Saturday 7th February - 17 days post-op
This morning after breakfast I paid my bill (29,000 Baht) and prepared to check out of the Mercure in preparation for the trip to Pattaya. As my packing was done, I went to Lin and Sonia's room to wait until everyone else was ready before checking out. While I was there, I started feeling upset again, and although I took one of the antidepressants the clinic gave me it didn't help and once again I found myself getting more and more tearful. Rather than distract Lin and Sonia I fled back to my room to sleep for a short while.
Helen woke me sometime later to tell me that Natta was waiting for me in reception, and once we'd all managed to climb into the minibus and all of the luggage had been jammed in we set off. The trip was slow, bumpy and frustrating, and by the time we arrived at the Royal Twins Palace Hotel on 2nd Road I was in an uncharacteristically bolshy mood (which could be something to do with the anti-depressant I'd taken) and very, very wary...I'm very well aware of Pattaya's reputation for sex tourism.
When Helen and I - accompanied by Natta - arrived in our room (710) we started unpacking. Lin and Sonia are next door in 709, and we have a connecting door which is rather convenient. However, despite the impressive appearance of the hotel reception the rooms are dingy and unimpressive. No kettles are provided (not a problem as we each brought a travel kettle!) and modem points and spare power points are conspicuously absent. Compared to the Mercure it's quite frankly a dump, and the staff in reception don't seem at all with it either.
I asked Natta to help me to get the hotel to provide a protective mat so we could run an extension cable from the one free power point (next to the fridge) without the risk of tripping over it. Incredibly, shortly afterwards we had an electrician in the room wiring in temporary power points in between the two beds!
After resting, eating and dilating we caught a Baht Bus (they're great fun!) to Soi 9 to see Natta perform at one of the local bars (I believe it's called "The Honeypot" or "SS Beer Bar"), where the barstaff showed us to a table just in front of the stage.
Although I was very wary at first, I gradually relaxed and we all had a fantastic time...we all got into the spirit of things, singing along, laughing and joking and even dancing a little. The atmosphere felt rather reminiscent of Coyote Ugly (although we didn't table dance or spray the crowd with water...) and we certainly seemed to get noticed!
Helen in particular had a crowd of admirers from Bahrain, one of whom she quite happily dispatched on the pool table...
Sunday 8th February - 18 days post-op
After last nights excesses we've all spent today recovering! Apart from Lin, we didn't even make it down for breakfast.
Having said that, this evening I achieved an ambition I've had ever since I started my transition - I went swimming. Obviously, while I was pre-op and undergoing hormone therapy that's something it would be very difficult for me to do...quite aside from the facial hair I was having removed (and the consequent necessity to wear foundation all the time) the "donor material" I had effectively prevented me from wearing a swimsuit or bikini in public.
Not any more! Although I was pretty nervous, by the time I went down to the pool at 5:45pm it was almost empty, and I quickly got over my nervousness. It was a truly amazing feeling being able to wear a bikini and not feel at all self conscious about my body, and, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It did bring it home how unfit I am though - even after half an hour my muscles were aching pretty badly!
This evening Lin, Sonia Helen and I went looking for an Indian restaurant Helen and I had seen advertised while we were being driven to the hotel yesterday. As I was the most mobile of the group I walked ahead of the others looking for the restaurant - and went some considerable distance (south along 2nd Road, then down South Pattaya Road) before admitting defeat. By then I had some pretty painful blisters on my feet too!
We turned back, and guess what we found close to the hotel? You guessed it - another Indian Restaurant! The owner was very friendly and the food gorgeous...and subtly different from that you'd find in an Indian Restaurant back in the UK. Most of the dishes any British lover of Indian food would recognise were there, but the presentation was different. I loved the chilli mint dip that came with the poppadums!
We left quite late and very satisfied, and with the owner wanting to take us to Alcazar (one of the two big transgender dance clubs in Pattaya) the following night...I think he rather fancied us!
Monday 9th February - 19 days post-op
This morning we made it down for breakfast. Compared to the Mercure I have to say it's pretty grim...the food is lacklustre and lukewarm at best. Never mind - it's not why we're here, after all.
