Motorbike Accident
Personal Travel

My Major Motorbike Mistake on Koh Phangan

Okay guys, I asked a lot of you on Instagram if you were interested in reading about my motorbike accident in Thailand and you said yes, so here it is.

Fair warning: I included pretty graphic images of some (not all) of our injuries… so if you’re squeamish maybe don’t scroll down too far.

I have to admit, this is an embarrassing and guilt-ridden story that I am quite ashamed of. But, if it helps somebody else to make their decision or take more caution regarding motorbikes, then it’s worth writing about. Or, you know, you might just find it humorous if you’re not a particularly empathetic person.

I had my motorbike accident on Koh Phangan — on the same stretch of road that I’d mentioned in my previous post about C Villas. Call me crazy, but I thought that since I’d driven a motorbike before (3 years ago with my sister in Vietnam), I would probably be able to do it again now without any issues. I figured okay, this section of road is crazy steep, hilly, and curvy, and it kind of sucks that I don’t have a straight stretch to practice on first, but if I focus and go slow, it’ll all be okay. Hell, I even knocked on wood that I wouldn’t crash before I got on the bike.

Hell, I even knocked on wood that I wouldn’t crash before I got on the bike.

Our plan was to visit a few secluded beaches on the island, and maybe a couple of waterfalls on the way back. We got a map, marked out the spots we wanted to see, rented the bike from our hotel (C Villas), put on our helmets (thank god) and climbed aboard. The renter reminded me how all the controls worked, and I took photos of the existing damage so he wouldn’t try to pull one over on me when we brought it back. Ironic, really, since it ended up being returned in much worse condition, and I had actually caused all of it.

With Madison trusting me on the back of the bike and me in the driver’s seat, we took off out of the driveway and took a left towards Thong Sala, along the dangerous section of mountainous road. I was focused, making sure to stay left (they drive on the left side of the road in Thailand) and to stay on just one half of the lane so that I could go slow and other people could still pass. The problem was, staying that far to the left side of the lane didn’t leave much room for error, especially since there was no shoulder to the road — just a bush and, beyond that, a cliff down to the ocean.

With Madison trusting me on the back of the bike and me in the driver’s seat, we took off out of the driveway and took a left towards Thong Sala.

We were probably on the bike for about a minute or two, at most. That’s both the embarrassing and the incredibly lucky part. As we accelerated up a hill and tried following the curve to the right, the bike felt to still be pulling to the left (or straight, considering I was steering to the right), and I panicked. It’s possible I wasn’t actually going fast enough for the bike to stay balanced or the steering to be smooth on the hill, but essentially what happened is that I felt we were about to drive off the road, and so tried to apply the brakes and put my feet down to slow and steady us, but that resulted in a full-on crash. It happened so fast it’s a bit hard to describe, but next thing I know the bike slid out from under us, and our bodies slid across the pavement with the weight of the bike pinning us down as it, too, slid along the road.

While we’re on that note, let me just get one thing straight. This was not a ‘moped’ or a ‘scooter’. This was what they call a ‘motorbike’ in Asia and is a bit of a cross between a moped and a motorcycle. It looks more like a street bike than a vespa, and is surprisingly heavy. When we stopped sliding and were just lying on the road, I couldn’t lift the bike off my leg and had to get Madison to help.

Our bodies slid across the pavement with the weight of the bike pinning us down as it, too, slid along the road.

The next part is a bit blurry, but I remember glancing at Madison and I first to try and assess the damage. We had bloodied sections along the right side of our bodies and Madison was clutching her knee, but nothing seemed to be sticking out in the wrong direction and we were both standing so I thought we were relatively okay. I didn’t actually know what to do and wasn’t at all thinking straight, but after apologizing profusely I asked Madison if she could walk back to the hotel to get help (we weren’t that far away) and she did. I don’t know why I didn’t volunteer to go.. I just remember saying that I would stay with the bike.

While I was sitting on the edge of the road with the bike, a couple people driving by stopped to help. And it’s a really good thing they did, too, because at this point the shock had hit me so hard that my blood pressure had completely dropped — I felt incredibly dizzy, could only take shallow breaths, and legitimately could not see out of my eyes properly. If you’ve ever stood up too quickly and experienced a bad head rush, it was like that.. but it lasted for about 20 minutes before clearing.

Nothing seemed to be sticking out in the wrong direction and we were both standing so I thought we were relatively okay.

The two men who had stopped to help me offered tissues for my wounds, and suggested they bring both me and the bike back to my hotel down the road so I could get cleaned up. Considering my condition, I didn’t feel stable enough to balance on the back of a bike, and I just kept saying to them over and over that I felt like I was going to pass out, and that I couldn’t see anything.

At this point, the Australian guy was helping me to walk back, and I had to keep sitting down out of fear that I was about to faint. After a little ways, Madison must have made it to the hotel and told the staff what happened because they came along the road looking for me, and brought a truck to drive me the rest of the way back. The Australian guy asked if there was anything else he could do and I thanked him, but I unfortunately don’t even know what he looked like. I still couldn’t see much, and after that he was gone.

Back at the hotel, my vision started to clear when I laid back down. A doctor and two nurses were already there tending to Madison, and they then cleaned and bandaged my wounds as well. The Doctor kept saying “No stitches, no broken. Very lucky” and though we hardly felt lucky, we actually were.

Though we hardly felt lucky, we actually were.

There are a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios that have played in my head since. What if I had handled it better and done things differently? What if we hadn’t gone on the bike at all? What if we had crashed going down one of the steeper hills? What if a car had been just behind us, unexpecting to find two people lying on the road as they rounded the corner? The doctor was right… considering it all, we were lucky.

The thing is, motorbike accidents happen all the time in southeast asia. Aside from our own, we’ve witnessed two other crashes (one involving other tourists in Thailand and one with a local in Cambodia) and every time we tell someone what happened they nod knowingly and show us their scars from a similar scenario. In all honestly, renting a motorbike is a true case of ‘it just won’t happen to me’… but what if it does? Make sure you have travel insurance, first of all, and make sure you know what you’re doing, especially if you have another passenger trusting you on the back.

Renting a motorbike is a true case of ‘it just won’t happen to me’.

It’s now been a week since the accident, and both Madison and myself have spent upwards of $1300 Canadian dollars on medical. It’s covered by insurance and we should get it back later, but it’s taken a chunk out of both our travel funds in the meantime. That, and I had to pay $220 Canadian for the damaged bike, which had a broken light and side mirror, and scratches down one side. Luckily, what started as seven separate road rash wounds down my side has slowly healed down to just a few, and Madison is slowly gaining mobility back in her badly injured knee as well. Of course, we had to put some of our plans on hold to heal, and a Cambodian doctor had to visit us for 6 days in Siem Reap to clean our wounds, change our bandages, and give us an antibiotic IV (to fight infection) every day. The only silver lining? Our doctor was a pretty fun guy who told us incredible stories about his childhood in Cambodia, and Thai Air Asia treated us pretty well with priority boarding and upgraded seats thanks to our injuries.

All in all guys, it just isn’t worth it. If you have doubts about your ability to ride a motorbike and the road is anything other than flat and straight, just don’t risk it. Madison and I have been sitting around waiting for our wounds to heal — we can’t swim, tan, walk very well, drink alcohol (because of the antibiotics), or even shower. And remember this is actually the best case scenario… we were lucky.




Pictures (in order):
1. Being treated by the nurses at C Villas directly after the accident.
2. Bandaged up post-accident later on that same day.
3. Madison’s right knee two days after the accident.
4. My right hip three days after the accident.
5. My right leg three days after the accident.

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