Eye Care in Surat Thani

Originally posted on Tar Heel Voyager

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It is an unfortunate truth that I am blind as a bat wearing a blindfold without my contacts or glasses so it was necessary I properly prepare when moving to Thailand.  I made sure to bring a year’s supply of contacts and my glasses just in case but eventually my stock ran out and my specs were scratched.  It was time I visited the an eye care center for the first time in Thailand.  Rest assured my fellow sightless travelers as eye care in this Southeast Asia hotspot is a breeze to find (barring the language barrier).

Contacts are amazingly simple to obtain, comparatively inexpensive, and well made.  Walk into any eye care center and you can pick up one or as many pair as you like.  I use monthly contacts which cost roughly ฿180 ($5) per pair.  I’ll be bringing another year’s supply home with me as the price is far to good of a deal to pass up.

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Glasses are also cheap and simple to obtain, although it can be a bit tough getting to appropriate lenses (such as automatic, scratch resistant, etc.) because of the language barrier.  If you already have the frame you can buy new lenses for as little as ฿450 ($13).  The frames are priced in a variety of ways.  The more local brands can go for less than ฿3,000 ($86) and more popular brands, such as Ray Ban or Playboy, can go for upwards of ฿8,000 ($230).

Eye care centers are extremely simple to find as well be located in any Central Plaza or peppered along the main roads.  One of Thailand’s most popular companies is Top Charoen, easily recognized by it’s light blue signage.  They are almost as abundant as 7/11s… well, that might be a stretch.  Top Charoen has also been offering a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” promotion for a long time so you may be able to benefit from that.  Unfortunately the options available were not that numerous so I reluctantly wound up with the pair seen below.

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If for any reason you are not sure of your prescription the majority of eye care centers can perform screenings for free.  Just another tick in the affordable healthcare box.

Eye care is one of the more simplistic medical needs that can be taken care of while in Thailand.  Whether you are living here or just a backpacker passing through all it will take is a bit of your time.


Check out more posts about Thailand at Tar Heel Voyager.

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Enjoying Craft Beer in Surat Thani

*Originally seen on Tar Heel Voyager

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One of the most difficult adjustments this traveler had to make when living in Thailand was the severe lack of diversity in beer options, or, at the very least, easy access to those options.  It can be quite difficult to dig yourself out of a pile of nothing but Chang, Leo, and Singha beers, but rest easy as a true craft beer scene is beginning to emerge in the Land of Smiles.  The options are still severely lacking but it is becoming a bit simpler to satiate your hops craving.

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Mai Sei Tung

One of the first things I noticed after moving here was the abundant use of plastic bags. I quickly learned the phrase, “mai sei tung ka/krup,” which means “without bag.” Usually when you don’t get the bag, you don’t get the plastic wrapped straw for your drink either, which is okay with me. With some light planning, we can greatly reduce the amount of plastic and styrofoam we use everyday.

I carry a small backpack everywhere to avoid needing a plastic bag. Inside I keep cloth bags just in case I do some shopping that will require more space. While grocery shopping, try to buy things that come in little to no packaging, like fresh produce. Keep an eye out for products that come in reusable containers, like glass jars and tupperware. You can use the product, and then save the containers for future storage. These will come in handy if you buy in bulk, another good way to cut down on using packaging. If you buy eggs from a store the first time, you’ll get the plastic holder. Save it and bring it to a market to be filled up again.

If you get take out a lot, bring a container with you. I’ve never found a problem handing my box over to the staff at a restaurant. They know what you want them to do, even if they still put your tupperware in a plastic bag. Another useful phrase is, “mai aow chaun,” or “don’t need spoon.” Use a metal spoon.

Thailand is so beautiful. I would love to come back again and again for many years, and see clean rivers and beaches. Let’s try to take care of it. This is our home after all, even if it’s temporary.

Photo: https://farangfreedom.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/bangkoks-trash-problem/

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Mai Sai Toong

Last year, Eric and I were travelling through northern Vietnam in March when we met a guy that was riding his bicycle all over Asia. He was doing a themed ride with 3 rules, one of which was that he tries not to create any trash on his journey. No single-use containers, no food that comes in any packaging, no plastic cups, no plastic bags. He only buys food that is not packaged, such as fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts. We talked with him for a while and he really got me thinking about how much of a problem waste is in many parts of Asia.

I only know a bit about environmental issues, waste disposal, and the sort, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Thailand has a pretty big waste problem. Not that Thailand is alone in this problem. Maybe it is just more visible here because you see trash everywhere. In my rural jungle neighborhood, the “trash can” is a large pile of stinky garbage near the road that is visibly polluting the local area. Almost all plastic bags end up in a landfill at best and are not recycled.

Recently, I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of waste I create. I’ve started by cutting out all single-use containers from food and not purchasing any pre-packaged food products. To do this, I’ve been bringing my own reusable containers when I get food or drinks for take-out and making sure to avoid those plastic bags that are around every turn. Whenever I cook at home, I’ve been purchasing fresh food at the market, where I put everything in a reusable cloth bag.

