Join me at one of Thailand’s leading natural healthcare centres?
Hands up who needs a break? Fancy recharging the batteries Thai style in Prachin Buri province? Where? I hear you say. That’s right, we’re off to Central Thailand, two hours out of Bangkok. It’s not exactly off the grid, but it’s certainly off the well-beaten tourist routes.
I’ve got some time out planned that will be nourishing for the mind, body, and soul.
We’re going to a hospital but don’t panic, we’re not talking medical tourism in the traditional sense.
Thailand’s world class medical tourism
As one of the world’s most popular destinations for health tourism, people pour into Bangkok for health screening, surgical procedures, or teeth whitening. In fact, arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport you will see all the major hospitals even have a welcome booth. It could be a tad alarming if you are not in the know. Would you be surprised to read that Thailand was recently named as having the sixth best healthcare services on earth? Better than Australia and the UK, ranked tenth and thirteenth respectively and better than the US and Canada. Source: CEOWORLD (2019).
Thailand’s traditional medicine
But we are not coming to this hospital to use one of its 468 hospital beds, well not unless we have had a calamity on the way there. We’re coming to immerse ourselves in one of the country’s best traditional medicine centres, found at the hospital. Thai traditional medicine takes a holistic approach and is integrated into its national healthcare system. It comprises of not only the food we eat, the internal medicine, but there’s also the external medicine component such as massage, cupping or bone-setting chiropractic medicine. The other elements focus more on spiritual medicine through the use of amulets and sak yan tattooing, astrology, numerology, palmistry with the final element being Buddhism. Certainly combine all these, and is it no wonder you find yourself in the Land of Smiles? I too want some of this Thai relaxed approach to life. Follow me if you do too! The hospital we’re bound for, is the main hospital of Prachin Buri province and pulling up outside the immaculate yellow house and manicured gardens of its Herbal Medicine museum, you can be forgiven for asking ‘is this it?’ It’s an exciting surprise and certainly…less like a regional Thailand city, more wow, am I in Europe?
The Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Building
We find out later that this grand residence was named after the man who funded the construction, Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr who was the Governor of Prachin Buri at the time. It was constructed in 1909 for royal visitors and originally intended as a potential vacation home for King Rama V when he visited the province. Unfortunately, he passed away before it was finished. However, the two storey baroque building was used as a reception room for royal visitors until 1941 when it became a hospital. It currently houses a traditional Thai herbal medicine pharmacy, a museum, and a shop selling all manner of Thai herbal health and beauty products. It is just as stunning on the inside. Look at the height of these ceilings, it’s all gorgeous tiles and wonderful wood. We’ve no time to linger though, we’re straight into our massage appointments.
Abhaibhubejhr Thai massage centre
Have a traditional Thai massage and know you’re in good hands…Before we were allowed into the massage room, we need to pass the physical. I have my blood pressure taken by resting my arm in the most high-tech impressive looking machine. With all the lights flashing, this little Wren who has low blood pressure can feel it rising! I am asked how much I weigh and how tall I am, which is recorded on my notes and the nurse declares in a loud voice “you are normal.” I want to do a big fist pump of delight, but being on my very best behaviour as a guest of TAT, I don’t question this. Nor say, ‘are you sure?’ and I keep quiet that at Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok for my annual physical, they delight in producing a dossier of all my abnormal results! I’m already loving this hospital’s approach to health. Luckily all the other Bloggers I’m with are passed normal too. All the normals skip off to a room where the men are all given some very dapper beige baggy trousers in XXXXL size and disappear off to robe up. Not only am I normal, but I’m also declared ‘good to go’ with my long baggy shorts and a t-shirt and I am directed straight into the massage room.
Now as the self-proclaimed Spa Queen of Asia, I’ll declare here and now I’m not normally a Thai massage type of a gal. Oh no, none of that bone-cracking, blood stopping pressure is coming anywhere near my normal bod. My request for a foot massage seemed to have been lost along the way and I’m going with the flow! There are twenty mattresses on the floor, ten on each side with a lime Thai silk cover and a soft comfy pillow. We are given a green cotton sheet for modesty, which to be honest I don’t normally care about such things, but remember I’m here in a room with blogger blokes and as you can see I was beautifully covered from top to toe.
I am waiting for the chit-chat between the therapists and was expecting the usual conversations about who is having what for lunch, but no. The therapists remain focussed on my normal bones, despite every blogger arriving with a camera in hand! This has all the potential to deteriorate into a massive photoshoot but under my cotton green sheet, I soon forget where I am, and drift off into wonderful oblivion…All too soon, our treatment is over and I’m gently returning to the real world. During my treatment, my Thai massage has taken me towards improved health.
This is pampering with a purpose.
The traditional Thai techniques include acupressure, passive stretching and focus on Sen meridians (pathways of movement in the body such as tendons, ligaments, nerves and circulatory vessels.) I’m impressed with the standard of my Thai massage, they are well-trained practitioners here.
