Everywhere I go in the Asian or Southeast Asian region, natives of the country think that I am one of them. My features of dark skin and slanted eyes give me some kind of, what my boyfriend likes to call, the universal Asian look. It’s taken me a number of years of traveling and self-help talks to accept and appreciate this phenomenon – otherwise I’d have to give up traveling in the region altogether.
Previously, I had written a short article for this site about renting a scooter and offering tips to be prepared for riding around wherever your destination might be. One thing I didn’t quite plan on or even think it as important to write about was what to do if you have an accident!
Well, this is not that post either, but the telling of my experience instead.
My wonderful boyfriend thought it would be good to teach me how to drive the scooter since he always has to do the driving. He’s said it before on other trips and I’ve managed to conveniently forget the idea. Since we planned to stay in Phuket for quite a length of time over the summer, it seemed like a reasonable idea to give it a go this trip.
A few nights ago, we pulled into a nice quiet side street and I gave my first attempt at controlling the scooter. “Whatever you do, don’t panic. Just let go of the accelerator until the bike slows down and then gently apply the left brake,” my boyfriend gently repeated a number of times. In my mind, I’m holding my fingers out thinking ‘left, which one is that again?’. Being left-handed and partially ambidextrous has truly messed up my confidence on which is left and which is right. So, the forefinger and thumb that make the ‘L’ when stuck out is the left-hand is what I’ve relied on for years since I started taking driving lessons.
The first lesson went reasonably well. I felt good. However, I mentioned to my trusting instructor that I’m not exactly the best person on two-wheeled forms of transportation. I spent nearly nine years in Japan and had numerous bicycle accidents, or incidents – as I like to refer to them, where I would just be standing at a light waiting when the next thing I knew was that my bike had fallen out from under me. When I was 13 or 14, I had a major bicycle accident that involved huge amounts of gravel sliding into my arm and weeks of a half-cast and the scar to remind me of it.
You’d think I had learned my lesson or at least would know better than to push my good fortune thus far. That not being the case, we decided to give a second lesson a try. “Remember, don’t panic. Release the accelerator, wait and then gently apply the brake. Don’t put your feet down until you’ve stopped.” The first half seemed great. I was adding some speed, slowing down and all was well. Then, we decided to take a big turn. When I see the wheel start to wobble, my brain instantly reacts into a panic-mode…. We were turning, but I felt out of control as the wheel wobbled. Despite my brave instructor trying to get a hold of the controls, it seemed that I somehow accelerated and also braked; thus, we were both tumbling to the ground in no time.
As the pain seared through my body and curses began to fly, there were suddenly about 20 Thais standing around me. Some had been at a nearby bar and seen the accident. Others stopped to make sure everything was okay. They began speaking to me in Thai as I screamed in pain. Finally, my boyfriend explained I wasn’ t Thai and that I was actually American. One Thai lady didn’t seem to care and had a scolding tone in her voice as she called for an ambulance and said she had seen the accident. “You keep her in front. You make her fall.” Thankfully, my boyfriend was more concerned about whether or not I had broken anything rather than worrying about the people around me.
As we waited for the ambulance, I began to come back to reality as the adrenaline kicked in and pushed aside the pain for a bit. It seemed that nothing was broken, but then the ambulance arrived. Suddenly, I was being asked questions, my leg was braced and my body tethered to a board stretcher. I’d never been in an ambulance before and to be completely honest, hospitals freak me out. Before I could really understand anything I was in the back of the ambulance with the sirens blaring and being thrashed side to side as it raced off to the hospital. It was a good thing I was belted on to the stretcher because I would have flown off to the side otherwise.
What felt both like forever and record time, we arrived at the Patong Hospital. I was whisked to a hospital bed inside and then again barraged with questions. My boyfriend wasn’t there yet as he was following behind on the scooter. So, in my confusion and general dislike for hospitals, I tried to be politely strong. They wouldn’t clean or do anything to the wounds until I had an x-ray to make sure nothing was broken or fractured. Somehow, I felt relief that I was in a hospital in Thailand, known as the health tourism capital, and completely freaked out at the idea that I was in a hospital Thailand, all alone with no identification whatsoever. At last, my boyfriend arrived and I let the tears fall finally. Once I got over my self-pity and endured the painful process of the x-ray, it was a huge relief to find out that my injuries were nothing more than scraped skin on my ankle and knee. Everything was going to be fine.
After a painful clean up and dressing of the wounds, medication in hand, I was in a comfortable taxi back to the hotel. With a couple more dressing changes, a few more painkillers and bed rest, the wounds will heal.
I have to say the cost and efficiency of being injured here in Thailand has been amazing. For less than USD100, I have been treated and had follow-ups. They seem to really know how to take care of the wounds without any fuss. So, for that and no broken bones, I am blessed!
The lesson learned here is that there will be no more lessons on driving a scooter in the near or far future!