Happy to report that I’m shuffling further and further out of my post-surgery hole. It’s not fast, it’s not elegant, but I’m getting there.

I had this idea that I would just wake up from the general anaesthetic and get back to work (albeit with a slightly non-functional leg), but apparently it doesn’t always go like that. Apparently getting put to sleep and sliced and diced is a bit hard on body and mind? Who knew.

As you might have noticed, I was feeling pretty ordinary about five to seven days out from the surgery. I’d run out of energy to keep pretending to be happy whilst in pain, and the fact that everything always seemed to be just out of arm’s reach began to move me to tears of existential despair. 

Fortunately, this state seems to have ended as quickly as it started. I’ve hobbled to the beach, practised trying to use crutches in sand (suboptimal), and perfected the art of balancing sidesaddle on the back of a moto taxi, crutches in hand, leg in the air. 

I’m in the seaside town of Vung Tau now, which is the closest beach town to Saigon. It gets super busy with sandy city people barbecuing seafood and eating icecream on the weekends, and on the weekdays it descends into sunny somnolence. There is a brisk sea breeze blowing all the time, keeping the air clear and fresh in spite of the sun’s heat.

Blue skies and good air quality in Vung Tau on the South China Sea.
Back Beach, Vung Tau.

In this respect, I am counting my blessings: reports from Chiang Mai are that the Burning Season has really taken off this year. The hills are on fire, the air is full of smoke, and I feel vindicated in my choice to refuse to sell tours at this time of the year. You’ll just get heatstroke and have a horrible time in April: come back after the rains fall next month and we plunge back into a lush green enduro dream.

Enduro bikes in green jungle with clear skies near Chiang Mai Thailand
Rainy season, the way it should be.

Typically, the lucky and the monied migrate south to the islands for a few weeks at this time of year. Back in 2021, I went for a 4 day idyll on the beaches of Koh Lipe but quickly scuttled back to my motorbikes in the north, smoke or no smoke.

While Chiang Mai burns, air quality is good down south in the islands.
Escaping the smoke in Koh Lipe.

Chiang Mai feels like home, even in its least beautiful season, and I’m happy enough to be there and lie low in the mountains at this time of year. But life is full of surprises, and this year’s surprise is that I’ll be spending the Burning Season under blue skies beside the South China Sea. 

Much to my regret, I am not allowed to frolic in water for another two weeks due to my seven stitches, so my experience of the sea this time is going to be spectator-only. This is a little disappointing, as I love few things better than to hover in deep coral gardens on a breath hold. It’s as close to mindfulness as I get without burning hydrocarbons. 

But there’s another very important reason for me to come to the sea: I need to pay the nurse in seafood.

I inveigled P’Lah into accompanying me with the promise of tourism, but in reality his first trip to Vietnam has featured more caring responsibilities than most holidays ought to have. Fortunately, though, he’s perennially serene – and easily bribed with fresh seafood.

So he’s out enjoying the seafood markets while I practise crutch-hobbling through tiny spaces in this shiny, but ultra compact hotel room.

We’re here until 13 April until my mobility and leg-bending skills improve enough to shoe-horn me into an economy airline seat for the flight home to Thailand. 

Tomorrow, we will move to a more spacious apartment and on Monday, I get my stitches out. Every day I do two 45 minute exercise sessions to strengthen my knee; I go out for food once a day and rest afterwards like a delicate flower. The remainder is all online: business admin, life admin, adventure admin. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in making a life based on riding around in the jungle like an idiot, but what can I say – it’s totally worth it.

2 thoughts on “Blue Sky Convalescence

  1. Gareth McGrillan says:

    Great to see you on the upside of this event. In time, it’ll soon be forgotten when you are hauling dirtbikes up the mountainside with ease!

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