The cost of getting a new nose in Asia (The Funny Side)

August 10th, 2012 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Michael Jackson Got an email the other day from a guy looking for a new, improved nose. He said he did not want his name in the paper, as “most people believe men are not vain, right?” Wrong! Everyone knows guys are ultra-vain. We don’t comb our hair over our bald patches to keep our frontal lobes warm. His other mistake was to think he needed to change his nose. “It’s not the size of it, it’s what you do with it,” I said, quoting somebody talking about something, it may or may not have been noses.

He said he was just “checking out the nose-job scene”, since he’d heard surgery in Asia was cheaper than North America and Europe, where a new hooter costs at least US$5,000.

He’d attached his research so far, and it amazed me. In the Philippines, just US$800 will pay for a surgeon to reshape your nose a la Michael Jackson, or, if you prefer, into a human nose.

For people with little cash and lots of courage, medical centres in Vietnam and Cambodia have sprung up to offer cosmetic surgery at bargain prices. “But I feel I’d have to bring my own penknife and something to mop the floor with,” he said.

Most exciting were reports about the cosmetic surgery department at Sassoon Hospital in Pune, which charges prices set by the government. It’s so cheap that domestic servants are signing up for nose jobs, tummy tucks, breast enlargements and so on, according to the city’s newspapers.

I’m not sure how I’d feel if my domestic servant disappeared off to hospital one weekend and came back looking like Aishwarya Rai.

Domestic life in Pune must be interesting.

Husband: “Aishwarya Rai is in the kitchen cooking my dinner!”

Wife: “That’s the domestic helper. She’s had cosmetic surgery at Sassoon Hospital. Where are you going?”

Husband: “To get the camera. I want a picture of Aishwarya Rai ironing my shirt.”

My shy big-nosed reader was tempted, but something was holding him back. “What if something goes wrong?” he asked. I pointed out that something had gone wrong with Michael Jackson’s nose, which had moved up his face steadily, ending up somewhere between his eyebrows, but “it didn’t seem to bother him”.

Oddly, Japanese people are paying US$107 for the Beauty Lift High Nose, a vibrating face attachment that makes small noses bigger.

Anyway, if I look like Aishwarya Rai the next time I get a photo-byline, you’ll know where I’ve been.


Your humble narrator has been hopping on and off planes a lot over the past week, and has found security officials suspiciously pleasant. What’s going on? We travellers better not relax too much. Reader Wanda Cheng helpfully sent me a tip: “If airport customs officers ask: ‘Do you have any illegal substances on you?’ do NOT reply: ‘Sure, what do you need?’” Thanks, Wanda, I’ll try to remember.


Two women were arrested at the airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for “walking strangely”. Airport police found half a kilo of gold up their bottoms, I heard from reader Rusty de Niese. This worries me. Many people walk strangely without gold up their bottoms.

In Australia, customs officers are famous for swooping on the innocent. A UK friend of mine was accused of violating the “no plants” rule because he flew into Sydney with a GUITAR. I guess guards were worried he might plant it in the ground and grow some folk singers.


In a terrifying display in China, People’s Liberation Army soldiers repeatedly played pass-the-parcel with a live bomb, leaping out of range just before it exploded. (You can see it on YouTube.) Thank you very much, PLA. What great role models you provide for our children. Now my kids think I’m a total wimp because my pass-the-parcel games contain non-exploding Hello Kitty handbags.


I suddenly realised why US Republican leadership candidate Mitt Romney looks so familiar. You know when you buy a photoframe, and there’s already a picture in it? That’s him, right?


Many of my good friends and family members are zombies, a medical term referring to a) people who are dead but haven’t stopped moving, or b) most teenagers before noon.

Thailand is the zombie capital of Asia. I was reminded of this when reader John B told me about an incident that occurred when he lived there. “My son’s geography teacher was riding his motorcycle in downtown Bangkok near a freeway off-ramp when a truck driver stoned on [hallucinogen] ya baa came off at great speed and flattened him and his bike,” he said.

Bangkok has few ambulances. The first people who arrive at the scene of an accident are usually Buddhist societies specializing in handling corpses. Buddhist writings say that every time you give funeral services to a corpse, you get merit in Nirvana. (Not sure how this works. Is it like a customer loyalty card? Three merits for a harp?)

The news that John’s teacher friend had died set off a frenzy of activity. “This turned into a huge competition, with the various Buddhist societies using shortwave radios tuned to police frequencies roaring off to try to beat each other to the body,” he said.

Rival groups used to literally fight over bodies right in front of bereaved families. Some folk found this inelegant. So these days, the two main groups, the Ruam Katanyu and the Por Teck Tung, have a duopoly on the business, taking turns to provide 24-hour services.

But there was a twist in John’s tale. “Some time in the middle of the night, the geography teacher came back to life somehow relatively unscathed, to discover himself lying alone in a room full of dead people. You can imagine the shock. Am I dead? There wasn’t a soul in the place, literally. He got up off the gurney and walked out.”

My favorite zombie joke refers to the fact that parts of their bodies sometimes fall off: Q: What did the New York zombie say when he got into a fight? A: You wanna piece of me? Huh? Huh?


Geeks in China rent “impressive” girlfriends to show to their mothers during family reunions, the country’s media reports. Having impressed their moms, the guys go back to the normal interests of heterosexual young men in that country: playing World of Warcraft and reading comic books. Now you see why China’s population growth is slowing.

Anyway, the whole thing seems fraught with risk, especially if the girl is too honest. MOM: “And what do you do for a living, dear?” IMPRESSIVE GIRL: “Hire myself out to pathetic losers.”


A job ad seeking an undercover brothel inspector was published in Australia. The post entails touring brothels in New South Wales and reporting back to the authorities. It comes with “an annual package” of A$70,000, which is about US$75,000. Wait. Do they pay you or do you pay them?

(10.08.2012 - Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send comments or ideas via

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