At 11am I went swimming again (this time with Lin for company) and already I can feel a noticeable improvement in my stamina. It was again a gorgeous experience, and this time Lin was there to record the event for me!
Afterwards I discovered that I'd caught the sun a little in the
short time (just over an hour) we were by the pool...the sun in late
morning is really strong here, and you really do need a good
In late afternoon we went for a walk down to Pattaya Beach (which isn't at all far from the hotel). The view was absolutely gorgeous, there was a wonderfully refreshing breeze from the sea which made the heat significantly less oppressive than on the nearby 2nd Street. Although you can't see it in the picture, the sheer number of pleasure boats moored offshore is testimony to the popularity of this place.
After a short while we were all getting the munchies again, and once again decided an ice cream or three was in order when we saw a Swensons on the seafront. As we sat outside we watched the sunset over the palm trees on the beach. As darkness fell, the breeze coming in from the sea grew stronger until it was actually rather chilly!
After a quick wander through the shopping centre opposite the hotel, we headed back to dilate and eat. Afterwards we took a Baht Bus to Natta's bar on Soi 9 again, where we were once again welcomed with open arms by the barstaff. Natta wasn't there tonight as she was in Bangkok for the day.
This time I was in a mischievous mood - and wore the black gothic dress I wore when I arrived in hospital. It's distinctive enough back in the UK, and even more so here! While there Helen and I played several games of pool (something else I haven't done for years) and I was surprised to find that I haven't lost my touch. I gave a reasonable account of myself- although long shots are still a weakness (presumably because my vision isn't 20/20).
We drew two games each, although quite honestly Helen should have thrashed me. Of course, she's way too polite to actually say it...
Tuesday 10th February - 20 days post-op
This morning when I looked out of the window I was stunned to see that it had actually been raining during the night! Maybe the breeze last night wasn't that much of a coincidence after all? It actually looked rather chilly, so I didn't go swimming today.
We rested for most of the day, and in the evening we went (with Rachel and Sarah, who we'd previously met at the Mercure but had preceded us down here) to the Little Italy restaurant just a few yards from the hotel. It's a place that I already knew of from friends and intended to visit during my stay here.
When we arrived there were three moronic English guys on the next table who did nothing but give us funny looks until they finally left. They just don't get it, do they?
Despite them, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The starters were incredible (and huge, so you have been warned!!) and the main course amazing. We were all pretty full by the time we'd finished!
Towards the end of the evening we also had quite a chat with the owner (Franco) and his staff, and passed on greetings from friends back in the UK.
Wednesday 11th February - 21 days post-op
After breakfast this morning Lin and I went swimming again, albeit a couple of hours earlier than on Monday so the sun wasn't as strong. Of course, that meant that the water was that little bit cooler which was a definite wake-up call after breakfast!
We were both in a mischievous mood, and the pictures we took certainly reflect that. Have you ever tried to take pictures of yourself in a swimming pool using a camera on a self-timer? Somehow, we managed to do exactly that...
Today was a sad day as the time had come for Lin and Sonia to leave us. At 1pm Natta arrived to drive them to Bangkok to start their journey home. We were sad to see them go, and I hope to be able to visit them in Singapore one day in the not too distant future.
An hour later Gill Dalton arrived to take Rachel, Sarah, Helen and I to visit Summer Place for the rest of the day. When we arrived I was stunned - it really is an amazing place - so airy and bright, and with a unique central atrium (which is open to the sky, and when it rains it's apparently quite spectacular!).
At the back of the house is a gorgeous swimming pool. Fortunately, we'd been forewarned to bring our bikinis and were able to take full advantage of it (aside from Helen, who unfortunately won't be able to swim for another few weeks following her surgery).
In late afternoon we were driven back to our (even grimmer by comparison) hotel to change and returned for a truly gorgeous meal in the evening. Thanks Anoushka - remember I want that receipe!
By the time we returned to the hotel it was late, and Helen and I still had to dilate, so we had yet another late night.
