So I am now part of that statistic of western tourist that come to Thailand and crashes a scooter. I know, cliche right? Ugh.
Hundreds of western tourist come to Thailand every year, rent a scooter, and have some kind of accident. There are all kinds of reasons this happens from poor road infrastructure and traffic laws, to the fact that many tourist don’t really know how to ride a scooter when they rent one. With that kind of combination it seems obvious that there would be crashes.
Now I don’t want to scare or deter anyone from renting or riding a scooter in Thailand or South East Asia, because if you are smart about it and careful you will be fine, and it’s really the most convenient form of transportation. And honestly if you live your life not doing things because they are dangerous, you’ll probably never do anything.
Here’s how I crashed a scooter in Thailand
First I’d like to mention that I’ve ridden both a dirt bike and motorcycle prior to getting a scooter on Koh Tao. I’m not going to say I was great at riding, but I knew the basics. And before the crash I’d been cruising around for about a month on the little Honda Click.
I had just finished up my advanced diving course, the last dive being a night dive, and was heading to the bar to meet Rob and some friends. A lot of things could have been potentially dangerous and crash causing, like the fact that it was dark out, or that is was raining, or that I was tired. But the truth of the matter is I was stupid, the car in front of me was driving erratically and I was following too closely. So when they slammed on their brakes at a patch of dirt in the road I also hit my brakes to keep from hitting them. The sudden change in speed in the soft dirt (made even less stable by the rain) caused my back tire to slide out. I knew I was going down as soon as I’d hit the breaks. It was a stupid mistake, and I knew it.
If there’s anything you take away from this story it’s that, when riding a scooter never slam on the brakes in dirt.
I vividly remember hitting the ground and immediately concerned about the truck that was behind me. Did they see me fall? Am I about to get run over? Should I lay flat on the ground in case they didn’t see me and hope that the high clearance will just pass over me? All these questions races through my head in less than a second. I realized within that same second that the truck had stopped so I immediately stood up so that no one else would have the chance to run me over. It is amazing what adrenaline can do. Without a second thought I picked up the bike and rolled it over to the shoulder to get it and myself out of traffic.
Once out of the road I realized I’d knocked the wind out of myself and hadn’t taken a good breath in what felt like forever. I gulped down some air as a group of Germans ran over asking if I needed help.
At first I said no, I was fine, I didn’t live too far away and could make it home. They skeptically looked me up and down and started rinsing me off with water bottles and asked again if I wanted to come back to their bungalow, to get cleaned up, it was just around the corner. I was slowly becoming aware that I was bleeding, a lot. One of the German girls said she and another girl were nurses, at which point reason kicked in and I was like “yes I’ll come with you!”
The girls walked me quite literally around the corner to their bungalow while one of the guys walked the bike for me. Once inside they sat me down and went to work, I remember thinking, “holy hell, they’ve got like a whole doctor’s office worth of supplies in here!”. I sat on a cot while they cleaned and bandaged all my wounds.
I managed to text Rob to come get me, but the group assured me I could stay and rest as long as I needed. When Rob got to the bungalow they were putting the last bandages on my arms and legs, I thanked them profusely as Rob basically carried me home.
The group of Germans were so nice and helpful, and I appreciate the kindness of strangers so much. I was in shock and never got any of their names, and by the time I was well enough to go by their bungalow to thank them again they were no longer there.
All in all my crash wasn’t as bad as it could have been, considering I was only wearing a bathing suit and shorts, and no helmet. I’m very lucky to not have any broken bones or concussion or worse.
So when it comes to riding a scooter around South East Asia, you just have to be smart and safe about it, and honestly wear a helmet. I do know they are starting to crack down on the helmet laws so it will hopefully be more common now. If you have an accident hopefully it won’t be too bad, and I’d be happy to compare “Koh Tao Tattoos” with you.
What do you think about riding scooters in South East Asia? Have you done it? Would you do it? Do you think I’m crazy? haha Let me know in the comments
Life in Wanderlust