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Posts tagged ‘Burmese’

Hospital Health Adventures

It was time. Way, way past time. I hadn’t had a complete physical exam or any sort of comprehensive health check-up in well over a decade. The last time was probably about 15 years ago. I’ve felt perfectly fine lately , so there was no pressing need to get examined, but hey, you never know about these things, so needless to say, I was overdue.


I’ve been a longtime user of Bangkok Hospital, stopping by their main branch on Soi Soonvijai every year or two for some minor ailment or another. Their medical service has always been very fast and efficient and not that expensive either, especially compared to what I would pay for comparable services back in the USA. Plus, it’s within walking distance of my apartment, so the location is very convenient.

I enquired about a check-up with the hospital and received a prompt e-mail reply, giving me four options: The Basic check-up, the Advanced Male check-up, the Executive Male check-up, and the Absolute Male check-up. As you might assume, the range of tests on offer increased with each step up, as did the overall price. Initially, I thought the Advanced Male option would be enough for me, but after talking it over with the doctor, I opted for the Executive Male package.


After the required advance fasting, I showed up at the hospital at 8:30 on Monday morning, bladder full of water and ready for that urine test! But first, they did the initial range of common tests (checking blood pressure, temperature, weight, etc.) and then took a blood sample. Next up came an ultrasound, chest x-ray, EKG, and then the urine sample. After that was an eye test, hearing test, stress test on the treadmill, and something else that I can’t remember. The whole battery of tests was done promptly, without any long waits. One nurse would escort me the next station and on down the line. Very well organized.

While I was waiting before each test I would take out my dog-eared Burmese dictionary and phrase book, something I always keep in my bag, and tried to memorize a few new words. Seeing as how I don’t have a Smart Phone to play with, that’s how I utilize my free time. By coincidence, while waiting I observed — or rather heard — several people from Myanmar in the waiting room, all speaking Burmese. How cool was that! I was tempted to talk with them, but it just didn’t feel like the time and place to interrupt a whole family while they were also having medical tests being done. But I was surprised at the number of patients from Myanmar that I saw in various areas of the hospital, plus one of the nurses was speaking Burmese too. An international hospital indeed!

The eye test raised a red flag of sorts and I was asked to see a doctor for one extra exam. She told me that the results had shown a “higher pressure” than normal reading in or around the optic nerve. It could be early signs of glaucoma, she said, or perhaps something else. She recommended further tests at the hospital’s specialized eye center to find out exactly what the problem is, and more importantly what they can do to fix it.


I had nearly three hours to kill before my other test results were ready, so I had a long lunch at the Black Canyon branch of the hospital. I used to eat at Black Canyon about once a week, usually at the branch in the Mall Bangkapi, or the one at Major Ekkamai (now closed), but that was back in the days when I actually had a day off work and had leisure time. Those days are long gone, so I haven’t eaten at a Black Canyon in a few years. I think the last time was at their branch at Suvarnaphumi Airport! Anyway, I’m rather addicted to their iced coffee and their gaeng kiew wahn gai (green curry with chicken) is also quite tasty, so that’s what I had, along with a side order of some sort of leafy green vegetable with mushrooms. The food was delicious, but the servings of rice they give you are ridiculously small. I ended up having to order three plates (to call it a “plate” is misleading; the small portions are about the size of a stick of butter) to sop up all the curry!

I was back at the doctor’s office at 2 pm for my results. Is there anything more nerve-wracking than waiting for the results of medical tests, which in this case also included HIV and hepatitis screening? Thankfully, everything was negative and normal. No diseases or signs of heart problems (which run on my father’s side of the family) or any other concerns — except for that thing with the eyes, which this doctor also mentioned. I made an appointment at the eye center for next week, so I can now worry about that for the next several days.

But all in all, it was a positive experience, and I even got a free Bangkok Hospital umbrella out of the deal. Next time I won’t wait 15 years until my next check-up.


Kathein Treasure Trees

During the full moon period of Tazaungmon in November — the same time as the famous balloon festival in Taunggyi — there is also a ceremony called Kathein that is held in villages and cities throughout Myanmar. During this important ceremony an offering of “Holy Robes” are given to monks in area monasteries.


In addition to the traditional giving of robes, Kathein has spread to include donations of other kinds. Items ranging from toothpaste and soap to noodles and crackers, and especially bank notes, are collected and given to monasteries. Some of these donations are collected and decoratively mounted on stands that resemble trees. During my recent trip I saw these “Kathein Trees” everywhere; in homes, restaurants, street corners, schools, and shops. I asked my friend Ma Thanegi, who lives in Yangon, for clarification on this Kathein thing, specifically the name of these tree-like donation displays. She told me that they are called Padaythar Pin in Burmese, which roughly translates as “Tree of Plenty,” although she prefers the term “Tree of Treasures” because she thinks “it sounds nicer!”


Traditionally, the collection of Kathein offerings starts after the Full Moon day of Thadingyut in October and lasts until Tazaungmon comes around in November, the exact dates of which are always changing according to the lunar calendar. I didn’t make it to the Kathein ceremony when I was in Taunggyi this time, but it’s renowned as being the most spectacular in all of Myanmar, with “a thousand and one gifts” donated to local monasteries.


Monastery Photo Flood

When I visited the novice monks at Shwe Yan Pyay Kyaung in Nyaungshwe last month, I not only brought them photos I had taken on my previous trip in June (during which I took groups of them to both the Pindaya Caves and to Taunggyi), but newspapers from Bangkok, specifically the sections with photos showing the ongoing flooding in Thailand. I’ve learned enough Burmese over the years that I felt capable of describing what had happened in Thailand, but using the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” axiom, I figured the photos would do a much better job of conveying how catastrophic the flooding in the Bangkok area had been than if I had tried to explain.


I brought about two weeks’ worth of full-page photo spreads from the Bangkok Post, and the monks seemed fascinated as they perused them. They were also quite eager to look at the photos of themselves from earlier in the year. And this, of course, led to some brand new photo sessions both inside and outside the monastery; posing in front of Buddha images, standing in front of the building’s distinctive windows, and more.


The monastery was also crawling with tour groups this time around, more tourists than I’ve ever seen in town. But the young monks happily took time during their early afternoon break (after lunch and before studies resumed at 1 pm) to pose for more photos. I think it may be time to get them their own camera so that they can start taking photos of all the tourists!



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