Thursday 12th February - 22 days post-op
This morning I noticed that my nose had shrunk slightly as the swelling reduced. When I mentioned it to Helen she said she'd noticed it too.
After the late night we had last night today was a wipe out, and
we spent most of it recovering. Although I'd intended to do some
shopping today, in the event neither Helen nor I were up to it.
A few days ago Helen and I had been told by Natta that we had check-ups at the clinic this Saturday. After thinking about for the last couple of days we decided to head back to Chonburi on Friday afternoon rather than rush back on Saturday morning (remember we have to dilate before leaving). As a result, tonight was to be our last night in Pattaya, and we certainly had no intention of staying in! When Natta visited during the day we discovered that tonight was to be her last night dancing (from now on she's working full time for the clinic) so it was fitting that we went to see her perform again and took some pictures to record the event.
We were all in the mood (and dressed) to party, and as soon as we walked out of the hotel we started attracting attention from the local guys, (a bit of flattery is always a good start!) and as usual we caught a Baht Bus to Soi 9. Rather than sit on the bench with my back facing the outside of the bus though, I sat sideways, and watched the shops, bars and people go by as we drove past.
I was surprised (and even more flattered) when several drivers and motorcyclists passing the bus called out compliments to me! I did a lot of smiling and waving...
The bar was busy as usual and the show as spectacular as ever. By now, the barstaff knew us reasonably well, and shortly after midnight one of them called me over to tell me that a guy in the bar wanted to meet me! Despite the England football shirt he was wearing I think he was Turkish. We did pose for pictures, but I declined his friends suggestion that I kiss him - aside from anything else, he had way too much facial hair!
We were all pretty wobbly by the time 2am (when the bars close) was approaching, and at Rachel's suggestion we decided to go to a local club (Mummies). Rachel and Sarah went ahead first, with Helen and I following a few minutes later - after we'd grabbed a hot dog (we had a bad case of the munchies by then!) from one of the street vendors. After negotiating a fare with the driver, we took a Baht Bus to the club.
Although I was expecting a large dance venue, the club was actually much more intimate and had much more atmosphere than I expected. It wasn't too crowded either - which certainly helped (apparently the Thai police had raided the place two days earlier, and drug tested everyone - you don't muck about with drugs or the police here).
I felt perfectly comfortable there, and once I started dancing that was it - I haven't danced so vigorously since I was following the The Levellers around in the early 1990s! For quite a while we were dancing on stage too (a first for me!) and when I finally jumped down I broke a heal, and spent the rest of the night dancing barefoot...
Shortly before the club closed at 4am the music took on a distinctly more rock flavour and I made a bee-line for the podium and joined Helen (who'd been pole dancing since we got there!). It's not something I've ever done before and I wasn't taking it at all seriously, but it was certainly fun...
When the club finally closed for the night we said our goodbyes to the staff (who all wanted to know when we were coming back!) and caught a Baht Bus back to the hotel. Helen crashed out, but before doing so myself I started dilating so that I wouldn't have to do it in the morning before checking out.
Friday 13th February - 23 days post-op
When I woke up this morning I had a monster hangover. I wouldn't mind, but I didn't drink much last night - I'm sure it was mostly due to dehydration and lack of sleep! Somehow I made it down to breakfast, but although I'd have loved to have one last dip before heading back to Chonburi, swimming just wasn't going to happen.
By the time Helen and I were truly awake and packed it was well after midday. Natta arrived and we checked out before she drove us back to Chonburi. I was sad to leave the nightlife and pool behind, but not the hotel. It really is a dump.
Once back in Chonburi we checked into room 427 at the Mercure and crashed out. Helen's friend Paul arrived from the UK in the evening and ordered us all pizza while Helen and I dilated. It was pretty surreal as Paul's gay and I'm sure watching two girls dilate really isn't his scene...
