“That’s the last time I ever do that” I said to myself with a laugh. We’ve all said that more than once or twice but this time I really meant it. Let me start from the beginning…
I’d just finished mountain biking to the top of Koh Samui near Ban Thea Thai this particularly sunny, a very beautiful hot day and was in the process of sitting down to eat my lunch. This is an area that’s been cleared and there’s a lookout shelter for tourists to stand under to gaze out over the lush green landscape towards Koh Phangan. I’ve cycled up to this spot twice a week for the last six months so I’m familiar with the comings and goings of the area.
So on this ordinary day I was a bit surprised to see an old Thai man come running out of the bushy area below my luncheon spot waving his arms around his head. I stared for a second and then started laughing since the scene looked so comical, his arms and legs doing the Watusi, but I could not see what he was swatting at.
Suddenly I realized he was running right towards me. He jumped up onto the lookout shelter I was planning to have my lunch on, and only then I realized what the brouhaha was about… BEES! Asiatic Honey Bees! Big n’ black with yellow racing stripes. With a loud profanity, I too joined in the old man’s ridiculous looking charade of arms and legs doing the Monster Mash. The bees were everywhere and explosively all at once. If you opened your mouth to yell “ouch!” and every other expletive you can imagine, they would fly in. The bees were all over us stinging every conceivable body part they could find with the vengeance of a cheated taxman…or a really pissed off bar girl.
There was only one thing to do. RUN! We both took off, but not in a particularly straight line…more like the zig zagging type one does to evade sniper bullets. I must have done every Michael Jackson move with some Elvis and the Minister of Silly walks thrown in as I was driven from my once peaceful lunch spot. I’m sure the old man did every dance move known to him as well, but I wasn’t stopping to take notes.
We ran about 50 meters towards some shacks in the bush which turned out to be the old man’s. Bees right “bee-hind” us, of course. By now panic started to set in because there’s absolutely no way to get rid of the little beasts. Imagine getting an injection by some un-sympathetic nurse. This nurse instead of stopping when you ask, is just smiling away while stabbing you with that thin pointy needle over and over and over again. You really want to hide or instantly transport yourself to some happy place to stop that pain, but you can’t. The brain really does switch to instinct. You’re not thinking at this point. Just re-acting.
Luckily for us both the old man’s Jeep was parked next to his shack. He’s also lucky that I spent a lot of my youth watching TV, especially the crappy disaster movies that entertained us and seemed so real at the time. One such movie was named “SWARM!” I instantly remembered how the stricken heroes outsmarted the tiny hairy human killing machines, by hiding in a Volkswagen Beetle. Well, we didn’t have a Bug, but the Jeep would do. So inside we both climbed all the while doing our favorite moves from our respective dancers. What a sight we must have been inside that cramped and very hot Jeep…an old Thai man trying to start the thing up and a big blond farang beating the daylights out of every hairy, stabbing smiling nurse around.
After what seemed like an eternity he finally got the thing started and the old engine coughed and sputtered to life. However, we weren’t out of the woods yet…the clever, sadistic little buggers found a way inside the sweltering hot vehicle as the old man’s windows had not been closed properly. They continued an all out assault in what I had wrongly perceived as our sanctuary and salvation. By now my shoulders were aching and burning from squashing, hammering, bashing, mashing… you name it, I was doing it. I tried to shut the window but, you guessed it. The window’s roller arm was broken off and missing. The old man started yelling at me in Thai and I didn’t need a translator to decipher what he was screeching. I started swatting him from head to toe to alleviate his needless suffering. Our fallen hyper-aggressive foes littered the floorboards around our swollen stamping feet.
To give him credit for his advanced years he turned that Jeep around and made a bee line (yes, pun intended) in no time at all. Freedom on the horizon was looming through a hazy bee-filled windshield, but it was not over yet. I started to hear a girl screaming and the sound was coming from the old man’s shack. He stopped the Jeep just outside the ramshackle structure and the door of the shack flew open. A young Thai girl along with a Thai man both ran outside screaming their heads off and jumped into the back of the open, revved up, bee-covered getaway car. Both of them were covered from head to toe with tiny pissed off Mike Tysons.
There was no time to waste. With pedal to the metal the old man kicked in the dormant horsepower of that old Coconut four banger and off we sped down the bumpy dusty road, everyone’s arms and legs doing the Mambo # 5 at warp speed.
We passed my peaceful luncheon area and saw that three truckloads of Safari Tourist Daredevils had just arrived and the clueless visitors were peacefully snapping pictures of their tiny hotels far below. Perhaps they were also pondering why someone left a perfectly good lunch next to a perfectly good bike up here in the jungle. As we drove past them I managed to inch open my side passenger window as we flew by and bellow “Runnnnn!”, BEEEEES!!!” But all I got back were stares of disbelief.
Leaving the tourists to their fate and driving for at least another 100 meters, the old man finally brought the jeep to rest. We were all panting and sweating, wide-eyed and hopped up on adrenaline. I jumped out of the Jeep and pointed down the stringy mountain road towards Lamai and kept hollering “Hospital!” for I knew the little girl could be in trouble. All the stingers were still clearly visible on her exposed arms and legs and she was crying in pain. Then, just like that, the old man and his banged up Jeep drove off and the dust cloud finally settled, and I was alone. It was over.
I eventually did go back for my bike, of course. The once chaotic luncheon area had now returned to it’s placid self. I cycled home and pulled out sixty stingers and two hours later in the shower I pulled out at least fifteen more. I had a friend pull the ones out from areas I could not reach. My hat had at least forty. I’m leaving them in for the naysayer and bragging rights and as a reminder of this crazy episode.
This week I’ll resume my bike rides up the Koh Samui mountain and see how the old man and his young friends made out. I’ve learned that bees are to be respected and admired. I’ve since read up a lot about them on the internet. The Asiatic Honey bee can be very aggressive when their hive is disturbed, which, I’m assuming is what the old man inadvertently did. They will pursue and sting at will for over half a mile. Some, like the ones that hit us will even go further. The only way to get rid of them is to run, and run very fast. I read that swatting them is no good but how can one not? So use your discretion. Do not stop drop and roll. If you get stung and your throat starts to swell up or you have trouble breathing, SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION right away because you are most likely having a sever allergic reaction. According to one website a large adult man can sustain up to one thousand bee stings without problems. So that means ten bee stings per pound. I’m two hundred pounds so I got off easy with about eighty to one hundred stings.
So….what did I learn after all this drama?
That if I ever see an old Thai man running out of the woods with arms and legs doing The Land of a thousand Dances, I will never again just sit there, and laugh. I will run, and run very fast.
Yikes, 80+ stings? That must have hurt like crazy!