Today's brief one hour flight took me from the island nation of Singapore to Penang, Malaysia. Penang is a modern city which also boasts a great number of colonial architectural sites as well. I have to be honest though, I was so travel weary that I decided I was going to hang at my nice hotel, dip my toes in the sand and just chill for a couple of days. And that's what I did!
Nothing too exciting to report in this little chapter, except I was still not feeling 100% after my food poisoning experience in Bangkok the week prior. I decided to go ahead and get my driver to take me to a local health clinic. I'm getting to be a bit of an expert on Asian health care as I've now been to the doctor in the Philippines and Malaysia as well as having had extensive dental work done in the Philippines.
As most of us know, every trip to get medical advice costs us an arm and a leg in addition to long wait times and sometimes days or weeks before we can get in to see the doc. Not so far in Asia. I walked into a modern clinic in Penang. After about a 20 minute wait I was ushered in to a kindly older Indian doctor's office (who from the organizational chart on the wall out front was the big Kahuina).
Long story short, the old boy asked me what the problem was. I had two issues. One, my stomach just didn't seem settled from my bout with some bad food and secondly I had gotten what I was pretty sure was a bug bite on my back but it felt a little funny because there were two little blisters grouped together.
First thing he asks me is, "Do you have herpes?" Whoa, wth doc slow down here...lol I answered no and said, Jeez why would you ask that. He laughed, not THAT herpes, but simplex two where I am succeptible to cold sores, a garden variety virus that many folks have.
He gave me two treatment options for my stomach; one of them being pretty basic and the other by treating it with in his opinion an unnecessary but strong antibiotic which would clean me out real well of all bacteria. He said, "but that's expensive". Of course I asked the million dollar question. How much?
His doctor visit and the prescription of a cream for my back was 125 Ringgit (about $25) or the executive "antibiotic works" it was a whopping $45 if I took the designer drugs. I was like, yes sir...let's get the good stuff.
I went back to my hotel, enjoyed the beach and in the back of my mind thinking, Lord have I got "The Herp"? Kinda funny how your confidence wanes. I was determined to go and get complete blood work done when I went back to Bangkok.
(I am obviously recounting this story because the outcome is good as you'll read a couple of posts from now, but I'm trying to give a flavor of the kind of things you encounter in Asia :-) You're not in Kansas anymore Toto.
On a serious note though, my healthcare experiences have been excellent here. Dirt cheap, which is important but also much more patient friendly than what you encounter in the USA and Canada. It's no wonder that Medical Tourism has become such big business. Also, keep in mind that many of theses physicians and dentists are trained in some of the finest American Universities.