My First Thai Ticket
It started on Saturday. I had a lovely, relaxing day planned for myself. A morning haircut—the haircuts here truly are magical, complete with a 15 minute head massage and styling, all for around $6—a delicious lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant, and a two hour Thai massage to wrap up the day. I guess everyone decided to wake up late on Saturday because all the salons were closed, and the haircut didn’t materialize that morning. So I started my day at the coffee shop instead, which was a nice replacement. I arrived at the Indian Grill around 1 pm, an hour before my massage, ordered my food, and headed to the bathroom. During those fateful five minutes, a police officer pulled up, slapped a ticket on the seat of my motorbike, which was parked in front of the restaurant where I’ve parked every time before without incident, and wrapped a chain around my seat and tire, making it impossible to move my bike. A quick side note here on law enforcement in Thailand. Police here do not enforce laws; they enforce commands. This means that they will not give out tickets unless they have been specifically instructed to do so on any given day. So on Saturday, in a stint of unluckiness on my part, the police officers had been told to sniff out offenders of my particular infraction. To continue the story, I came out of the bathroom just as the officer was leaving (if I hadn’t been in the bathroom the whole thing probably could’ve been avoided by me simply moving Mimi after he arrived), and all he could say in English was ‘Go to police station.’ The only thing I could manage to verbalize was ‘Mai khao jai’ (I don’t understand). He repeated his irritating command to go to the police station and drove away, leaving me with a hanging jaw and wet eyes. I had no idea where the police station was, I had no idea how much I was going to have to pay, and I didn’t even know what the ticket was for. Luckily this happened in Thailand where helping strangers is the norm and not the exception, and people immediately came to my aid. The owner and workers at the Indian restaurant came out and explained that I had received a ticket for parking on the wrong side of the road—I’m still not sure how I was supposed to know there was a ‘right’ side of the road—and offered to take me to the police station to get it all figured out after I finished eating the meal I had ordered. But I had no time. I explained that I had an appointment at 2, that Mimi needed to be free by then. So, in true Thai style, the situation basically took care of itself. The owner of the restaurant took 200 baht, or about $6, from me (the cost of the ticket, they explained) and drove to the police station to pay my ticket for me while I ate and attempted to enjoy my lunch, which proved difficult because I was still worried about the chain wrapped around Mimi’s back tire. The owner returned around 1:30, and about 20 minutes later the same police officer that had given me the ticket came back and unlocked poor Mimi. Yes, she was slightly traumatized by the whole event, but after a few good drives around Hang Dong, she is almost back to normal. The incident was followed by abundant Kop khun kha’s (thank you’s) to the staff of the restaurant and then my monthly 2 hour massage, which proved an effective source of intense relaxation to dissolve the stress created by my first Thai ticket.
The next moment of excitement came Sunday morning. I got my laundry from the washing machine, brought it upstairs, and went to my little balcony to hang it on the metal rack that serves as my drying rack. I shut the door behind me as I went out to the balcony, hung up the wet clothes, and turned to go back into my apartment. But I couldn’t turn the handle. The door had locked itself. I started to panic. I was on the second floor with no phone and no way to get back into my apartment. I tried pulling the door open, hoping it would somehow magically unlock itself. I tried busting in my window, but the panes of glass blocked any possible entrance. The only other obvious option was to yell for help, but what would somebody do even if they did hear me? I knew there was a hidden spare key that would let them get into my apartment, but how was I going to explain that to someone who didn’t speak English? So I looked over the railing. It wasn’t that far down… And there were bars over the window of the apartment below mine… If I could just make it to those bars… Yes, my friends. I pulled a Spider-Man and scaled the side of my apartment building. There were a couple of ledges, a pipe, and the bars that made it possible for me to climb down the two stories and land safely on the ground with a nice adrenaline rush but no scrapes, bruises, or broken bones. Sometimes the most intense adventures happen right at home.
A Visit to the Hospital
Before you freak out, keep in mind that hospitals are also the centers of doctor’s offices here in Thailand, and in my case, it was a trip to a GI doctor that prompted my first visit to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. I was experiencing some stomach issues over the weekend that needed to get checked out, and my first Thai doctor visit on Sunday went quite smoothly. I entered the hospital having no idea who to talk to or where to go, so I approached a desk that was marked for ‘International Patients.’ The staff spoke English well enough and directed me to a nurse who took me to the registration area. I was checked in and taken to the GI department, where I waited about 45 minutes for the doctor to arrive. He got there, asked me some questions in good English, did a physical examination, took some tests, and within an hour—an hour during which I fell asleep in the waiting room and had to be woken up by a very kind nurse—the test results had come back. I was diagnosed, given a prescription, and sent back downstairs. Here I visited yet another desk where I paid the very reasonable $40 for the entire visit, including the four medications I received, moved down to another desk to receive my prescriptions, and left the hospital about two and a half hours after I had entered it. It was cheap, efficient, quality medical care, and I have to say that anyone worried about the state of healthcare in Thailand shouldn’t be. I’m in good hands here.