August 29th 4:10pm - Motorbike Misfortune

A few months ago found me traipsing through Southeast Asia with two of my friends. We commenced our expedition with Bangkok , journeyed north into Laos , worked our way south to Bangkok again, and flew to the Thai islands. During this rather lengthy excursion, we utilized all modes of transportation. We traveled by plane, train, van, boat, bus, raft, and elephant. Upon reaching the island of Koh Tao ( Turtle Island ), we came to the now-knowledgeable decision to do as the locals do: ride motorbikes. In Thailand , it is customary to cram a small motorized bike with mom, dad, baby, and three children heaped on top of one another. We, being three (rather larger) American girls, elected to rent three bikes. The three of us approached various island natives, haggling (as is routine) for the best rate. A rather squat woman with long black, graying hair tied up rose ahead of the others as the frontrunner, offering us three bikes for 100baht less than her numerous competitors (the amount works out to be slightly over three and a half dollars saved). I surrendered my passport as collateral for the three bikes, and we bounded onto our newly acquired toys. One of my friends had ridden a motorbike before. Thus, she became our motorbike educator. It took us little over ten seconds to realize they were manual motorbikes. Translation: we couldn’t just turn the key, press a button, and vroom-vroom our way down the street. Instead, we had to turn the key, put in the clutch (located on our right handlebar), and then slowly release the clutch as we applied more weight on the gas (situated at our feet). Quite complicated. I find it impossible to drive a stick shift car, much less endure so much effort to initiate the thrumming and jumping metal that is a motorbike. However, I reminded myself that I am an athlete, and assured myself this simply cannot be that hard. Within a minute the other two had their bikes growling and one of my friends rapidly rocketed away. My saintly instructor stayed by my side as I struggled to get the bike’s motor humming. I could not for the life of me coordinate the release of the clutch with the correct force on the gas. I tried, and the bike jolted forward before dying. Again: the engine thrived, bounding ahead, before failing. Hearing the other motorbike’s purr bearing towards me motivated my extreme concentration on starting the engine. And then: success. The bike vibrated beneath me, roaring with life, and hurdled forward directly into the street. “Whoa,” I yelled, doing my best to maintain my grip on the bike. “Whooa,” I yelled as I advanced to the opposite side of the street, narrowly avoiding being hit by a car. “Whooooa,” I yelled as an enormous truck (very unusual for Thailand ) loomed in front of me. “Aggghhh!” I screamed as I swerved the bike in an attempt to avoid colliding with the parked truck. I almost accomplished my challenge. The bike hit the edge of the truck, and gravity propelled me to the ground, the bane of my existence landing directly on top of me. I lay, stunned, for half a second before chuckling my immense relief at the fact I was still breathing. My friends couldn’t breathe, as they were overcome with hysterics, one of whom peed her shorts from laughing. Outcome: one cracked motorbike mirror, one bruised body (I told people I got trampled by an elephant… much better story), one passport held hostage by small, thickset woman, the loss of the equivalent of $100U.S. to repair motorbike “damages,” and one marginally bruised pride : )

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