Monday, 14 February 2011

Falling Off Motorbikes (and more fun).

First off I say motorbike but it was more of a scooter/moped but motorbike seems so much cooler and not as pathetic.

So I was in Thailand. It was only my 2nd full day there. The night before I had decided to rent one from the guest house I was staying at. I had never ridden one before. I took it out to go see the sunset and was fine on it. It was like riding a bike. I was a bit nervous when massive trucks overtook me and gave me a little wobble. But after a while I was going at the speed limits of the road having quickly gained confidence as it was so bloody easy. Before this I had only ever been on a bike of the motorised variety once. That was 6 years previous and on the back of someone Bangkok. But here I was in a tiny town a couple of hours north of Bangkok.

So on this day I had got up earlyish and decided to go around the temples. I gathered in my wanting to save money rather than hiring a tuk tuk for the day it would be cheaper for me to rent my own bike. And, it was a reasonably quiet town, nothing like Bangkok. It was scary enough being on the back of one never mind trying to negotiate the traffic of Bangkok on one. I had been to a cafe for the most disgusting food in the world. The consistency was like a runny jelly (for any Americans Jello) without the blobs. It was horrid but it was the only place open. So a little less than ravenous more just like hungry I set out again. I had ridden around a few temples not really looking where I was going. Just going for a ride about. I decided to go down one road that turned in to more of a dirt track. I slowed down loads as was a bit bumpy. I realised it was a dead end and knew I needed to turn around. Having got quite complacent on the bike I thought I would be able to do it all in one go. Apparently not. The turning circle on the thing was much wider than I expected (I thought it would be just like a normal cycle). There was a mini-van parked up and I thought "shit I'm going to hit it". So I turned the handle bars a little more and braked. I braked in the wrong order as my front wheel stopped and my back kept on going. I also caught the throttle at the same time. Result. Threw me off just in front of the mini-van.

"Crap the bike! I've signed a disclaimer saying any damage I have to pay for, shit shit shit"! So I picked the bike up and put it up right. "What's all that over the bike. I hope I've not torn a fluid pipe or something. Where the hell is all that fluid coming from"? I look down at myself. "Shit, I've ripped my trousers, these were new on today and I have not brought any other cropped trousers with me and I can't afford to be buying clothes"! Then I looked at my knee. "Oh dear, that needs looking at". "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, i just saw what happened are you ok"? Said the English raised Thai girl who jumped out the van. "Errrr...I think I may need some stitches in my knee". She looked "you need more than that girl, I'm calling you an ambulance"! I looked at my knee again. It looked as though I had pushed my knee cap in to my leg and displaced it. It didn't hurt at all though. She then saw my hand. It was kind of spurting blood from my palm. "Look at your hand, here put this on it (*handed me a wad of tissues)". That be what the "fluid" all over the bike was then. Oops. I looked over the bike and saw I had scratched it quite badly. "Shit".

"I'm calling an ambulance" she said.
"Don't you bloody dare, I know where the hospital is (I notice things like that as I am kinda accident prone) I'll ride there". She took the keys out the ignition.
"Not a chance".
"Not a chance you are getting me in an ambulance". I wasn't thinking of my injuries. I was thinking of the bike. I wasn't going to leave it there. I didn't know where I was. It could have been stolen or anything. I was also thinking what an ambulance would cost me out of my budget. NO WAY was I going to be getting in some ambulance.
"Fine, I am calling the police then".
"No, no no. I can ride there. I am not losing that much blood, really, I work with people who self harm, I've seen worse, look it's fine (*removing tissues and it had slowed to a fast pouring now. It was slowing. I was happy). Ummm, maybe I should go to the hospital".
"I am calling the police".
By now a few people had gathered to look at the stupid white girl. I called them SWG moments where I had done something that caused people to look at me and think..."ahhhh another western tourist, stupid silly girl"!
The police showed up on their equivalents of blues which was actually reds. By now they had moved me away from the bike and got me sitting down raising my hand and leg. I was sat at the top of some steps in the shade. Next thing I know the police man is taking photos of me. No "hello, what have we here then", no "how are you". Just snap happy on his camera. Nice. Nice to know that this whole debacle is being made proof of in their history.
"You need an ambulance".
"No I don't and I am not going on one, I know where the hospital is I will ride the bike there and then I can ride it back to the guest house".
*Laughing "no chance. We are not letting you get back on that bike".
"Pleeeeeeease" *like a sulky child.
"Ok, we take you to hospital".
"No, the bike, I am not leaving it. I don't know where I am. I am bad with directions and I will never find it again (I had actually lost my hotel the night before. I was in the wrong area, first I got the name of it completely wrong called it it Saaaaaaaun asking local Thai people where it was. Then to be told it was Buan Suan with the pronunciation having to be exactly right or they still didn't have a clue. In the end I paid someone to follow them on their bike...turns out I had been up and down my own road about 5 times...I was looking on the wrong side of the road).
"Errrrr. OK. We get police to take bike back to police station, will you please then go in ambulance".
"No, I am not letting the bike leave my sight". You hear so much of police corruption and I was kind of delirious by now.
"Ok, we take you in car. We follow policeman back to station. You can see bike in station then we take you to the hospital".
Realising I am not going to win on this one and they won't let me take the bike myself
"OK, fine"!

