A really crap few days

I’be been feeling pretty down for the last couple of days. I’d come to Chiang Mai for rest, and that’s exactly what I got. Boy did I need it. When I arrived my eyes were bloodshot and I could barely keep my eyes open for the first couple of days, but thankfully, my accommodation was the best backpackers that I’d had yet. I’d sprung for a single and for once this wasn’t taken as shoe a mattress in a broom cupboard and call it a single. In fact I liked it enough that I stayed two night more than I originally planned, staying on to take in a cookery school and flying down to Bangkok instead of the bus and train that I’d planned. This in hindsight was a mistake. Not because of the flight, not because of the cooking lesson, nor the accommodation . It was a mistake because that decision led to my camera being in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. In short, my camera was accidentally knocked to the ground and smashed.

I can’t describe how sickened I felt as I picked it up an saw the screen was destroyed.

If you know me, then you know that I view my cameras as tools. I’ve a couple, it’s a case o the right tool for the right job.
I don’t baby them, but I take damn good care of them.
Yet here was my tool an it was broken.
I didn’t shout, scream, lash out or anything so drastic.
How could I? It was a total accident. The guy that did it did not do it deliberately. He was apologetic, and I could see that it was sincere.
What good what getting mad do anyway? Would it fix it? Would it magic a new one out of thin air?

So all I could do was get back on with the cooking and try to enjoy myself.
The previous night I had seen a large electronics expo about 20 minutes from my hotel.
I went there after I got back from cooking and sort out a new camera.
I’d gone to the right place as this was electronics heaven. Every single type of computer, tv, home cinema equipment could be got there.
It had more camera models than I’ve ever seen in one place before.
I know going in that I was really only looking at one of three models – a direct replacement, a Panasonic GX1, or whatever the top end PEN is now.
I ended up buying another OMD. It wasn’t really a choice. I’d done my research when I bought it originally and it was everything that I wanted in a camera.
It’s Just a bitch that it happens to be the most expensive m4/3 model out there. I could have bought cheaper but I’d have been cheating myself as Photography is pretty much my passion and I couldn’t imagine doing the rest of the trip with a lesser camera.
Is it worth it? I don’t know. I know that I felt sick as I handed my debit card over, and I know I still feel sick about it now.
I’ll let those that view the photos decide if I’m wasting my time and money or not when it comes to what I produce.
There was an abject lesson in why you don’t ignore customers when I bought the camera.
I’d been trying and failing to attract the attention of a salesman. But he kept intentionally blanking me in order to go and stand near three teenage girls that were playing with a nearby display model. Not assisting them, or talking to them… just standing and watching. Eventually a woman from the stand opposite noticed this and came over and asked if I wanted help. When I told her what I wanted she actually let out a giggle and did a little dance.
“Let me guess. You’re on commission?”


The bloke that had been blanking me overheard this and then came rushing over to see “if there was anything else I wanted”.
Buying electronics here isn’t as simple as pay the money, get the product, walk away. No, the amount of paperwork to be done makes you feel like you are buying a car on credit.

The woman then spent nearly 20 minutes getting the camera.

When she came back she handed me a both for a small cheap point n’ shoot. This wasn’t an OMD by a long shot.

“What’s this…?” “For you.”

“I’m not buying anything else.”

“Its free”

With that she also handed me a small tripod, 2 memory card – one 4GB, one 16GB, a mobile phone and weirdly a plastic tissue box holder with fake silver detailing.

The tissue box holder and tripod were ‘donated’ to my hostel. The memory cards have joined my collection and the camera and phone are in my rucksack
It was all very odd.

So I’m now back where I was originally camera-wise, but significantly lighter in the pocket as it was no cheaper than purchasing at home.

The thought of this makes me angry. There is no point in being angry, but right now I can’t help it.
The next morning I flew down to Bangkok, and took a taxi to my hotel.

