The cool breeze and clouds in the distance was a promise for rain. I looked at the map of Koh Lanta to see if there were any new places we could scooter to on our last day here. It wouldn’t be a pleasant day for the beach. Remembering I read something about Old Town, I spotted it on the map, and suggested we go.
Dressed in my typical shorts and tank top we walked to our scooter we had rented for the week. At about $5 a day it was much cheaper than getting tuk tuks (taxis).
The friendly hotel manager wasn’t around this morning like he typically was. He usually greeted us and asked about our plans for the day.
It took several attempts to start our scooter until another hotel worker pointed to what seemed to be her personal scooter, handing us the keys, nodding.
We shrugged and hopped on, thanking her. The language differences made it difficult to communicate. Then headed the opposite way of our typical route. This time going south.
Doesn’t it throw you off when you start your day off the same as any other day then something happens that alters it all? You aren’t expecting anything abnormal to happen. You’ve done everything like you normally would.
When our scooter didn’t start I could have easily claimed it as a sign. The universe screaming, Don’t ride today! It was a bit odd, even the locals who ride scooters since before they could walk, couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it or how to start it.
But we didn’t bat our eyes and just thought it was an old rattle-box scooter they pawn off to the tourists. So we continued on with our plans to head to Old Town.
Not long into the drive the sprinkles began. The pot holes holding puddles from an earlier rain storm. The road now wet became slick like icy roads in the winter.
Time stopped, like when someone presses pause on a movie. The scene was still but only for a split second. Then it sped up. A crash. A NO! And probably a scream or yelp.
I don’t know if I closed my eyes. I usually do when I’m facing something I fear. Something held my eyes open this time. I saw a large pot hole, loose gravel, muddy warm water splashing onto my mint green top. The scooter skidded a foot or two in front of us. James and I planted on our right sides.
I stood up wincing with pain. Looking down at my leg I see pale skin, the beginning of a gash. Chunky pink muscle bursting out from my leg. I feel faint. Tears instantly flood my face. I manage to sit on the edge of the road. Shaking, hyperventilating, crying, mumbling Ow, owww, ow, ow, through shallow breaths.
Soon a man is sitting next to be telling me “It’s ok, it’s going to be alright”, in a French accent. Ironically it’s the last thing I want to hear in that moment. I hear an older man’s voice talking to James.
Is James ok? Am I ok? What are we going to do? Ow, my leg!
Traffic is stopped. My eyes too blurred to really see what’s going on. I hold my leg. James’ shirt tied around it to stop the bleeding.
I’m being led to a Thai couple’s truck. Each step sending spikes of pain to my leg. They open the right passenger door. I get in. The older man is telling James they are taking me to the hospital. Asking if he is able to follow behind on the scooter.
Sitting in the truck, trying to slow my breathing. Mentally telling myself to take deep breaths. In through the nose, long breaths out through the mouth.
Breathe, breathe. Just breathe. You’re ok. Breathe.
The Thai lady hands me a small container. I looked at her then the driver. He says something in Thai then she motions taking a sniff from the container.
I do. It smells like Vaseline. She’s sitting in the back, so I turn to return it to her and they both motion to do it again. I sniff it deeply two more times. My tears stop, my breathing is calm, my mind more clear. Huh, I wonder if they give that to babies?
I look in the side mirror hoping to see James driving safely behind us. Only five minutes later we arrive at the hospital. The man motions for me to stay then appears at my door with a wheelchair. I winced my way into it, giving a hopeless grin to the lady in the back. He wheels me to the Check In. Before I can thank them, I hear the truck doors close and the truck driving away.
There are at least four people already waiting to see the doctor. Waiting patiently. Here I am in a wheelchair, tears starting again, attempting to fill out the quarter sized patient information form.
Mind reading, I assume they look at me as another foreigner showing too much of my shoulders and arms, my knees and my legs, recklessly riding a scooter. Another tourist. Another scooter accident. Nothing they haven’t seen before.
Soon James is behind me. “Are you ok?” I ask. The doctor is there asking for the next patient. The man who had earlier adjusted the foot holders on my wheelchair points to let me go before him.
How long has he been waiting? I wonder. Why is everyone so kind? I’m just another White face. Another careless tourist here for a few days to snap some pictures and cross it off my travel list. Do they appreciate the tourist industry? Or do they despise us for the influx of tourists year round and everything that comes with it?
Laying on the table my bloody legs and arm are wiped off . Before I know it my leg is being stabbed with needles of mysterious liquid and I notice a needle and thread.
Again, having to remind myself to just breathe and try to relax. Trying to distract myself with the ants and bugs on the ceiling. A Thai nurse stands at my side. Her hand gently caressing my arm.
Finally my leg goes numb and I’m able to relax. I hear laughter in the background as two nurses play fight and flirt with each other. It reminds me that life will go on. The healing will be difficult but not long.
A flood of gratitude comes over me and I realize how blessed James and I are. We were five minutes away from the hospital. We were wearing helmets and got minor injuries. Several tourists stopped to help. The locals were there within seconds, ready to help, willingly.
The people at the hospital were gracious and kind, acknowledging my pain with their eyes, and perhaps even wishing to be able to address it in a common language.
I too wanted to thank everyone, immensely! The couple that drove me to the hospital and helped me calm down, the man who helped me get situated in the wheelchair then let me go before him. The nurses gentleness and compassion.
There was hardly any dialogue during the many hours from the accident to leaving the hospital. Communication took place without speaking. We didn’t know Thai and they knew very little English.
There’s a first for everything and I had just got my first set of stitches, 7 to be exact. The only way back to the hotel was on the scooter we had just crashed. … If you get bucked off you have to get right back on. Well, that’s what we did.
Laying in bed that afternoon we shared how lucky we were and cracked a few jokes about the situation. It was either laugh or cry and I think I shed enough tears for the day.
This could of happened on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Where no one was around and we were miles and miles away from any city or hospital. With only a week left of traveling and feeling beyond homesick, being bedridden for a few days to recover didn’t seem too bad.
I only wish I could somehow portray how thankful I am to the people of Thailand. I didn’t want to be another temporary tourist. Thai people are beyond welcoming and tolerant of Western culture.
Unless I stick around longer and really dive into Thai culture I’m just another foreigner. For now all I can do is tell this story and give a ขอขอบคุณ to the Thai people.