So I got in the back of the lovely air conditioned police car being really careful not to get blood on much. I would say anything but by this point I was covered. The police took me to the station showed me the bike parked and locked up. I could relax a bit now. All the time though they were taking random pictures of me and smiling and laughing at me.

So they park up at the front of the hospital. I am walked in by them. At first the nurse doesn't really look at me and gestures for the police to take me else where. She then sees that maybe, I could do with being seen to quickly. Either that or they thought "ummmm money maker"! I was led in to what was like a massive operating theatre but with more than one bed. There were about 10 beds. All of a sudden about 10 people ascended on me. Nurses and doctors from every direction. I was a bit unsure as to what was going on. They started squirting stuff at the wound and it was hurting like hell now. A doctor then came and talked to me. He said what they were going to do and talked me through it. I wasn't aware he was a doctor. I thought he was just some English speaking dude type translator guy they managed to find quickly. It was only after about an hour I discovered he was a doctor. I was so surprised. Here the docs see you then go and he had spent all this time with me. They numbed up my knee and scrubbed it out. They actually scrubbed it. It makes me feel sick thinking of it. I would have thought they would have got tweezers and picked the gravel out...there was a lot in there but they seemed to scrub it. They spent about an hour sorting my knee out. Internal stitches and external ones. No x-ray though. They then went to work on my hand. They scrubbed that also. They didn't just use saline either. They used some kind of disinfectant wash. I remember lying there looking up at the operating lights and they were covered in dust. Not just a small amount but cobwebs and layers of the stuff. Kinda worrying. The nurses were all pristine though. I wonder how many changes of clothes that they make a day as they were dressed all in white and it was white white. Definitely been using Daz!

All this time I still had about 3 police officers with me. Taking photos every now and again also. When I first got to the hospital there was only 2 of them but they called another one in. It was a woman. I am not sure if they thought I would want a woman there or if they thought..."lets get *insert name here to come and look how funny this whole situation is". I must have been on that table nearly 2 hours. I wasn't in pain anymore as of the anaesthetic but I was starting to worry about how much the hospital bill would come to. How much the bike was going to cost me.

I was told that I needed to have a course of antibiotics and they also prescribed me some painkillers and that I needed to go back to the hospital every day for 10 days to have the dressings changed and the wounds cleaned (like I was going to do that. My plan, go back one day, see how and what they do, go to the pharmacy and do it myself). The wheeled me out of the treatment area on a trolley bed and the police woman said I needed to pay and she would go and sort it for me. She came back to me with the price and said it was going to cost 1000BHT which was around £20. *Relief! So I gave her my bank card and off she trotted. I was waiting ages. I was starting to get worried. She came back and said she had sorted the prescription out but I needed to put my PIN in so that it could be paid. So I went off with her and the other two police men. I was the only foreign person in the hospital. Everyone else was local. I was being stared at by everyone. To make things worse I was being escorted by 3 policepeople so to them it may have looked as though I had done something wrong. I was also in torn clothes and covered in blood. A bit of a social faux pas in Thailand. You don't wear ripped revealing clothes and you make sure you look reasonably ok. I was still having my picture taken. They must have had over 100 by now! They then gave the camera to one of the locals and asked me to pose with the three of them. So somewhere out there is an awful picture of me with 3 policepeople. I wished I had got them to take one on mine, just so I would have the awful memory also. As much as I was worrying I couldn't help but see the funny side in all of this. After all this was me...Miss Accident. Miss Falls Over When Standing Up Right, Not Drunk/Stoned.

