BOOM… There we were, lying on the ground, kissing the tarmac of a Lao road. A few seconds before, we were still happily driving around on our motorbike along a winding road somewhere in the countryside of Luang Prabang, without knowing what was going to happen after the next sharp hairpin corner.
You see, we’ve already been driving around Indochina for 3 months. We bought a motorbike in Hanoi, drove it all the way to the south of Vietnam, traveled whole Cambodia around with it and explored the most challenging roads of Sapa with a motorbike.
Everything went perfect, we never had any problem, and I was confident with driving a motorbike in Asia, even in the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh. But apparently, the past months were too good to be true. During our trip the last few months, we saw backpackers limping with crutches, covered with bandages and stuff. We never thought it would happen to us. But everyone needs that Asian tattoo right?
THAT MOMENT WHEN WE KISSED THE GROUND
We were in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang in Laos and planned to do a day trip to the Kuang Si Waterfalls. It is probably the coolest but also the most touristic thing to do in Luang Prabang. The Kuang Si Waterfalls consist of one large waterfall that changes into different smaller ones with small pools where you can swim in clear blue water.
We rented a motorbike in Luang Prabang around the corner of our guesthouse. It was one of those cheap Honda Scoopy models, and from the moment I drove out of the street with it, it didn’t feel right. But I just thought it would be me because I was used to driving a Sufat (Honda) Win and Yamaha Nouvo. Steering with it was tough, and it felt really unsafe when we drove on loose grit.
Travel Tip: Always wear your helmet!
The bike was already full of scratches, so people before us already had fallen with it multiple times. Maybe they didn’t repair it well after an accident, or it was just in my head. I don’t know, but it just didn’t feel right.
The way to the waterfalls is a one-hour drive on a long road with bends and turns every few seconds, passing small Lao villages and farmland. The road was mainly paved but full of potholes, and parts with grit and stones. Luckily, we’ve made it safely to the waterfalls.
On our way back, we were happily cruisin’ around in the afternoon sun, bend in, bend out. I was even more careful than normally because I didn’t really trust the bike.
I overtook two Chinese girls that were driving really slow on a straight part. The next turn was a sharp and steep hairpin bend to the right, so I slightly pulled the brake, leaned a bit to the right to take the turn and then everything went a little bit blurry.
It has happened… We slipped out with our bike and shoved over the tarmac which was covered with dust and A LOT of small rocks. In a second and full of adrenaline, I stood up and ran over to Myrthe to make sure everything was OK with her. Luckily, she had nothing severe, apart from her wounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t wear long sleeves or long pants, so we were both bleeding very hard on our right arm and leg.
I put the bike back up and checked it for scratches or broken parts, but strangely enough, I didn’t notice any added scratches. It was at this moment we started to feel how painful our wounds were. We always bring a small First Aid Kit with us when we go on a motorbiking trip, so we immediately started cleaning our wounds. But most of all, I felt guilty towards Myrthe and stupid for making a miscalculation while making the turn.
Luckily, no one else was involved in our accident. Otherwise, it could have worked out differently. This bend was clearly a difficult one as another couple was standing at the other side of the road, because they also slipped out on the same place. The Chinese girls that came behind us fell also. But they went so slow that they could easily jump off and land on their feet safely. They probably just panicked when they saw us lying on the ground.
CLEANING UP THE WOUNDS
Now it was time to bring back the motorbike… We went first to our guesthouse to drop off Myrthe so she could start nursing her wounds, and I put on a long pants and sweater. Because if I would arrive at the rental company with my bandages, they would use this against me. They checked the bike and noticed nothing unusual about it. One problem out of the way.
Cleaning our wounds was hell, I honestly don’t have any other words to describe the pain we’ve felt. We thought it would be alright to nurse them ourselves but the pain was unreal the day after, so we decided to visit a nearby hospital. The Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital looked like it was one from World War II, with metal beds and screaming patients in the halls. Apparently, it was wise to go to the hospital because our wounds were already starting to infect. They cleaned our wounds, but we had to come back after four days for a check-up. Because of this, we decided to book a plane to Bangkok to get a decent check-up in a decent city. However, the check-up in LP cost us $7, in Bangkok $120.
IT’S NOT OVER YET
Two days after the crash, when we were ready to leave the guesthouse, the guy from the rental company came to us and said that we had to pay for the bike because we had an accident. I couldn’t deny because he already saw our bandages, but of course, I denied that the bike was broken or scratched because of us. “Can you show me where the added scratches are?” I asked. But according to the guy, the bike was already rented out. He said that we should wait in the guesthouse and left. After 10 minutes he came back with pictures on his phone of the motorbike with scratches.
Weird that he could take pictures of the bike even when it’s rented out. We kept stating that those scratches weren’t ours because he showed pictures from the left side of the bike, but we fell on our right… He was very aggressive towards us and said that we should pay him $100 to repair it. $100, REALLY?! A new bike of that type costs not more than $250 in Laos. He wanted to call the police, but as we had to catch our plane, this wasn’t a solution for us. And most of the time, the policemen are corrupt too.
I was so pissed and didn’t have the time for this crap. Eventually, we gave him a note of $20 and just walked away, and the douchebag was even smiling with it! We just know that the sly guy from our guesthouse informed him and got a commission on the profit.
Eventually, the wounds healed right, now we both have scars that remind ourselves of that day (our Asian tattoo). I’m still driving around Asia with a motorbike but I’m much more careful, especially when taking a turn!
We know we look like the stupid tourists that drive around irresponsibly on motorbikes they can’t handle. Just don’t make the same mistake and learn from us with the help of following tips.
TIPS WHEN DRIVING A MOTORBIKE IN ASIA
- Always wear a helmet.
- Only drive if you have an International Driving License AND licensed to drive with 125cc bikes.
- Get a travel insurance (that covers you for driving motorbikes).
- Always bring a First Aid Kit.
- Check the bike for broken parts, scratches, bad tires, etc.
- Take pictures from all angles of the bike BEFORE you drive away.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Keep your eyes on the road.
- Be careful of children, animals, and other traffic that can suddenly cross your path.
- Don’t overestimate yourself and be careful.
* Driving scooters in Asia is dangerous. People get killed every day, among them are a lot of foreigners. In fact, southeast Asia’s biggest death toll rate is made by motorbike accidents who end up fatal. If you’re inexperienced, Asia is not the place to learn to drive a bike. But eventually it’s your own choice if you want to ride a motorbike. If you are confident and careful enough, it’s an amazing experience and perfect option to get around.