Well, I think yesterday takes the cake for most eventful day in Thailand thus far. I managed to sleep in until 7:15am, quite the accomplishment since my first morning I woke up around 6:30 and day 2 around 6:45 (today I even made it to a little after 8am! I’m improving!)
I hung around my room for a little bit before heading over to Dave’s girlfriend Nid’s place to meet up with the gang around 10. Of course, being chronically early and certainly not adjusted to “Thai time” yet, I arrived around 9:45 and took a few laps. I made my first successful solo purchase in 7 Eleven, managed to make it rain baht all over the floor, and enjoyed a breakfast of dried seaweed and water before returning to Dave and Nid’s closer to 10.
We met up with Katherine, Alexis, Stu, another volunteer who does work with Atma Seva from time to time, and another American named Scott who just arrived two weeks ago. After chowing down on some delicious chocolate croissants, courtesy of Stu, we headed out for the day, planning on making a loop from Chiang Mai around through Mae Rim, a nearby district in the hills, and back to the city. The first 1/3 of the trip was great, incredible lush, green forest, relatively empty roads compared to downtown Chiang Mai which is complete chaos. Things were going great until Dave and I (on his motorcycle) and Katherine and Scott (on her motorbike) stopped at the top of a hill to wait for Stu and Alexis. They were suddenly nowhere in sight after we’d all been following each other at a pretty close distance. After about 30 seconds of wondering, Dave’s phone rings. Ut oh. It’s Stu, informing us that they crashed after being forced to swerve by a songtaew, or Thai version of shared taxi, that made an unexpected turn. We raced back to them and found the Thai ambulance already at the scene, cleaning out their wounds and bandaging them up. Luckily, nobody was seriously injured and an awesome bystander who witnessed the whole thing actually managed to chase the songtaew, which fled the scene, up the road and bring him back!! That guy was our new best friend. While they were getting patched up, another local kept translating for us what was going on and how we needed to wait “just few minutes!” for the driver to return. All things considered, it was pretty lucky that the crash happened literally two minutes down the road from the clinic where the ambulance is housed and that no one sustained injuries worse than some gnarly scrapes and bruises (thank you, helmets.)
Needless to say, this was not how we expected our day would turn out. Dave’s words as we eventually continued on our way, “I’m having a really hard time selling you on the whole idea of learning how to drive a motorbike…!” Um, yes. In three days, this is the second crash I’ve seen (although I’m told by others, like Katherine, that in her entire six months here, these are the only two she’s seen as well.) I also managed to give myself my first “tourist tattoo” or leg burn from leaning against the exhaust pipe of the motorcycle. Oww/oops.
So yeah, right now I don’t have such a great feeling about these two wheeled beasts. I must say, I was pretty impressed by the Thai emergency service. Not only were they efficient, but we didn’t have to pay them a thing. They got the contact info for the songtaew driver and he’s responsible for any charges, no questions asked, no forms to file, no waiting for claims to process. I also managed to get a saline soaked gauze pad taped onto my burn while we were waiting, free of charge! Katherine got some iodine for a cut on her leg as well. In America, we’d be out thousands of dollars for that little visit from the ambulance. I’m still amazed how easy the whole process was and it reminds me of how ridiculously inefficient/cost in-effective our US system can be. Annnnyways, I’m just happy that everyone was okay in the end and made it back to Chiang Mai in one piece. What a crazy day.
Stay tuned for more updates from Wat Doi Saket, the temple I’ll be living at next week!