When you don’t want a plastic bag, in Thai you say “mai sai toong.” I can’t count the number of shocked, confused, and absolutely bewildered expressions that I’ve gotten in the past few months when I say I don’t want to put my reusable container in a plastic bag. In fact, half the time the Thai person responds by saying “mai bpen rai,” which basically means “Oh, don’t be silly! No worries, you can have the bag.” Since I don’t know how to explain in Thai the many reasons that I don’t want the bag, I usually have to say “no bag” a few more times followed by a polite “mai ou,” which means “I don’t want it.” Sometimes people still say “mai bpen rai” over and over and give me the bag anyway. It seems that many people really have no idea why I wouldn’t want a bag. It’s definitely been an interesting experience so far.

 

 

 

 

Wear the Colors

Right away, I learned to wear yellow on Mondays. I was told we do it for the King, but more so than that, it is Monday’s color and he was born on a Monday. Friday’s color is blue, and the Queen was born on a Friday, so her color is blue. This tradition comes from an astrological rule, which has its influence in Hindu mythology, that assigns a color for each day of the week. The color of the God who protects the day determines which color you should be wearing. Careful, though! A lucky color one day is an unlucky color on another day.

DAY COLOR OF THE DAY UNLUCKY COLOR CELESTIAL BODY GOD OF THE DAY
Sunday red blue Sun Surya
Monday yellow red Moon Chandra
Tuesday pink yellow and white Mars Mangala
Wednesday (day) green pink Mercury Budha
Wednesday (night) grey orange-red None Rahu
Thursday orange purple Jupiter Brihaspati
Friday light blue black and dark blue Venus Shukra
Saturday purple green Saturn Shani

Gettin’ Educated

Every semester I’ve been in Thailand has been a little different. The ways I’ve spent my time, both professionally and personally, have changed throughout my stay here. Some semesters I’ve really been into inventing new games to play in class or creating engaging class projects for my MEP students. At times I’ve spent a lot of my free time playing soccer, swimming, brewing beer, or reading.

This semester I decided to take advantage of the abundant free time in the evenings this job affords and take an online class. I’ve always been fascinated by data and statistics (baseball stats were how I learned math as a kid) and have had a few math classes covering the basics over the years. This past year, I discovered the website fivethirtyeight, which uses data to tell stories about sports, politics, food, culture, etc.. I’ve read nearly every feature there for the past 6 months and it’s really sparked my interest again.

I recently came across an online course series in data science on Coursera. With my intrigue renewed and my time available, I decided to dive in this semester. I’m currently learning how to use an advanced statistical program, and soon I’ll be learning about regression models and finding trends in data. It’s fun and interesting, and should give me some useful skills. I’ve also started collecting data on Thida lunch for my first personal stats project. More on that in a coming post.

I love that working here is giving me so much freedom to pursue personal development in addition to teaching, and it’s something I’ll likely miss a lot once I’m gone.

Homemade Yogurt

Over October break, I travelled to Pai. I met a Swedish guy there who owns a bakery/sandwich shop. I was telling him how I used to make my own bread, hummus, and things. He gave me a great idea, make your own yogurt! The yogurt here is delicious, but like Jade said recently, it’s because it’s full of sugar. He has been making some of his own yogurt lately, but this method is just a but different.

Use 1/2 of a yogurt cup.

I would buy plain, 0% fat, reduced sugar yogurt. If you can find no sugar at all, all the better. The brand Yolida is sugar-free and it is sold at Tops in Central. The dark blue Bulgaria is a reduced sugar version and it’s sold at most of the chain stores.

1 liter of milk.

I’ve seen some good quality milk in Tops, Tesco, and Family Mart. Again, the less fat in your milk, the less fat in your yogurt.

Bring the milk to 82 degrees Celsius. Use a thermometer.

Be careful not to burn the milk by doing this very slowly. I would suggest using a double boil method. Use a base pot to heat water, and a metal bowl on top of the water to hold the milk. Stir constantly.

Turn off the heat. Cool to 46 degrees Celsius.

This should take two to three hours. If it’s not particularly warm outside when you are making this, you might need to wrap the container in a towel to keep the temperature from declining too quickly.

Add yogurt and stir.

1/2 cup will be plenty.

Bottle and cool.

You can use the liter milk container to put this mixture into. Let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. Check the firmness frequently by tilting the bottle. Be careful not to let it sit out for too long, as it can spoil in this stage. Always do a smell or small taste test before enjoying.

Refrigerate.

Put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or until the whole bottle has cooled.

Save a bit of this yogurt.

You can continue making your own yogurt with the yogurt you just made! You only need to buy some more milk to do the whole thing all over again.

Say cheese.

I’m not sure where cheesecloth is available, but you can go even farther and make cheese. Squeeze your yogurt through a cheesecloth and store the curd in the refrigerator overnight. Stir it from time to time so it does not harden on the outside.