Ho Chi Minh City is filled with skyscrapers, ancient temples, motorbikes, people on bicycles and more motorbikes. While living in Ho Chi Minh I got myself a canary yellow 1969 super cup motorbike, which I named Buttercup. It couldn’t go faster than 60km per hour but in a city as crowded as Ho Chi Minh City I rarely needed to go faster. The streets are overcrowded with motorbikes, piled with up to 5 people each fighting for way with taxis and even trucks. The streets look like organized chaos with motorbike drivers talking on cell phones, not abiding traffic signals, and not even driving in the same direction as the traffic flow.
The up side of crawling at a snails pace along these crowded streets was that when I got into my first accident I wasn’t actually hurt too bad.
My first accident happened while going down the hill towards the house where I lived. As I am driving along another motorbike sped past me and turned left. As he turned left he swiped the front tire of my bike, throwing me of balance. Sending me skidding along the tar road to the bottom of the hill. Luckily I was wearing a helmet but it was summer so I had shorts on and ended up with bad road rash on my leg.
My next “accident” had a driver riding into me sideways and hitting my foot, actually ripping my big toe nail half way out. Like a trooper I tried to clean it but just trying to touch my toe had me in tears. So I gave up and drove over to the hospital which was only a block away from where I lived. It took the hospital staff a while to locate a doctor who could speak or understand English as it was a local hospital. But within half an hour they had found a doctor who gave my toe one look and shook his head.
Doctor: Do you have pain tablet?
Me: No, why?
Doctor: That is sorry, bring next time.
Here I was hoping there wouldn’t be a next time, and still not getting why he asked me this.
As I got onto the bed in the ward he called three nurses over and they grabbed my arms and legs. It then dawned on me that the public hospitals in Vietnam don’t supply any pain killers and that this was going to hurt.
Doctor: Try and keep still, this will hurt.
Me: I have great pain killers at home, maybe I should come back later!?
The doctor only smiled at me and the nurses tightened their grip on me. Knowing that it was going to hurt just made it worse. As he poured salt water over the open wound I nearly peed my pants. I actually tried to twist my toe away and if the nurses weren’t holding my legs down I am sure that I would have kicked the Doctor.
Me: I think its clean now. I will just go now, please! I am going to die here is what went through my mind at that moment.
Doctor: Ready, Now try not to cry.
He actually continued to clean the open wound with alcohol, wiping it clean and cutting the toe nail a bit. Okay, I admit, at this point the tears were flowing freely, thinking that losing the toe would have hurt less than this.
Thinking the worst was over I nearly had a heart attack as he pushed the nail back down on the open wound and bandaged it up.
At this point I was swearing at the doctor, cursing him and everyone around me. Trying to kick my way out of the nurses grip. Luckily I don’t think any of the staff or doctors could understand Afrikaans, as I screamed out curses I didn’t even know that I knew.
Doctor: Its finished. Come back Wednesday so I can clean it.
Me: Okay!?Thinking that there is no way I am coming back here again.
My last accident took me back to that same hospital and the same little Vietnamese Doctor. I was on my way to the market, minding my own business at the traffic light when the truck behind me didn’t stop in time and came charging into and over me. As he came to a halt I was stuck underneath the truck, not able to move. My helmet took a hell of a hit and actually cracked right trough. Don’t want to think what my head would have looked like without a helmet on.
In the fall, my petrol tank cap came off and as I lay there I had petrol pouring down my leg. There I lay, screaming at everyone with cigarettes to back of, as I could just see this ending badly with me in flames while being trapped under the truck. It took the bystanders quite a while to get the truck driver to reverse a bit so that they could pull me out. There were no sparks and I got out without much hassle.
Luckily my motorbike was only scratched a bit and I was only missing some skin from my ankle.
Some of the bystanders helped me get back onto my bike and started it for me so that I could drive myself to the hospital and get my foot cleaned. I was at least prepared this time round and took a couple of painkillers before I even arrived at the hospital.
After cleaning and bandaging my foot the Doctor even gave me a compliment.
Doctor: You did not cry this time!
They say you should do something brave at least once a year. I think driving a motorbike in Vietnam covered me for a couple of years worth of brave things.
What’s your brave thing for the year so far?