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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A lesson on how to save on your Travel Insurance

It was time last week to renew my annual Travel insurance policy and I was staggered at the difference between the quotes for essentially the same coverage.   The total package difference (the basic coverage with a “shorter” vacation stay (between 3 weeks and 30 days) and a sixty day one time extension. (My wife and I are planning to stay in Mexico for about three months.  Quotes varied from about $1000.00 to nearly $4,000.00 – a difference of $3,000.00.  I should mention that I just turned 70 and had a stent put in three years ago. 

The companies I looked at were Travel Underwriters, the Automobile Association, and SecureGlobe.
SecureGlobe was the least expensive by far!  Again all reputable companies and for essentially the same coverage.The reason is that SecureGlobe is a broker – not an agent.  They take your information and “bid” it out to several companies to see who will give the best quote based on your health and age information.  In my case it was Co-operators  (now called Cumis) that gave the best quote for the third straight year.

In case you’re wondering I did have a couple of small problems when travelling and there help line was fantastic and repayment (if the hospital or clinic would not bill them directly) was very fast.

So before you automatically lock in your next travel insurance policy check them out.  One important tip I learned is that your rates jump when you turn 66, 71, 81.   NOT 65, 70, or 80!  You can lock in another year before your birthday.

The lady I used was Mellissa.  You can reach her at 1-888-211-4444 local 5203 – and no, I don’t get any commission or any benefit at all for passing this on.  If you're not in Canada you'll have to look around for a broker  who can offer you the best company to fit your profile, rather than an agent who has a "one size fits all" solution.

Hopes this helps.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Prostrated by my Prostate!

I’m not travelling at present, but I’ll be still posting some of my greatest “hits” for a while.  Right now I’m sitting at home recovering from a prostate operation: not for prostate cancer – but the other one – the one that guys don’t want to talk about, BPH – or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.

Basically BPH is caused by an enlarged prostate that cuts off the flow of urine from the bladder.  According to the Hopkins Medicine Organization, the condition is called BPH, or Benign prostatic hyperplasia.
“Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): An age-related enlargement of the prostate that isn't malignant. BPH is the most common noncancerous prostate problem, occurring in most men by the time they reach their 60s. Symptoms are slow, interrupted, or weak urinary stream; urgency with leaking or dribbling; and frequent urination, especially at night. Although it isn't cancer, BPH symptoms are often similar to those of prostate cancer.”

There are several treatments for it:  it can be able to be treated with drugs or several surgical treatments.  The most common treatment is called TURP or Transurethral resection of the Prostate – or as my late uncle Alfie used to call it, “The Ream Job.”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Okay, I understand the chanting - but does it have to be so loud!

 Thailand - The Village Sleepover

  Today I’m heading to a rural area near Chiang Mai, and—although I don’t know it yet—to one of my most memorable experiences in Thailand.

  In order to experience ‘everyday village life’ our group is booked to spend the night in a family home—sort of a grown-up version of a kids’ sleepover, except that you can’t phone mom or dad to come and pick you up at two in the morning.

  We arrive and find that things aren’t quite what we expected. Our first surprise is the host family’s home. When we’re ushered inside we discover that the house doubles as a recreational hall and a people zoo.

  All thirteen of us will be sleeping in a row of what can best be described as ‘tourist cages’, blue ones for the males and pink for females. Each one—a 6 x 6 x 4 foot mosquito tent—sleeps two tourists on bamboo mats. I look around to see if there are signs warning people not to feed us or stick their hands into our enclosures.

  After choosing who will take which cage, it’s time to head off on what’s been billed as an ‘ELEPHANT JUNGLE DRIVE.’
  It’s hard to tell whether the entertainment has been designed for us or the elephants. We climb aboard awkwardly—two people per elephant—and are strapped into uncomfortable ‘chair baskets’ made of hard wicker. The drivers are perched on the elephants’ heads like hood ornaments. As we are bouncing and swaying along I comment that I feel like a sack of rice in the ‘chair basket’. The driver nods and says that our seats were, in fact, constructed to carry rice sacks, not people.

  The ‘jungle’ turns out to be a short trail that leads to a large open area beside the village where the elephants wander about, ripping up and eating foliage with us still clinging to their backs. When they’re full or bored—we can’t tell which—they wander back to the starting point and we disembark, rubbing our backsides.

  I make a mental note that money could be made back in Canada by strapping tourists to cows and letting them wander around a meadow.

  After dinner we crawl into our cages and I soon discover that two of the loudest snorers are positioned on each side of me. Fortunately at full volume my iPod almost drowns them out. This works well until 3:45 am, when the battery dies. At 4:00 am the chanting begins.

  It isn’t live chanting. Instead, the first monk to wake up at the hilltop monastery across the way puts on a scratchy 78 record of chanting—complete with drumming and bells—accompanied by loud bursts of ear-splitting feedback from the archaic PA system. Apparently all of this usually starts at 5:00 am, but since it’s Thai New Year, we’re treated to an extra hour of chanting.

  The noise soon wakes up every rooster in Southeast Asia. They join the cacophony and the rooster racket wakes the dogs, who join in as well. This goes on until 5:00 am, when the recording is shut off.

  That’s when the live chanting commences.

  Trying to doze amid the chanting and howling noises outside, and the snoring, farting and coughing noises emanating from the tourist cages is pretty much impossible. After a while the din becomes kind of hypnotic, and I start to detect secret messages buried in the wall of sound—things like, ‘The Pope doesn't wear plaid’, ‘Mercedes hold their value more than Chevys’, and ‘John is dead’.

  At 7:00 am I peer sleepily through the mosquito netting and detect high leaping flames leaping at the far end of the building. Horrified, I debate whether or not to scream, "Fire!" The indecision is due to my track record for shouting false alarms like “Fire!”, “Earthquake!” and “Tsunami!”

  I’m glad I waited. It turns out there was absolutely nothing to worry about—it was just the host family pouring gasoline onto an indoor cooking fire in our dry wooden structure.

At 8:00 am we are served an authentic Thai breakfast of burnt toast and hard-boiled eggs. One of my fellow travelers from California stares for a long time at the plate of eggs and finally asks what they are.

"You don't get out much, do you?" I say. "They're called eggs. If you step outside, I can show you where they come from, but you might not want to eat one after that.”

When breakfast is over and the paper plates are collected, I talk to one of the villagers through an interpreter.

"I can't believe you people pay us to sleep on our floor in cages and eat toast and eggs!" he exclaims.

"Neither can I!" I reply.

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