Slit Throat & Sang Thip Whiskey: Climbing in Thailand

Once upon a time, in the land of smiles, I found myself in a rather peculiar situation while sipping a Sang Thip at a beachside bar in Phra Nang, Thailand. The sun was setting, and the tranquil waves danced to the rhythm of the Phra Nang's laid-back dirt bag climber lifestyle. Little did I know that things were about to get a tad more exciting than I had anticipated.

As I leaned back in my rickety bamboo chair at Ya Ya's Bar, I noticed a frantic woman zig-zagging through the bar, like a panicked pinball ricocheting off patrons. She was talking to people urgently, her wild gestures suggesting that something was amiss. Intrigued, I leaned in to eavesdrop, and it didn't take long for her to approach our table.

Wide-eyed and possibly drunk, she looked me straight in the eyes and asked, "Do you know first aid?" in a french accent.

I blinked in surprise, wondering if my clumsy attempts at mimicking the local dance moves had made me look like a seasoned medical professional. Nevertheless, I nodded, and she grabbed my hand without waiting for any further confirmation.  Joanie from the climbing shop fetched me a first aid kit quickly, smiled and said, "Good Luck".

As we hurried through the narrow paths lined with palm trees and glowing lanterns, she told me the grim news. Her friend's throat had been cut nearly 20 minutes ago. My night had just taken an unexpected detour into the realm of a Tarantino film.   The answer to the question of how this happended was that he fell and his throat was cut on a broken bottle that was laying in the sand.  Immediatley I tried to picture what such a wound would look like and what are the odds?

We arrived at a dimly lit, slightly upscale, two room bungalow, and I entered cautiously.  A man was laying motionless on a bed, wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. A woman knelt beside him, her trembling hands pressing a large white towel against his neck.  The room was filled with a motley crew of other drunk party-people from around the world, and one girl was sobbing uncontrollably in a corner.

I approached the injured man, who looked remarkably calm and composed, considering the circumstances. He managed a weak smile and whispered, "Close call, huh?"

I asked the room in general, "Who saw how his neck was cut?"  No answer.  "Was there blood spraying out his neck, or was it seeping out?"  No answer.  "I addressed the woman holding the towel against his neck directly, "When you put the towel on his neck, was blood squirting out?"  No she said.  The victim finally spoke up and concurred that there was no arterial spray when the "accident" occured.  I double checked by giving a visual representation of what spraying blood would look like.   Closer inspection of the towel showed zero blood whatsoever.  What was going on here I pondered.  What have I just volunteered myself into?

From a first-aid perspective, my next request was most likely suspect, but this whole situation was suspect!  I told the woman holding the towel that I wanted her to very slowly move the towel away so I could see the cut.  I changed my position to avoid potential spraying blood.  Whatever super-insanely-sharp-cutting-instrument had been used on his neck to create the two perfectly straight 30 mm long and parrallell cuts had missed his jugular vein by millimeters.  One of the surgical-style slices was open enough that I could see his jugular pulsing.  "You can put the towel back on", I said.

I did my best to stay unalarmed, recommending stitches for his unfortunate neck decoration and excused myself as quickly as I could.  I hastily made my exit, giving a last glance at the surreal scene in that bungalow.   I was at Phra Nang climbing for another month, but never saw anyone that was in that bungalow again.  

rapping ao nang tower

Rapping off Ao Nang Tower in 1996

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