After finishing my massage and having got bored with waiting for all the men in my group to change out of their XXXXL beige pants, I may have wandered off to the shop… oops sorry!
Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital:
ASEAN Thai leader in Thai traditional medicine
Separated from the group, but not for long, Bloggers in Thailand do not get far without someone asking if they can help… I don’t think we saw any other foreigners the whole time we were there. It wasn’t long before I was rescued from spending a fortune in the shop by the hospitals head of marketing communications and I am returned to the fold. What I loved, apart from the fascinating conversation in very good English, was that we walked to the day spa via the main hospital waiting room. This hospital is the Thai leader in the promotion of Thai traditional medicine, but it also has a full conventional medical operation with an ICU department, paediatrics, psychiatric, Obs and Gynae and the rest.
What I see is a regional hospital in action, there is no need to impress the tourists. It was very different from all the Bangkok hospitals I have been to. There you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in a 5 star hotel and you will realise why they do so well with their medical tourism. I am always hoping for authentic experiences here in Thailand and in that moment walking amongst the Prachin Buri locals waiting for their appointments, I am reminded of everyday lives. Everyday Thai’s hoping for good news or a healthy outcome from whatever ills, aches and pains brought them here.
Abhaibhubejhr day spa:
A holistic approach to wellness and spa therapy. But within a blink of an eye in the next door building, we enter the day spa. This spa was created as part of a social enterprise under the hospital’s supervision and training. I really like the way that healthcare here in Prachin Buri combines preventative healthcare alongside conventional and Thai traditional medicine. We back into the grand, fit for a King, (or the Spa Queen of Asia) and the day spa reception is impressive. Large booklets show all the wellness options, and I make a mental note to return to at a later date. We’re there to enjoy a nourishing lunch. It was a true gastronomic experience, with all the food and herbs selected for their health benefits, and all non-MSG. ‘Clean food, good taste‘ is what they promise, and sure do deliver, I wish I could eat like this the whole time. The herbal drinks were interesting. Such a choice. Do I go for the recognisable, but lovely, Lemongrass, or whether to try a Triphala, Roselle or the tempting Sappen Wood and Rose? Or how about a Thai Oregano Smoothie? Decisions, decisions!
Abhaibhubejhr Thai Herbal Medicine Museum: Learning, researching, and conserving the Thai traditional medicine
A visit to the museum of natural medicine starts at the grand entrance hall in the building which displays the history of the building and more details on the life and times of Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr and the development of the hospital on the site. Next stop is the traditional medicine pharmacy. The neatly dressed pharmacists are seen, tongs to the ready, to carefully select the prescriptions from brown paper bags and weigh out the exact requirements on a traditional scale with weights. This process won’t have changed for years. All around are drawer upon drawer of neatly labelled remedies. On top sits dark dispensing jars with red covers filled with liquids containing snakes, scorpions, and other unrecognisable jars. The empty tortoiseshells seem a bit confronting to my western mind. I felt as if I could watch the pharmacists painstakingly weighing out the remedies for hours, they are so precise and the whole process must hail back many generations. However with so much to see and do we headed into the museum of natural medicine. Having an English speaking guide was useful for non-Thai speakers as there is very little written in English. Having said that, the displays are very visual so you can largely get by.
Abhaibhubejhr Thai Herbal Shop:
The visit ends with the opportunity to buy personal care products made from Thai herbs soaps and balms and herbal medicines, all made and produced at the hospital. The herbal remedies of Abhaibhubejhr have expanded from herbal drugs to herbal drinks and products for daily care such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and shampoo. They also produce cosmetics including anti-dark spot serum, facial sunscreen and anti-ageing serum, and animal care products. This is a popular tourist destination for Thais and the shop was doing a roaring trade. 30% of profits go to the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital Foundation to fund R&D and support a wide range of social enterprise campaigns, such as supporting farmers, training villagers and holding youth camps.
I loved our time at the Chao Praya Abhaibhubejhr hospital. I found it fascinating, different, relaxing, soothing and definitely worth the trip.
ADDRESS AND CONTACT NUMBER: 32/7 Moo 12 Tha Ngam Mueang Prachin Buri Prachin Buri 25000
Telephone: 037-211 289, 037-211 088 ext. 2149, 2133
Open everyday from 8.30 – 16.00 hrs. Admission free of charge
By car from Bangkok: use Rangsit – Nakorn Nayok – Prachinburi. In Prachinburi vicinity take Highway No. 2033 along the Prachin Anusorn road for 2.5 kilometres, the Abhaibhubejhr hospital is on the right side.
By bus from Bangkok: Both air-conditioned and normal buses services every day, many times a day, on Nakorn Nayok – Prachinburi route. They start from Northern Bus Terminal (Mo-Chit)