I’d decided to stay in an actual hotel for a couple of nights rather than a guesthouse to get a little comfort for a couple of days. However, I really don’t like this hotel.
What don’t I like? Well, the food here is the worst that I’ve had in Asia and there is nothing else around at all. Not even a minimart. It claims to have a business centre, but when I asked where it was as I need to print my Cambodian visa, I was told they don’t have printer. I went to use the pool and spa. It’s closed, and had remained closed for the entire time I’ve been here.
Then to top it all off, the staff – with the exception of a cleaner that is on my floor – have been universally rude and unhelpful. One of those places that gives you the impression that they feel they are reluctantly doing you a huge favour instead of their job.

In its favour the room is clean and very comfortable.

I went for a massage at a nearby place – in fact the other business I’ve seen nearby. That turned out to be more of a sexual assault than a massage. The masseur was a man, nothing unusual there. For the most part it was very normal, right up until moment that the moment when as I was on my front, that he whipped the towel covering my privates away and then shall, we say ‘cupped’ me. I pushed his hand away, and said “no” at this point still going with ‘cultural misunderstanding’ and prepared to write it off by telling him to skip that part (no pun intended) and move on to the next stage. Instead, he then said “shh, its OK” in what at the time sounded creepy, and with hindsight sounded very fucking creepy and then grabbed my balls with one hand and my penis with the other.
Now whoever is reading this, may start saying “if that was me I’d have punched the fucker” or some other threat of violence. I’d probably have said the same thing as well.
Which is why I’m bloody surprised I didn’t.

What I did do, was push his hands away and say very firmly “I said no, and now we’re finished”, then get up and begin to get dressed.
There is very little dignity to be mustered whilst trying to clothe yourself quickly, as a masseur – who now looking at for the first time, noticed to have glitter in his hair, pink highlights and his fringe pulled up and tied in a tiny little finger-sized pony tail, is frantically wiping your arse cheeks and back with a towel as you are pulling on your boxers whilst telling you that ‘its normal’.

I’ve been in Asia three months, 7 different countries and now had quite a few massages.
That wasn’t normal.

I finished dressing and left, amazingly as I walked out the door the guy came running up and handed me a 20% discount card and told me I was welcome to come and see him any time I wanted!
I won’t be going back.

Again, a few people reading may generally be thinking along the lines of ‘fuck, Nez… just fuck’, and ‘why are you writing this’.

Well as I’ve written before, this travelogue (I still don’t want to call it a ‘blog’ as it sounds cheap) is about the good and and the bad.

I’d never in a million years have guessed that my reaction in that situation would be a calm and sensible one – just take control and walk away.
But it really hasn’t helped my mood.
Later that evening I had an e-mail from my mother asking me to get in touch.
I called her in what was the small hours of the morning here and was given the news that her brother, my uncle had died that morning.

I’m not close to my family. I never have been, and I don’t think that I’ve seen nearly all of them since my grandmothers funeral some years ago. But it is still sad news and obviously something you’d have preferred not to have happened.
But it does put things in perspective. Kevin would have been 54 or 55. That sounds awfully young. It makes things like the camera and the dodgy massage place sound like the small roadbeds along the way that they really are.
I’m still surprised by my own reactions to all three situations. All three were calm and collected. I’m seemingly wound up by small annoyances and they seem to provoke more of a reaction than the big things. I do worry that it might all be getting bottled up and the cork may pop at some time. However, I do hope that isn’t the case.

I’ve another day in Bangkok in which I’m leaving the city and heading out to Ayutthaya to see some of the temples. Then whilst still in Bangkok I meet up with the group that I’m heading into Cambodia with. I really, really hope its a good dynamic with this group and after some of the shit with the last one, I’m more apprehensive about joining this one than at any other stage of the journey so far.
But its also the first new country in a while, and in a couple of days I’ll be seeing Ankor – something I’ve dreamt of since the moment this trip was planned, and a place I fervently hope likes up to my expectations.

So, its fair to say that the trips taken a bit of a downturn in the last couple of weeks. But on an adventure this long, that was always to be expected. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect every day to be fantastic, and there were always going to be bad ones. Its just a unfortunate that a few have come so close together, but I’m sure it’ll turn around again just as quickly.

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