Never travel without insurance
So now I have been home since the first of May, I left Sweden for Thailand late August last year. The story that I will write about right now is something that I have not written about before even though it happened before the end of my first week on my trip. This is the story of how things can go from chill to crazy in one split second and why I will always have insurance when I travel.
With respect for the people involved I have chosen to leave out any names.
So lets go!
My first two days in Bangkok I was shocked by the heat, how different everything was and how bad people seemed to understand English. I was basically sweating my ass of in a cheap apartment complex dreading to use their water toilets and trying to acclimatize to the heat. But atleast I did not get sick so that was nice. At the time I was couchsurfing but I was far from the city centre and there was really nothing at all in my area except for residential buildings.
I felt lonely and miserable but on my third day I met up with a german girl and a french guy and we spent the day together. Immediately everything was back to being awesome and it felt a lot better to share the experience with someone else. I moved to Khao San Road and stayed in the same dorm as my friends. While staying there we heard that there was going be a full moon party the following evening so just like that all three of us decided to go to Koh Phangan that night by bus, it would take about 16 hours and then a few hours more to get to the island by ferry, but we did it.
On the island we found our hostel and spent the day there, we met a really sweet girl from Finland and together we all made plans to go to the full moon party that same evening.
I do not remember what time we left but we met up and after buying a beer for the road we were in a tuk tuk cruising on our way to the party.
What is the full moon party?
“The Full Moon Party is an all-night beach party that originated in Haad Rin on the island of Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand on the night of, before or after every full moon. It is mostly attended by tourists.
The first Full Moon Party was improvised at a Paradise Bungalows on the beach in 1985, for giving thanks to about 20–30 travelers. The parties gained fame through word of mouth, and the event now draws a crowd of about 5,000–30,000 every full moon evening. The party carries on until the sun rises the next day. The bars on the sunrise beach of Haad Rin town stay open and play music such aspsychedelic trance, R&B, drum and bass, house, dance and reggae. The modern event has become a part of the itinerary of many travellers to Southeast Asia.”
Link to source
Here is a video that I took on my phone during the party, just to give you an idea of what it is:
At the party
The tuk tuk stops, there is loud music and a lot, and I really mean a lot, of people. I think I heard numbers of us being around 25 to 30 thousand people on the island at that time but I am not sure if that is correct. Anyway, tons of people, happy vibes and partying everywhere. I was a bit tired and already a bit drunk from our pre-partying but the German girl and the french guy were already very drunk so me and the Finnish girl decided to take it a bit easy and look after them. Before entering the beach area we bought buckets of alcohol with straws in them, great thing to have to take it easy with the drinking, one bucket each. Included in the price was body paint so we had some fun with that and finally we were ready to enter the party area.
Now this is where I feel like no words can really describe how it feels to walk around in shorts in the evening on a beach with literally thousands and thousands of people there to have a good time with some really good house music. It was amazing. I am pretty much as far from a party guy as one can be but damn that was a good party. So we got into it, dancing around, talking with people, high-fiving everyone and drinking more and more.
At one point I vaguely recall that I got lost from the group and I felt that how in the hell am I supposed to find them? Mission impossible. I strolled around for about one or two hours and looking in different parts of the place half partying half looking for them but I could not find anyone of them so I gave up and decided to go back and get some sleep. On my way from the shoreline up to the area where the taxis are I walked right into them and the party was back on.
Shit hits the fan
We partied and partied, and partied a bit more, the german girl was getting a bit too drunk and me and the finnish girl felt like going back, this was around 2.30am I think, so we tried to tell the other two but they would not have it. They were completely hammered and I was very drunk as well, they agreed to dance a bit more and then going back together. We said fine just a bit more, feeling like some old parents.
We enter the dance area of the beach again and there they have a slide down from the second floor of a building. You go up the stairs inside, then you go to the start of the slide and go down, you get a lot of speed, and fly onto the sand and roll and laugh. A lot of people were doing it and there was a small half circle around the landing area. People kept flying by us and it was all a lot of fun. The heavily intoxicated german girl decided to go up it just as me and the finnish girl said lets go back to the hostel. After a short talk we agree that she will ride that slide once before we leave, that is all, one ride on the slide and then we go back. What could possibly go wrong? Well, shit.
