Dealing With The Unexpected In Chiang Mai

Drivers in Chiang Mai

We hopped out of the tuk tuk and hoisted our packs onto our backs.  I paid the driver and he waved us off sympathetically, knowing, like I did, that we’d probably already missed our train. Boyfriend ran ahead of me into the rain as the rush hour traffic parted enough for us to cross the road. I looked left and right swiftly. I’d made it about two thirds of the way across the street before I fell.

Flat on my face.

I don’t know if the reason for my fall was the rain, the sandals I was wearing, the fact that was carrying all of my worldly possessions on my back and in my arms, or that I was just plain clumsy. I lay there for a fleeting instant on the wet pavement thinking.  We had spent the last week in Chiang Mai and we were on our way south to the islands. Our time exploring Thailand had so far exceeded our expectations, up until I landed on the road and the force of my giant backpack came down on the back of my head and smashed my face into the pavement.

People would talk and say things like “Lauren? Didn’t you hear? She got run over by a tuk tuk. Yeah, that’s right one of those little rickshaw taxi things they have in Asia” I mean, how embarrassing. And at my funeral there would be a big gross scab on my face. Fuck.

I did not die that day. Instead I got up and untangled myself from my backpack and messenger bag enough to scamper to the sidewalk and out of oncoming traffic.  Boyfriend had turned around in time to see me sprawled out on the road and was making his way back towards me. He looked at my face.

“Is it really bad?” I whimpered, feeling his concerned eyes running from my forehead to my nose.  He pulled our first aid kit out of his backpack.

“No honey, it’ll be okay,” he gently assured me as he pulled me into his arms.

I left him with our stuff and made my way over to a public toilet we had spotted across a parking lot. I was starting to feel again. I had scraped up both of my knees and had a bit of road rash on my forearm. Looking down I saw that my clothes were streaked with gray street water.  When I reached the mirror I let out a faint gasp. I had a scrape across my forehead, and my nose was bleeding like hell.  I cleaned up as best I could, but my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding.  I grabbed a wad of tissue paper and went back out into the rain.

There was no longer any question that we’d missed our train. We walked to the station anyway to see if we could exchange our tickets. We couldn’t.  It had been the last train to Bangkok that night and there wasn’t another until the next afternoon, which meant we’d miss our flight the next day.

We caught a cab back to the guesthouse that we’d just checked out of and were greeted by a surprised receptionist.  “What happened? We thought you were leaving,”

“We missed our train,”

“Yeah, it’s rush hour you have to leave early,” she replied cheerfully.

“Right, thanks,” I muttered.

I looked down at the desk hoping she wouldn’t ask about my face. It was the start of Loy Krathong, the local festival of lights, and only a few of the more expensive rooms were vacant.  I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of my wet clothes and wash the grime of the street and this day off myself.

When I got out of the shower my nose was still bleeding and throbbing with pain. “I wonder if it’s broken,” I said.

“Do you want to try to find a doctor?” boyfriend asked.

“What? No! Hand me my computer, please,” I was not keen on experiencing a Thai hospital, or any hospital for that matter. I didn’t have travel insurance, and even though healthcare is probably cheaper in Thailand than it is in the United States, scratch that, definitely cheaper, I wasn’t down.

So I googled it. “How to do you know if your nose is broken?”  I typed. The first page I opened listed about eight symptoms and I had a handful of them: pain, swelling, blocked nasal passages.  It then gave a list of symptoms for which you should seek emergency treatment. The second item on the list was “bleeding you can’t stop.” Damn. I then googled “treatment for a broken nose” I gathered that if the nose wasn’t bent or crooked the standard treatment is to pack it with gauze until the bleeding stops and apply ice to reduce swelling. “Well shit, we can do that here!” I said triumphantly.

I examined my nose in a mirror and came to the conclusion that it looked pretty much the same. I chuckled darkly thinking how I had always liked my little nose, even though nearly every other woman I’d ever discussed it with thought hers was too big, or funny shaped, or bumpy, or whatever, so this just would happen to me. I packed my nostrils with toilet paper and boyfriend went down to the lobby for some ice.

I can’t be sure if it was technically broken, but who cares? We’d already missed our train and would have to fly down to Bangkok, a more expensive and less romantic option. A hospital bill was not in the budget, even if it was relatively cheap.

A day and half later we arrived in Koh Samui, an island in the south of Thailand. We sipped fruity cocktails on the beach, got Thai massages, and after a couple of days my little wounds healed.  Thailand is a beautiful country, and we’re both richer for having seen it.

I believe travelling is one of the best ways you can spend your time. It is always a learning experience.  What I learned in Chiang Mai is that sometimes, you fall on your face, miss your train, and have to figure out how to treat a broken nose in your hotel room.  It’s just part of the journey.