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28 Days to Better Health: Week Two in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Before I go on, I want to recommend Chiang Mai as a great “starter” destination for the adventurous but inexperienced traveler.  In Chiang Mai, you get a lot of exotic bang for very little difficulty.  The city caters to tourists.  All over town, you can find English speakers and signage.  The food is fantastic and satisfies every desire; from Thai to pizza to vegan to Mexican and more.  It’s also very cheap for westerners with dorm beds going for as little as $3/night.  If you’re itching to travel but want to build your confidence and enjoy yourself doing so, Chiang Mai is a good spot to consider.  But once here, watch out for traffic so you return home in one piece!  That said, let’s continue.

 

Painted wall

Painted wall in Chiang Mai

 

Day 8

10 AM: More needles to the face, hands, and feet today at the acupuncturist.  The doctor is so kind and maternalistic that I don’t want to let her down with the smoking.  I managed to go from sixteen cigarettes the previous day to 13 in the last 24 hours.  She assures me I’m doing a great job.  Cost: $14.18

 

Back at the hotel a toilet run scares me to the core.  It appears I’m bleeding to death until I remember I’ve had three bottles of beet juice today. Whew.

 

Day 9

I find a new and quieter path from the north of the old city to the south.  I’m finally figuring out all the streets and am much more confident crossing them although I’ve really got to be alert.  This is not the place to let your guard down.

 

8:45 AM: I’m down to 11 cigarettes a day now and the acupuncturist is happy with me.  She puts tiny needles in my ears which are covered with a bandage and are to remain there.  I am to press them when I feel the urge to smoke. Later, I do, and it does nothing.  After trying all day, I remove them because they bother me and I still want to smoke. Cost: $14.18

 

Fresh juices

Fresh juices

 

11 AM:  I’m back at the dermatologist and once again in a packed waiting room.  The doctor shines the light in my face again to assess the results of the first microdermabrasion and suggests another.  I’m all for it.  This time I’m free to navigate my way through the upstairs labyrinth alone and present my envelope of instructions to the woman there.  The treatment is a repeat performance of a man suctioning the crap out of my face.  Oddly, I enjoy it.  But, I also like going to the dentist so consider me weird. Cost: $26.93 US.

 

Day 10

It’s Sunday but I have an appointment with the thyroid doctor to review all the blood tests. I’m anxious to get these so finally I’ll have an answer to what’s causing me some weird symptoms. With the exception of a few slightly high or low values, all my labs are normal.  This is great news but I’m baffled.

 

The doctor is at a loss for what to suggest so she goes for the old doctor standby that every woman with vague symptoms (or thyroid problems) has heard: “Maybe it’s psychological.”  Damn. It.  She seems unwilling and uninterested in pursuing any additional testing.  The Vitamin B12 result comes back tomorrow so I’m hanging my hope hat on that.  That must be what’s out of whack.

 

In the evening I stroll to the Chiang Mai Sunday Market which is a ginormous street market covering blocks and blocks and offering food and handcrafts.  There are so many vendors it’s hard to imagine that there are so many residents in the city!  Thousands of talented artists offer unique items I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world.  And for Americans, the prices are often so low it seems criminal.  I restrain myself, buying only fresh pineapple and a five dollar pair of needed sandals. Lots of fun.

 

Spirit offerings on the street

Spirit offerings on the street

 

Day 11

My Vitamin B12 results are normal.  So….I’ve had a lot of blood tests, not everything, but a lot, and nothing to explain my symptoms.  And my chosen doctor has dropped the case.  Having been diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism at an early age, I’ve had a lifetime of clueless doctors to contend with, so this is no surprise, but it is disappointing.  The positive is that I’ve learned over the years that I need to take my health into my own hands and that’s what I’m doing now with my goals.

 

I’ve got no more appointments today which allows me, for better or worse, to spend a lot of time reading the news. Every day gets worse and more frightening with the new President and I’m burning up with shock and frustration.  After the usual daily emails to Senators, I am despondent and want to hide.  With no appetite, I crawl back into bed and stay there until dusk.

 

I’m not sure what to do now.

 

Day 12

Noon: I see Orn again for a massage and she remarks at how different I look, that I’ve lost weight, that I look so healthy.  Better yet, she tells me for the first time that my feet no longer feel like sand!  I feel like she’s giving me a light massage but she claims she’s pushing harder than ever.  But I’m not howling like before.  She comments repeatedly that she can’t believe how much my muscles have changed in such a short time.  Yes!  Progress!

 

Finished with the massage, an older man is in the waiting room. Orn gives me tea and cookies after each treatment so as I sit there he asks where I’m from.  I cringe, telling him I’m from the U.S. and thankfully so is he and he’s cringing too!  He’s a retired high school civics teacher from Pennsylvania with no shortage of disparaging words about our new President.  Frankly, it’s a relief to talk in-person to another American who feels as terrified as me.

 

It’s Chinese New Year and the city is flooded with Chinese tourists who appear to be making the Thai workers insane.  Based on my little experience, I see vast differences between Thai and Chinese people in their overall manner.  The Thai workers I’ve observed are soft-spoken and exceedingly polite but this particular influx appears to be wearing on their last nerves.

 

Chiang Mai Temple

Chiang Mai Temples

 

Day 13

I wake up feeling like crap.  I’m super depressed and feeling defeated about my inability to cease smoking which, of course, gives me the liberty to smoke more than I have since I started to cut down.

 

These days I’m eating a small vegetarian meal anytime before 5 PM which is usually veggies and rice or eggs and the rest of the day I only drink fresh juice.  The juice vendor sells fresh veggie and fruit juices without sugar for 25 baht a bottle or 70 cents.  My daily consumption is eight bottles which costs $5.60.

 

4 PM: It takes everything I have to get myself together to get to my acupuncture appointment at 4 PM.  The sun is broiling.  I have a longer visit today with the doctor and tell her about my frustration with the thyroid doctor.  She takes my pulses.  This time she pokes needles in all the usual places but adds the belly.  She keeps telling me I can do this (quit smoking).  I really think she’s lovely.  During the session, I feel a radical shift in my body.  After, I feel like I’m on drugs; very floaty and relaxed with no desire to smoke for many hours.  I wish this feeling could last.

 

The mosquitos are out now and I hunt them down before bedtime.  I’m really not in the mood to get Dengue fever.

 

Khao Soi

A rare and delicious treat for me: Vegetarian Khao Soi

 

Day 14

Thinking maybe I needed to see another endocrinologist, I walk across town to RAM hospital and try to make an appointment but it’s a pain in my ass.  This is the hospital for the (relatively) rich and is supposed to deliver high-quality care in return.  I try to make an appointment to see a doctor about hormones and am tossed back and forth between departments with no representative willing to commit that they have any doctors that actually know much about hormones.  Finally, I give up and leave.  Unsure of what else to try, I decide I’m ok and don’t need any more doctors.  One of my weirdest symptoms, a swollen tongue, seems to be resolving itself since I arrived, so I conclude I’m healing myself.

 

6:30 PM: I’m back at the dermatologist for microdermabrasion which is done by a new technician who lacks gusto.  Standing before all the beauty products at reception, I’m saddened by all the skin whitening cremes which I see everywhere in Chiang Mai (and in South Korea and Tokyo too).  It just goes to show that the beauty industry has one goal and that’s to convince women that whatever they are is not right enough.  And hey, it works.  I just paid to have someone sandblast my face.

 

I’m back down to smoking less again and just hoping for a breakthrough of grace to reinforce my will to stop.

 

Photos of the Second Week in Chiang Mai:

 

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