She did get up on the slide, she flew down that slide with a lot of speed but her landing was not like the others. She did not land and roll around or land on her feet. No she was so unfortunate that she landed straight on her butt at the start of a small sand pile that had formed right where she landed. This resulted in her coming to a complete stop and everyone that saw it gasped because it was easy to see that a landning like that must hurt like hell.
She looked confused at first and she was not moving, she was just laying there and I felt a cold chill going down my spine. Something was so clearly wrong and we were on a frikkin beach all of us drunk out of our minds. We rushed to her and tried to ask her how she was doing but she did not really reply, but she tried to stand up, and she could not stand. We thought that she was dizzy from the landning and we tried to help her to stand but that was when we all realized that she must have hurt something seriously because she could hardly move her legs without a lot of pain.
That was a chilling moment and at the same time the adrenaline started kicking in and I did not feel drunk at all anymore. I looked around and no one of us knew what to do, shit. We managed to ger our hurt friend to the side of the beach, it was a mere ten meter walk but it took a few minutes and there we layed her down on her back so that she could try to rest. I found someone working there and told them what happened and they said “a stretcher is on the way, just relax”.
Another video I took at the party, this time we are mixing alcohol and fire! Great and safe combination!
Get a doctor
So I went back and told them that we just had to wait for the stretcher. Which we did. The minutes felt like years and after five minutes more still no stretcher was there, double shit. I went back to the same person and she just repeated her answer, I felt that something had to be done and looking around it was clear that I had to do it. I told them to not let her move, she had to stay still because her back is probably injured and then I left the area looking for a motorcycle taxi. It being Thailand and all I found one within two minutes, bless whatever entity you believe in because he understood me well enough to drive me to do a doctor, well a clinic.
I talked to the doctor for about five seconds before he said “Ok we go. Show me. Show me.” I felt relief that he took it so seriously and no time was wasted. Good man. The same taxi guy drove me back and the doctor from the clinic had a nurse drive him. Upon arrival we see something that pissed me off so much. The people from the beach are holding her up and trying to help her walk up from the beach area. It was so clear that she should not be moving at all. But, for maybe the only time in my whole life I actually shut up and let it slide because bigger things were in motion.
The doctor sat her down, tried to talk to her but she was so drunk and dizzy that she did not make any sense. We told him what happened and he called for a car with a stretcher on it, not an ambulance but a pickup with a stretcher on it. Well, we were not in a position to complain so we went with it. Eventually they showed up, we got her on the stretcher and drove back to the clinic. The doctor gave her a shot for the pain and examined while she is kind of struggling and not listening, I do my best to calm her down.
The doctor finally says that she clearly has injured her back and that it may be very serious. He continues to say that on the island that we currently are on, Koh Phangan, they have a MRI to examine her injury with but that on the neighboring island Koh Samui they have a much better MRI-machine. He asks me what I think that we should do, I tell him that I am just a drunk person and that he is the doctor, he recommends that we go to Samui because it will make us know for sure what kind of injury it is, but it will take time to go there.
I saw no need to discuss it, of course we go to Samui so that we know for sure. Said and done he booked a speed boat, I said farewell to the Finnish girl and french guy and stayed with the German girl to keep her company. Soon we were on the boat and I remember half sitting half standing trying to hold on to the boat with one hand and holding a drip with the other as we smash into the waves in the middle of the night being drunk yet still feeling the adrenaline. I remember that I thought to myself that I was handling shit damn good and that I would like to work with something like this. Then I remember that I am to weak to see blood or injuries so I decided to pursue another career.
On Koh Samui
Upon arrival on Samui we get into an ambulance that looks like something you could find in a museum compared to what I have seen in Sweden. But I am not complaining because the staff were excellent and we were soon in the hospital. That is when the adrenaline started to give out and things were sinking in for me, not for her because she kept saying that she was not injured. I felt sorry for her and wondered how she would feel when sobered up.
Sooner or later we got the see a doctor and they took her to the MRI. It all went by kind of quickly or maybe I was just so tired after not sleeping at all the previous night when we were on the bus, I can not sleep in moving vehicles. I started to feel hungover and shocked. Eventually they gave her a room and if you have ever been to Bangkok State Hospital in Thailand or some other place in Asia then you know that it is true when I saw that it was like a really nice hotel.
