Saturday, March 17, 2012

Our encounter with a monitor Lizard in Khao Lak

Our day yesterday started out amazingly well. We had organized a 24-hour scooter rental our first night in Khao Lak after finalizing our booking for a three night/four day diving/snorkeling expedition to the Similan Islands. Khao Lak is a series of beaches connected by a long road. The distances from one to the other are long and without a scooter, your exploration options are quite limited. We had one full day here before the diving trip, and we wanted to get to know the area. Down some smaller roads in the opposite direction were several waterfalls that we also wanted to visit.

Coral on the beach at low tide.

So off we went after breakfast, with our helmets on, water, towels and sunscreen in our daypack. We first hit a couple of beaches, soaking in the scenery as we went. Wow, we both thought. This is the way to go! About an hour into the trip we found the first waterfall, which was gorgeous and we joined some other tourists and many locals for a dip.

I had been a bit nervous at first (about riding on the back of a scooter) but was feeling good by this point and was taking silly pictures like this (below) while we were driving along. I had a working headline going in my mind for this post: Out of my element big time and loving it! That would all change soon enough!

We headed for the next waterfall after drying for a bit in the sun. It was further than we thought down a windy road and through a village. We thought we had missed it when we finally ended up in front of a gate and a ticket booth. We were taken aback by this and had a long discussion about whether it was worth paying the entrance fee. In hindsight, if we had gone to see the waterfall, the end of the story would have been quite different! But hindsight is always twenty-twenty and at the time we both felt there were going to be many untouched natural waterfalls in our future and we did not need to pay for this one.

We had seen a cute restaurant on our way to the waterfall and we decided to head there for a break before continuing to the next attraction.

It probably took all of about three seconds, but neither of us can really piece it all together. We both know we saw a huge (maybe 3ft long) monitor lizard come out of the bush and cross the road right in front of us. At that exact moment, we were on a gravel patch of an otherwise paved section of road. Marc put on the breaks, but we swerved on the gravel and down we went. We were not going fast and the lizard managed to get away unscathed, but I had managed to get some nasty cuts to my elbow and Marc had quite a few scrapes.

No, I did not take time to photograph the actual lizard, but this is what they look like.
A quick look at my elbow and I knew I would need stitches. My adrenalin was pumping, so I got up and noticed right away there was a small house very near by and I started walking towards it holding my elbow that was bleeding quite badly. I knew it wasn’t serious but needed to be taken care of. Poor Marc was so worried about me, he didn’t even notice his own scrapes.

What happened next will stay with us always. Anything that happens to us in Thailand will pale in comparison to what the family in that small house at the side of the road did for us that afternoon. We don’t even know their names, but they took such good care of us, they can only be considered family.

I first saw a woman sitting on a chair in the house. As I approached she didn’t know what was wrong, but in any case, she immediately came towards us smiling ready to help no matter what our question might be. When she saw the blood, she jumped into action. She ran for her first aid kit and motioned to her husband to come right away. Within minutes, she had me wrapped in gauze, and her husband was getting the pick-up truck started to take us — somewhere. We were not sure where. Neither of them understood a word of English. Tower of Babel in action. All of us talking, and no one understanding anything. What we did understand was that we were to leave the scooter at their house and get the hell into the car! The woman took a quick perusal of Marc and saw he had no serious bleeding and off we went.

The first clinic refused us. The nurse apologized saying there was no doctor there and we needed to go to the larger government run clinic if stitches were necessary. So off we went to the next larger clinic five or six kilometers away. My new Thai momma was with me all the way explaining in Thai what had happened to whoever needed to know. The nurse there started cleaning my wounds but explained that we needed to go to the hospital, which was 25 kilometres away (oy!) once I was cleaned up. Nurses are allowed to suture only after a doctor has seen the wound. They knew the doctor would agree that it needed to be done but their hands were tied.

Oy! Marc and I felt we could not possibly bother these people any more and asked the nurse to call us a cab. But our new family would have none of it. They were going to see this through and they would take us. The nurse at the clinic cleaned my wounds and did the same for Marc and all bandaged up, we piled back into the pickup truck and were on our way to the hospital.

Lucky for us, the emergency room was empty when we arrived and I was sutured up in no time. The hospital was very clean and everyone we encountered was amazingly kind and gentle. We were both completely fine and knew how lucky we were that it was a lizard and not a car (or a cow!) that had gotten in our way.

But what to do for these people who had taken us in and made all of our troubles disappear? All stitched up, I was sitting in the back seat of the pick-up truck starting to cry. Not from pain or fear, but overwhelming gratitude.

Just about this time, we pulled into a gas station. We passed some money to papa to at least fill up their tank. We knew by now that most people here fill their cars with one litre at a time and we had just gone more than 50k. They hesitated, but I think they also knew they needed the gas and that we really wanted to do it. It was one of those unspoken moments.

Marc and I had a conversation amongst ourselves in the back seat about how we both felt about getting back on the scooter and driving the rest of the way back to the hotel. Momma and papa were having a similar conversation in the front seat. At the same moment I looked at momma, she looked at me and I made a hand gesture as if I was holding on to the scooter handle bars and revving it up. She nodded and said something to papa and everything was understood.

When we got back to their home, their son got on the bike to make sure it was in operational condition. He drove it for a few seconds and handed it over to us with a nod. That is when I lost it. I ran over to momma and hugged her tightly. I asked Marc to take a picture of us together before we left these amazing people forever. We tried to give them more money, but papa flatly refused and backed away smiling. I tucked the money into momma’s hand as I gave her a last big hug. “You take it.” I told her. She squeezed my hand and we had a last unspoken conversation as we gazed into each other’s eyes.

My Thai mamma and I after returning from the hospital.

We put our helmets on and got back in the saddle as they say and drove off to our hotel to change clothes and regroup. There would be no snorkeling trip for me as my stitches had to stay dry and bandages had to be changed every day at the clinic. So we got on the scooter one more time to drive to the diving company to cancel my part of the trip. Truth be told, I was definitely fine without the snorkeling, so this was a good excuse to have some time to myself to write and read and plan the next days of our trip. So there really is a silver lining to the monitor lizard story.

Marc left this morning for his trip and I have had a great day pampering myself and discovering the amazing food and clothing market just across the street from our hotel, hidden by a 7-11 and a taxi stand! We have been here three days and neither of us knew it was there. I happened to hear the man having a massage (every business in Thailand seems to offer massage … don’t ask!) in the beauty parlor where I had my hair washed and blown out (I can’t get my stitches wet remember?) that he visits the market each day. Market? What market I thought? I soon found out!

I spent the afternoon sampling all of the delicious food on offer and window shopping in all of the clothing stalls. Not bad for day one!

So that’s the story folks. All is well. I have five stitches to remind me of the wonderful people in Khao Lak and endless opportunities for spa treatments until Marc returns on Tuesday!

1 comment:

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