I decided to ask them why they were taking so many pictures. With a smile I was told it was for their boss so that they could document what they had done and what I was like. Yeah right!

The police were amazing. They really were. You hear so many stories about corrupt police in Thailand. About how they are unfair etc etc. But these guys were lovely. They may have been taking the piss out of me but it was all in good fun. I didn't expect them to stay with me. I thought they would dump me at the hospital, I would have to wait hours to be seen and not know anything that was going on. But both the police and the medical staff were top! How much time they spent with me making sure I was ok and that I understood everything. Ok, medically they probably missed quite a bit. I think here if you fell off like I did they would have checked things like my head and neck...(oh yeah I had taken the helmet off at this point also as it was making my head sweaty and it was too big! Clever aren't I, riding around on a motorbike with no experience of ever riding one and not even wearing a helmet) possibly sending me for x-rays to ensure I hadn't got anything in my knee etc etc. But I was happy with what I received. If I had any pains anywhere I would have mentioned it anyway.

So the police then said they would take me back to the guest house. Can you imagine the embarrassment. Walking in to your guesthouse with 3 police officers. GH Owner just looked at me and the police in utter shock. They had a conversation in Thai which obs I didn't understand. All I could do was apologise over, and over and over. GH Owner seemed really pissed off and not happy with me. I was quite upset. He said in a stern way "you pay for any damage, you signed contract". So here I am thinking he is going to con me here. This is another con I have heard of where they massively overcharge you for damage. So I was thinking this is going to cost me a couple of hundred quid. I am on my own. I don't know the country that well and I was starting to worry. He then said he was going to go get the bike which he was really pissed off at and did nothing to hide his emotions from me. After an hour or so he got back. "Bike it very scratched". I agreed and said I was sorry again and again. "You pay 150BHT".

"What? That is like £3. Of course I'll pay you that. I am so so so sorry."

I think he took pity on me. I think the police probably had a word also.

I went back to the hospital the next day to have the wounds dressed and cleaned. It cost £4. I thought no way am I coming back to the hospital every day for the next 10 days to be subjected to some kind of acid poured on and paying for the privilege. So as soon as I left the hospital I went to the pharmacy across the road and brought things like antiseptic wipes, inadine and dressings. I then went to the Tesco...yes Tesco across the road had a look around. For some strange reason I really like Tesco. Even if it is taking over the world. I like it. Sad aren't I?

It did become quite painful my knee. The guest house I was staying in had really small toilets and it was so painful going to the loo as I had to sit with my knee bent. To be comfortable I needed to have it outstretched. So peeing was rather painful!

I suppose I didn't really look after the wound properly. 3 months later once I was home I had cellulitis and the infection had got in to my blood. It put me in hospital for 12 nights and off work for a month as I was quite ill. I was quite lucky while I was away as only affected me for a few days at a time. It wasn't until right at the end of my trip on the last night that I became quite ill. I turned the air con off, had 2 layers of clothes on and all the blankets i could find in the room and I was still cold. The flight home was a nightmare and my knee was painful. I got home and I was ok after a couple of days. But the wound still hadn't healed properly so I went to my GP who sent me for an x-ray. Nothing in it. 2 weeks to the day after getting home I was admitted in to the hospital as my temperature had spiked and I was ill. It was my own fault though. I took my own stitches out and then was swimming in the sea, swimming pools, waterfalls and rivers. At first they thought some parasite had got in to me as of where I had been. But in the end they put it down to the infection. I was so lucky that the whole incident didn't ruin my trip and that I didn't get really ill while I was out there as I can't imagine being in hospital would have been a ball of laughs over there. Not that it was here but at least I had people visiting me.

Did it put me off getting bikes. Well. I decided I needed to get over my fear of them as I knew once I got to Vietnam that I would be needing to get around on taxi bikes everywhere as is cheapest way. So I rented another. Was it without problems? No!!!! But that is another story I will add at another time.

I just want to add here as a footnote. It may seem as though I was being quite prejudiced against these people. However, I had been to Thailand before and it does seem as though everyone tries to con you in some way and make money out of you. So that's why I was being over careful about things.

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