1. Dr. Chettawut’s website (www. chet-plasticsurgery.com) says one needs to wire transfer (a way to send money internationally) 10% of the total surgery cost initially to block the date and the remaining has to be paid by the date of the surgery. Is it safe to do this wire transfer? And the rest of the amount – should it be carried along in cash?
From my experience with wire transfer, it is totally safe and reliable, if you choose a reputed bank to handle it for you, of course. I used ICICI and didn’t have much problem besides a slight hiccup when they rejected my form the first time and asked me to submit in written the reason for this transfer. After I did that, within a day (or two, perhaps) the transaction went through. You must keep a copy of the form/receipt/official confirmation from the bank’s side to email it to Dr. Chettawut, who is easily one of the most responsive doctors you will find, despite being more than fully occupied with making people come alive!
Coming to the second part of this money-and-life transaction, carrying the money in cash is an option as are a few others (explained on his website). My father and I, however, did not feel too comfortable with me carrying money worries along, that too, when it was probably the biggest amount we had ever spent in one go! The whole point of this trip was – to be free! And so, having faith, for no reason except faith, we had sent the rest of the money by wire transfer too (a few days before the surgery). And there were absolutely no hiccups this time! The integrity in Dr. Chettawut’s and his entire staff’s character is something I can personally vouch for…
2. What about food there? The person accompanying me is vegetarian while I am not. I don’t think either of us would be able to cook. What would you suggest?
Again, I’ll tell you what my mother, Bua and I did, and I guess you’ll be able to take a call for yourself. Firstly, Bangkok is only slightly more expensive than India is (okay, I can’t be sure about now, but going by the situation about 1.5 years back, it won’t burn your pocket), and you can easily find the most basic daily use stuff right next door to the Baan Siri Rama Hotel where most of the doctor’s patients stay (unless they’re 1st Class patients :-)). I mean, milk, yoghurt (in the widest range of flavours), bread, butter et al will be at an arm’s length from you.
And yes, we cooked – if you want to call putting Maggi noodles into boiling water, or placing sealed packs of MTR’s pre-cooked veggies into boiling water, or mixing Knorr soup powders with boiling water – cooking. Well, my mother and Bua, being expert cooks, did make dal and rice sometimes (and I have a faint memory of them preparing some vegetable on a one-off day), but that was not a regular thing. They took it easy, and I am so glad they did.
Being non-vegetarian, buying cooked food won’t be much of a struggle for you, although I am not sure how you would take to the flavour of their preparations. Give it a go, but considering that there would be a lot your body would be dealing with in any case, try not being too experimental. And as far as your companion is concerned, just make them believe that Maggi noodles, Knorr soups (or Maggi again) and MTR’s food items are amongst the choicest delicacies of the world… and you should be fine. :-)
3. How many clothes should I carry with myself?
Not too many. You will be in the hospital gown for 5 days of your stay. For the stay afterwards, you can keep a few (3-4) night gowns / loose skirts which you can keep getting laundered. It is not advisable to wear anything that is not roomy enough, since the posture you’d need to lay in, won’t endorse them. Keep a couple of dresses for your travel and one or two for the days before the surgery, if any.
4. My name was A (which is what my passport carries) but now, I have adopted the name B. What do I need to tell the doctor? Is there anything in particular that I need to take care of?
Since your passport bears ‘A’, you will have to travel both ways as ‘A’ and you must inform Dr. Chettawut to prepare all your documents (including letter for Visa application and Gender Change certificate) in the name of ‘A’. You can request him to not specify a social title (‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’) against the name if you so want.
Once you’re back from Bangkok, holding a priceless piece of paper that bestows you with the right to be officially recognized as a woman, you will go for the official name change and alterations in various documents (bank accounts, passport, voter ID, PAN card etc.) Everything, in due time! But right now, focus, just on the change that will effect this entire chain of changes… and brace yourself to meet LIFE!
5. How many days is the Thai VISA valid for?
Even though Thailand is one of the few countries in the world which allow you to get a Visa-on-Arrival, you will not be able to make use of this blessing because Visa-on-Arrival is given for merely 15 days, while you will need to be there for at least 3 weeks (I have this suspicion that this VISA has been crafted especially keeping in mind the bored men from across the world who wake up on a mundane morning to realize that one more day of that life and they would kill somebody… and hence, take the first flight to Bangkok to sprinkle their lives with a dash of ‘garam masala’ for a few days).
So, apply for a VISA to the Thai Embassy in India. It normally takes 3 working days to come through, and if I remember correctly, it is valid for over a month, which is more than good enough for you anyway.
I hope you have a safe journey, a pleasant trip and delightful baby steps thereafter! Take care… :-)