May 27 2011
It seems fatuous to say it, largely because it is fatuous to say it, but the best advice for health care in Siem Reap is don’t get sick in the first place. Don’t go gnawing on irregular shaped pieces of ice that look like they’ve been chipped or shaved off a very large block, approach street foods with caution, don’t get drunk and think it’s hilarious to steal a local guard’s bicycle then crash it spectacularly (this happened), don’t do drugs – even the seller probably has no idea what they really are – and, last but not least, no pretending you’re Lara Croft when visiting the temples.
But even with these and other precautions taken, everyone is prone to an array of tummy bugs, sprains, strange rashes, cuts and scrapes and other things that might strangely ail you when you visit strange places. Most of these can be dealt with by a quick trip to the u-Care pharmacy at the top of Pub Street, but the level of service here can be erratic. A couple of pharmacists here clearly know their job, but then there’s the one who tried to give me antibiotics for my headache and worming tablets for my flu. Try to inform yourself as best you can before you go there. Whether or not you take anti-malarials, make sure you know what the symptoms for malaria and dengue fever are.
If that’s not enough, and in particular if you’ve been taking the express train to the bathroom for more than two days, then it’s definitely time for a trip to the doctor. The Naga Clinic is located behind Central Market (opposite Frangipani). The doctor is international and speaks Dutch, German, English, and French, a little bit of Swedish, and enough Khmer for consultation purposes.
If that’s still not enough to get your better, you’ll be heading to either the Provincial Hospital or the Royal International Hospital. The first may be appropriate if you are with someone who can speak fluent Khmer and your language. But a lack of resources means that it’s impossible to vouch for the services here and it is generally not recommended. At the same time, the jury is out and may be so for a long time on the Royal Angkor International Hospital. This is the best service that you’ll get in Siem Reap, and that’s pretty terrible judging by the experiences of numerous expats. It’s also very expensive, and even the shortest visit may well end up costing you much, much more than a travel insurance policy.
If your condition is serious, but you’re still fit to travel, get on the first bus, taxi or plane to Bangkok, home to several world-class hospitals. The Royal Angkor is actually associated with one of the big Bangkok hospitals, but for some reason standards are not the same.
Most people leave Siem Reap in more or less the same state in which they arrived, though their souls might not be. Above all else, pay more attention to your environment than when you’re at home, keep yourself informed, and try not to do anything daft no matter how bright an idea it seems after eight buckets of vodka at Temple Bar, and we hope the same should be true for you too.
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