missing was – attractive qualities in a partner. Why they wanted to know my marital status, religion, and hobbies is beyond me. Anyway, the lady then walked me around to three different counters and made sure I was at the right station before she headed back to her desk.
While I waited for my name to be called I spotted a mosquito flying around my leg. I might have been a tad overzealous when I went to smack it away. Blood exploded all over my hands and dripped a little down my leg. To say I was absolutely horrified would be a gross understatement. I looked at all the people half-dying on these stretchers around me, back at my hands, then tried to walk as calmly as possible to the nearest hand sanitizer. Of course, it was almost empty. I was so close to ripping it off the wall, taking the cap off and pouring it all over myself.
After emptying the bottle, I sat on the opposite side of the waiting room, as if that would save me from the next morbidly obese mosquito, and tried not to touch anything, least of all my face, with my hands.
A nurse called my name and asked me some general health questions (I guess this visit wasn’t going to include a man), then directed me to yet another bench. I was sat next to four gentlemen and had to scoot down the bench every time one got up to see the doctor. I don’t know, but this process was really funny to me.
The doctor was very friendly and complimented me on the 6 words I know in Thai. Then prescribed me two types of eye drops. This is when shit got real. I was so nervous to find out how much all of this was going to cost me and was semi hoping they would forget to ask me to pay. No such luck. Obviously.
In the end, a visit to the emergency room, uninsured, plus medication, which I was able to pick up there, cost me 115 baht (roughly $3.20).
This is not a joke. I almost laughed when they showed me the bill. I got pink eye last year (yes, I may need to work on washing my hands more) and WITH INSURANCE everything plus medication cost me over $80. There is something very wrong with this picture.
I may have walked out of there with some terrible blood borne disease, but at least I still had most of my money…..