It sounds a bit sick to say so but it really was for me as I was not injured, I stayed there with her to keep her company as I could imagine it must suck a bit to be alone far away from home injured in a hospital bed not being allowed to walk because your back might be broken.
The tests came back and showed that she had broken two discs in her back. That sounds way less scary than when the doctor first said “Back broken, two time. Back broken.” while making a gesture of something snapping in two. They told her that she would have to see for how long she would stay in bed but that a minimum of five days was the only way to do it. So I stayed with her, we lived on food from 7/11 because the hospital food was very bad, there was a TV in the room that actually showed English speaking movies from time to time.
From there things actually went kind of smooth. She got better and better and she could walk after one week but she had to wear a backbrace for six months and she could not use her big backpack anymore. They told her to stop traveling but she did not. She sent her backpack home and bought one of those with wheels and she kept on traveling for a few months and finished her trip just as she had planned from the start. I find that kind of kick ass, way to go!
Anyway, as you can see in the title I mentioned insurance. Well she had one, luckily, and they payed ever single dime of her bill which landed on around 400k bath(11400$). So please, never ever go travel without insurance because you have no idea about what might happen. It is worth every penny that it costs.
So yeah, that was some of the craziest stuff that I have ever been a part of but I feel like a champ because I fixed that chaotic situation. And those paramedics and the staff in the hospital, they do that stuff every single day. They really are the true heros in society. Real life angels.
She left the hospital after seven days and we traveled together to Koh Lanta before splitting up as she was going north and I was heading to Malaysia. I am so happy and thankful for the fact that she recovered so well and even though it was a horrible situation it felt like having a sister, which I do not have, and as I said she kept on traveling.
You simply do not break germans so easily I guess. Jokes aside though, if you are reading this please know how happy I am that you have recovered. Stay strong!
If you are sensitive then maybe you should not watch this, it is not gruesome but it is not pleasant either. Here is the video of the bad landing that caused the injury. The last rider is the one getting injured so feel free to skip about a minute into the clip.
Other things that happened at that time
Two girls from Britain
While in the hospital we made contact with two other backpackers, two girls from Britain. They are amazing and super fun, really the nicest people you could think of but that is not the reason that I am writing about them. They actually experienced another example of why you should always have travel insurance.
They rented a quad and drove around on Samui, no problems with the driving until they are up on a hill going downwards. And the brakes stop working. Luckiyl the girl driving is smart enough to aim for a tree on the side of the road instead of going down the road where there is trafic coming.
Long story short they ended up paying even more than the girl from germany but since they had insurance everything was taken care of and they recovered remarkably well. I mean I have never ever seen anyone heal that fast except for maybe Wolverine.
So get travel insurance!
Another crazy thing that happened during that time was that when I was checking facebook I saw a friend posted pictures from.. Koh Samui. I was baffled. This was a girl from Thailand that had been studying to be a nurse in a exchange programme in my small home town in Sweden. We hanged out her last weeks in the country before her year was up and I thought that I would never get to see her again.
But as fate would have it she actually started working in that very same hospital two days after my friend emitted there. How crazy isnt that!?
That was all for this time, I can easily say that this was my longest blog post ever and it feels very good to put all of this in words. That really was a crazy situation but I think it was good that it happened during my first four days on my travel because after that everything just seemed less chaotic than that so it was easy to handle.’
Thank you for reading
Having been through this experience I actually feel a lot safer when I travel because my initial view of the hospitals in Asia was deemed wrong. As long as you have insurance you will hopefully be fine if something were to happen.
Last but not least: Thank you everyone, from the people at the party to the staff at the hospital, involved in helping my friend, I doubt that any of you will ever read this but hopefully this can somehow find its way to anyone of you. One good thing that came out of this whole situation was that I no longer worry to end up in a hospital in Thailand because I know that the staff is very qualified, competent and provides excellent care after seeing them work at Bangkok Hospital Samui.
Do not travel without insurance!
Thank you so much for reading, please like and share if you so wish! I like you even if you don’t! 🙂