Saturday 14th February - 24 days post-op
I awoke this morning at 6am to give me time to dilate before my checkup at the clinic at 9am. The check-up was a familiar routine, and I'm glad to say that everything was just fine. One surprise was that Dr. Suporn told me I should now dilate my nostrils (no, not with a stent...) to increase the size of my nostrils. I again asked about the compression bandage and Dr. Suporn said that as my head has shrunk as the swelling has gone down the one I have is now too big. He said they'd try to obtain a smaller size for me before I left.
I also asked Dr. Suporn to examine my vagina as I've been experiencing stinging pains while dilating over the last week, which I suspect is related to one of the dissolvable stitches coming out. He found (and showed me) the culprit - a small tear in the tissue - but said that it should heal naturally, which is a relief. Before leaving the consultation room I asked him about FFS intra-op pics (I know they'll be gruesome but I'm curious!) and he told me that they could be provided, although some details of the forehead work would be omitted as the techniques he uses for that aren't public yet.
Afterwards we lounged around the clinic waiting for Rachel and Sarah to arrive from Pattaya for their check-ups (Helen and Paul are going back with them). I fell asleep on the couch, and when I awoke the place was buzzing!
We all stayed for quite some time, chatting to each other and relaxing before Paul, Helen and I came back to the hotel so they could pack. Once they'd finished we all went downstairs and met up with Lisa, her friend Linda, Gill and Anne in the Terrace Cafe while we waited for Natta's sister Pen to arrive to take Helen and Paul back to Pattaya with the others.
It's going to be strangely quiet without Helen here. Over the last week we've got to know each other quite well, and she's done so much to keep my head screwed on the right way while I've been struggling to cope. They left shortly after 1pm, and in mid afternoon I went shopping in the Forum Plaza with Lisa and Linda. I was happy to come away with two lovely tops (one of which is very similar to the one I found the week before but turned out to be damaged) and two stunning dresses. They were all bargains too!
After two hours we all came back exhausted and I fell asleep until 7:30pm. I rang Lisa to see what everyone wanted to do for dinner and found she'd done the same - my phone call woke her up! Ceecee and Annie arrived shortly afterwards and we all went for dinner at Okane (the Japanese Restaurant on the ground floor). At 11pm I finally started my evening dilation...
Sunday 15th February - 25 days post-op
It's my last full day here and I can hardly believe it.
After breakfast this morning I came back to my room to dilate, eventually falling asleep while doing so. Once I awoke and dressed Lisa, Linda and I went to the Forum Plaza again. While they went to grab something to eat (if KFC counts as food - I have grave doubts myself!) I headed for the top floor on the premise that last time I started at the bottom...
To cut a long story short I found some amazing clothes over the next couple of hours, including (incredibly) a skirt to match the spider patterned top (a firm favourite in my wardrobe) which Kazzy had bought for me in Chonburi back in November, as well as a matching belt. I didn't manage to find the others again until I'd got back to the hotel. Apparently they were looking for me too!
This evening (my last here) we dined at Foo How (the Chinese Restaurant on floor 2). Vanessa (whose reassignment surgery is taking place in two days time) joined us for dinner, and the meal was stunning. I can strongly recommend the fried rice in lotus leaf, but you'll need at least 3 people to work your way through it...
I'm now dilating, and still have to finish my packing. Tomorrow morning could be a bit of a rush, so I'm going to start my morning dilation early.
Monday 16th February - 26 days post-op
I dilated early this morning as planned, so I would have time to finish packing and say my goodbyes. Packing didn't take long as everything but my clothes and the things I needed overnight had been done already) and after I'd finished I walked over to the clinic to say my goodbyes. I was feeling so sad at leaving everyone behind yet again, especially as I don't know when I'll be able to return. As I tried to hold the tears back Aey and Fai comforted me - despite being very busy themselves.
Dr. Suporn gave me a final check-up before I left, and had Tumb remove some stitches inside my nose which were preventing me from "dilating my nostrils" as instructed at the last check-up. Aey took photos of my face for the clinic's records, and also said she would email me the intra-op pictures (apparently she hadn't been asked to prepare me a CD). I was also told that a smaller compression bandage had been ordered and would arrive in early afternoon.
