motorbiking through Pai

Superman in Oz: motorbiking through Pai

How did I find myself here: half naked in two day old clothes, binge watching Homeland and typing part of this post with one finger from each hand?

It all began with euphoria

I was zipping along the hilly streets of gorgeous Pai thinking to myself, this is exactly why I chose to travel.  The scenery is that out of a fairytale and riding around via motorbike is the closest thing to flying through the landscape I could get.

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Gorgeous Pai countryside.  Is that a yellow brick road?

Until, that is, I was actually flying… over the front of the handlebars and through the air, sliding ever so gracefully along ten meters of jagged asphalt.

I wish I could say my accident happened quickly, that I didn’t know what was happening.  But I did.  As soon as I saw the truck behind me, I knew my fate.  My body tensed in preparation for its flight and braced itself for impact.

The truck in question that led to this superman spectacle?  Well, he never stopped and I watched helplessly as my travel companions disappeared around the next corner.

IMG_4072IMG_4071IMG_4074IMG_4073Course rock dug into my raw and bloody palms as I pushed myself up off the ground.  I looked down.  My foot, knee, arm and hands screamed Scorsese red, but the rest of me sighed with relief.  No broken bones, no dislocated joints, no bits of me to scrape off the road.

“I can walk this off,” I decided.  Elated by my luck, I shifted my gaze to the home across from me and started in the direction of the spectators that had begun to gather.

Then the pain came.

Like a tidal wave forcing every ounce of adrenalin from my body, I stumbled.  The familiar sensation of blackened vision and crippling nausea overtook me.

I was fainting.

As I began my descent, two hands steadied me.  I looked up and caught the worried eyes of an older Thai woman.  She tried to lift me to my feet, but again I crumbled.  My feet had turned to jelly and my brain felt as though I had thrown it in the wash on spin cycle.

My savior eased me into a suitable crouching position and with haste, ran back to her house.  She returned seconds later with a small glass vile.  Ground ginger.  Once the scent hit my nostrils, I felt my muscles relax.  I spent the next half hour or so laying in this woman’s lap— ground ginger pressed firmly to my nose— waiting for the spell to pass.

The rest of the crew, noticing my absence, followed shortly after and we organized a plan of action for my return to the hostel.  Unable to drive, my savior arranged car transportation with a visiting friend to take me back.  My other friends rode ahead to pick up bandages, cleaning solution and other necessary materials to reduce risk of infection.  My bike was picked up by them later that evening and they helped me get situated in new accommodations nearby.

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loving life

For the next week, I laid indoors and oscillated between frustration and melancholy happiness.  Outside was one of the world’s most beautiful playgrounds, but my right knee and foot demanded I remain stationary.  I couldn’t grip anything (no reading) and I couldn’t write anything (no blogging.)  I had more than enough time on my hands, but nothing I could do.  With only the internet to keep me entertained and daily trips to the hospital for dressing changes with Nurse Ratched to look forward to, I languished in my hotel room for five days until I was able to hobble off on a few planes back to Vietnam.  I’m not going to lie, it was a rough few weeks.

The bright side?

  • I had an excuse to treat myself to two and a half weeks of salon hair treatments.  At only $3 a wash, the expense wasn’t too extravagant and I managed to maintain a somewhat presentable appearance.
  • I got VIP treatment at the airports en route to Hanoi.  I breezed through security and customs in a wheelchair led by an airport worker.  I was seated first on every flight and enjoyed the luxury of my own row each time.  Score!
  • I met a new friend!  He took pity on me during a particularly acute period of hunger and offered me the only food he had: cookies and a Snickers.  Each time I’ve been in Hanoi, we’ve made it a point to catch lunch.

Special thanks to Rohan for driving me to the hospital each night for my daily dressing changes and for being the friendly shoulder to cry on when the pain was just too much.  Thanks also to my nurse, Sarah, for tending to my wounds and cleaning me up when I was a pathetic mess.  A shout out to Marc for riding back with Mike to collect my bike, for picking up all my medical supplies and for generally checking up on me during his time in Pai, to Tony for procuring the magical potion of Neosporin and replenishing my medical supplies and to the Hanoi Blue Lotus Hotel staff for making my stay as comfortable as possible.  And finally, I extend my gratitude to that Thai woman, whose name I don’t even know.

Getting hurt on the road is every traveler’s worst nightmare, but a potentially terrifying experience as a solo traveler was made less so by the outpouring of support I received.  I couldn’t be more grateful!


Update: I just returned from a five day bike tour of the Extreme North Loop in Vietnam.  That’s right, five days navigating the windy, mountainous roads of Northern Vietnam— and I made it back with not a scratch on me!

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motorbiking the Extreme North Loop in Vietnam

2 thoughts on “Superman in Oz: motorbiking through Pai

  1. That is awful Ashley. Thankfully you didn’t get seriously injured…but still! Holy crap that is terrifying. I have such fond memories of motorbiking through Pai. I am obsessed with renting scooters in other countries and I have yet to get in an accident but I’ve had some close calls. This is a good reminder of just how dangerous it can be. After my boyfriend crashed his bike in Indonesia earlier this year (he was virtually unscathed, thankfully) we were both reminded that we need to always be as safe as possible. Ugh, that’s probably why neither of us will even consider riding a motorbike here in Phnom Penh. There’s no doubt we would get seriously mangled! Anyway, I’m glad you were weren’t seriously injured or traumatized. And congrats on completing the Vietnam loop. That sounds amazing…I want to do that!!

    1. Thanks! Surprisingly, I tend to fair better on a bike when there is more traffic around me. Those beautiful, near empty roads in Pai just aren’t my scene apparently. Too bad too because I couldn’t imagine a better paradise for motorbiking!

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