Samui Wining & Dining
Health Visitors

10With excellent medical treatments available at super-competitive prices, Samui’s attracting more than just beach-worshippers these days.

Every year Marian used to spend a fortune on her teeth. Now that she regularly holidays on Samui one of the first things she does after arrival is visit her dentist here. She has an on-going treatment plan with him. It’s now second nature for her to spend a couple of hours in the dentist’s chair and swap it later for the sun-lounger. And Marian knows that should she need any other surgery there's plenty of choice when it comes to hospitals. She considers herself very fortunate that she has such good health care at her fingertips. And, with dental work costing a third of what it would do back home in Australia, her holiday almost pays for itself. “A filling here costs about 800 Baht,” she says, “and a crown about 14,000 – depending on the material used and whether it’s a front tooth or back one. So I’m saving hugely. My dentist here is every bit as good as any back home and I know I'm in professional hands.”

Marian’s one of thousands of people who come to Thailand each year seeking medical treatment of one kind or another. The country has a well-deserved reputation for medical excellence and manages to keep its fees right down. And most patients find that being on holiday tends to take the edge off any unpleasantness associated with operations.

Marian says that the first time she came to the dentist, she was a little nervous. “I was in a foreign country – it was my first visit – and I didn’t know what to expect. Naturally, like many people, I’d heard horror stories of holiday mishaps and dodgy treatment in weird places. But it’s not like that here. Everything’s so well-run. It’s professional and the staff have more time for you than they would in the west.” Keeping in contact with health professionals in Thailand isn’t a problem either. Once she’s back home, Marion’s able to email her dentist and set up appointments well in advance. “If need be I can send x-rays, too,” she says, “and the dentist’s always quick to get back to me. It’s all very reassuring.”

But it’s not just first-class dentistry that available here. Samui has four international hospitals in addition to its government hospital. Those living here are spoilt for choice; they know they’re lucky. Where else would you find so many health providers on what’s basically a small jungle-clad island? The international hospitals were originally set up to help holidaymakers from abroad who’d fallen sick or who’d had accidents. But more and more people came expressly to have procedures done. Samui’s becoming known as a place for surgery, although it cannot yet compete with Bangkok for the full range of treatments. Samui is certainly an excellent place for recuperation afterwards, as many have found out.

Medical tourists who come to Thailand can be divided into several groups. There are those who come for their teeth. Usually it’s more than a few fillings that are required. Patients request implants, bridges, dentures as well as root-canal treatments. Or they may just have very difficult teeth which make even routine procedures complex. Judging by the repeat visits they make, they trust their dentist enough to want to return. Dentists are used to working around patients’ timetables. There’s a lot that can be done in just a week, and a fortnight opens a whole new window of possibilities.

Eye surgery is also common, with LASIK leading the way and steadily growing in importance. LASIK is a simple procedure for correcting the eyes so that contact lenses and glasses are now longer required. It’s offered at a snip of the price that it would be back at home and the service is professionally done.

And Thailand also has an excellent reputation for cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery. Competent specialists offer a gamut of treatments that cover just about everything. Liposuction and botox are offered in many centres. Breast implants, abdomen surgery – especially to remove unwanted fat – rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) and buttock augmentation are just a few of the surgical procedures on offer. Face lifts are also popular. But after treatments like these, it may not be possible to fly back home immediately. And even if it is, many don’t want friends and office colleagues to see the bruises. So once again it’s a good idea to rest before leaving, check into a resort and simply enjoy being on Samui.

Thousands of men jet in every year to Thailand, and leave again as women. Sex reassignment surgery is highly popular here and many surgeons dedicate themselves to transforming men so totally that it’s sometimes hard to believe they weren’t born as females. The process is a lengthy one requiring different types of operation, and recuperation time is highly necessary. Psychologically, it helps being in a country that’s open to transsexuals. Thailand has its own culture of lady-boys, so anyone who’s transforming himself into a woman is going to feel a lot more at ease here.

Despite the economy still being rather sluggish, it doesn’t look like the health industry has been dented too much: patients needing treatments are still booking their holidays here and returning home with a tan once the bandages are off.

And in the future some may not be returning at all. The next big step for health holidays is for them to become permanent. Already on Samui there’s been talk of setting up retirement homes. People will be able to spend their old age in comfort with inexpensive health care on tap. And what a way to spend one’s retirement – basking in the sun.


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