There were lots of Thai patients at the clinic today. Apparently Dr. Suporn performs minor plastic surgeries on Mondays - and anything that can be done without a general anaesthetic can be done at the clinic rather than the hospital.
The new bandage arrived just before 2pm, and is a big improvement on the other one. Aey gave me some lovely gifts for friends, and Aoi gave me a rather heavy Buddha statue (which should push my baggage weight up a bit!). We posed for photos together before I finally left the clinic - very tearfully - just after 2pm for the drive back to Bangkok, and my flight home the following day.
After checking out of the Mercure I met Ceecee, Annie and Pat in reception while we waited for Wannee to arrive to drive me to Bangkok. Another tearful parting.
Wannee give me a silk scarf, as well as others to give to close friends. She's so sweet, and I'm going to miss her. The drive to Bangkok was uneventful but slowed by congestion on the outskirts of the city (not at all unusual). I dozed lightly through part of the trip, and all in all it took 1½ hours.
As we arrived at the Comfort Suite Hotel in Bangkok at 4pm I started feeling upset again, and once I'd checked in and had my luggage brought to my room I collapsed on the bed in tears. After a quick call from Charlotte (who's picking me up at Heathrow airport tomorrow evening) I slept for a while, waking up at 8pm to go for dinner. Although I thought of just ordering room service, I decided I needed to get out and went to the hotel restaurant.
I'm glad I did. The grilled sea bass I had was gorgeous and I enjoyed 3 small glasses of wine with my meal. My mood was further improved by the music being played in the restaurant - an acoustic album (Acoustica) by The Scorpions no less! Who'd have thought it in Bangkok? The staff must've liked "Rock You Like a Hurricane" as they played it three times in a row (or maybe even more, as I left halfway through the third rendition!). Surreal.
I dilated at 10pm before finally going to bed at 1am, ending a day filled with sadness and goodbyes.
Tuesday 17th February - 27 days post-op
I awoke at 5am this morning (a good half an hour before my alarm call) to start my last dilation before leaving Thailand. Fortunately, I slept through most of it.
After breakfast (which I have to say is pretty good in this hotel) I returned to my room to get ready to check-out and begin the long trip home. At 10:30am I called for an attendant to bring my bags down to reception and begin the process of checking out, before catching the 11am minibus to Terminal 2 of Bangkok Airport. This time there were only two of us on board - the other being a lady from Bristol. Check-in was uneventful (although my bags were 7kg over weight I wasn't charged!) and after buying a few gifts for friends I headed to gate 32 to board my flight.
Although we were due to board at 12:45pm the plane was late arriving and we weren't allowed to board until 1:20pm, with departure delayed from 1:25pm to 1:40pm. We finally left the ground at 2:10pm and as we climbed I took a last - for now - tearful look at the country I've come to regard as my second home.
I will be back - of that I'm sure - but I don't know when I'll be able to return, especially considering that I've been off work since 11th November last year. Knowing I won't be able to return for some time made leaving far, far worse than the last time I flew back to the UK on 11th December last year.
The flight was uneventful, but really dragged...it felt like I was in limbo, caught between two worlds, and - most painfully - two sets of friends 6000 miles apart. I was so glad when I finally arrived at Heathrow to be met by Kirsty and Charlotte. Thanks girls!
I hope you've found this diary to be a useful and informative account of what's involved in undergoing FFS with Dr. Suporn.
Was a second major surgery worth it? For me, Undoubtedly - yes. Although it will take some time before the full effects of Dr. Suporn's work to become apparent and I'm fairly likely to need some resultant corrective surgery in future, I'm very happy with the results so far, as the picture on the right (taken less than a week after returning home) should illustrate.
After all this, returning to "normal" life seems so mundane! At least now I can face the future with confidence, knowing I've been privileged to be looked after by and befriend some of the most amazing people it's ever been my pleasure to meet - the staff of the Dr. Suporn Clinic.
Once again, if you yourself are planning to undergo similar surgery (no matter where or with whom) my thoughts and prayers are with you.