1. Where can I get a full blood test done? How much does it cost? What will it tell me about myself?
You can get blood tests and health check-ups at all Chiang Mai hospitals. The price varies from place to place, and also changes according to exactly what it is you want to check. More comprehensive tests cost more. Lanna hospital (053 999 777) www.lanna-hospital.com (with English) can give you a list of checks you might want them to perform. Med Star Lab, 6/1 Sriphum Road (053 418 969) might be a little cheaper. The price of blood tests could be anywhere from 1,000 – 6,000 baht.
The results will show any abnormalities in your blood such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and if your kidneys and liver are functioning properly. It will also reveal if your body is fighting off infections. The tests can be affected by medicines you’ve consumed, alcohol, stress levels etc, so you might not want to get your test after ingesting lots of beer Chang. For more information you can check www.bloodbook.com.
2. I keep reading about ‘horror’ crashes in Thailand involving buses and minibuses? What is the safest way to travel using public transport to tourist attractions?
It would be impossible to say who is the safest, but you now see signs on the backs of minivans with phone numbers that ask people to report dangerous driving. I don’t want to name any one company, but I’ll say you should make sure they are licensed, and it ‘may’ help if they have that sticker on the back of the van. For bus journeys I have taken the relatively (to other bus companies) expensive Nakhon Chai Air, www.nca.co.th (no English) which was comfortable and the drivers did not drive too fast. Their First Class bus is pretty impressive. As for minivans, you could hire a driver and explain to him there is no rush.
3. I’ve been seeing people everywhere on racing bikes, especially Thais, and I’m thinking about getting involved. How much is a racing bike? Where should I buy a bike? Are there any clubs or groups I can join?
The racers start off at around 20,000 baht. Each shop sells different brand names. So if you want a Trek bike you might go to Jacky Bike, Nimmanhaemin Soi 13 (053 225 278). If you want a Bianchi go to TCA Bike on Teverit Road (053 406 292). You’ll find Chiang Mai cyclists all have their favourite shop. You can sometimes get discounts and things thrown in with the bike. Plus the shop should be your mechanic after purchase. www.cyclechiangmai.com has loads of information on biking. It’s pretty easy to find cycling buddies, some that are serious cyclists, some that like a slow ride.
4. I like golf, but just find it a little expensive. Do you know where I can play and not pay too much?
The San Sai (short) nine hole course is 200 baht for twice round with no caddy. It’s called Golf Avenue. Just turn left out of Rim Ping Mee Chok (McDonald’s side) and it’s on your left side. San Kampaeng has a cheap (long and quite difficult) nine hole course. It’s called Sand Creek, but the sign is in Thai. 85 Moo 6, Huay Sai. Take the Old San Kampaeng Road out of Chiang Mai until you reach the first lights in San Kampaeng town. Turn left and follow a winding road for about 2 km and the course is on your right side. There is also the Hang Dong nine hole course which is not bad, though some of the greens are way too steep. Just follow the Irrigation Canal Road towards Hang Dong, it’s about 15 km out of the city.
The San Sai course is a par 3 course with one par 4 and for 200 baht for 18 holes is a great buy. Sand Creek in San Kampaeng is a regular course and at about 200 baht per 18 holes, caddy included, is by far the most difficult course in the area. There are so many water hazards there that I buy a bag of used balls at the hut that is their ‘club house’ because I lose on average one ball per hole. My home course is Hang Dong. It is challenging and has great views of the mountain, and at 200 baht per nine holes, caddy included, is a great buy. They have a neat par 3 island hole where it will be a challenge to keep your ball dry. Get to the Hang Dong course early, like around sunrise. Also, I usually play only 9 holes (more than enough especially in the hot season) and tip the caddies 100 baht. So remember to include that in your cost estimate.