“Why the hell are you still in Chiang Mai” was the question asked by many ardent travellers. That’s a fair inquiry. I see travellers come and go here all the time, none of them stay longer than two weeks max and when asked this question – I was approaching the four months mark.
Why aren’t you writing any posts? Have you got married to a lady boy? Also a fair question (although chicks with dicks is not my bag). However, my online absence was bound to get friends and family wondering why. Why the silence? Why go on an epic, indefinite around the world journey, only to drop off the radar and not provide any magical content to my blog. My obsession. My baby. Why, oh why?
Well, I didn’t fall in love with Chiang Mai so much that I wanted to stay here for so long and I didn’t wed a girl-dude. But what did ‘happen’ proved to be one of the most emotionally draining and self-defining moments of my life to date. Sit tightly, go grab your favourite beverage and I’ll tell you the story of one mans battle against himself, the odds…and a spontaneous boner!
Langkawi wasn’t what I expected, nor needed. It was no where near as cheap as my friend made out, I was losing money fast and advertisers seemed extinct over the Christmas period and internet connection on the island was frustratingly crappy. I had a lot of negative shit on my mind and like most people from my nation – I tried to drink my problems away. I was living on a duty-free island and I literally got hammered every night, forging shallow relationships that weren’t remembered in the morning. More importantly – I just wasn’t happy. Far from it – I was lost and didn’t like the person I was becoming.
One hungover morning, I decided to take ‘the mirror test’. I invented it a couple of months beforehand and it proved to be golden. Basically, I make piercing eye contact with myself in the mirror and honestly ask – the man staring back at me; do I like him? Would I like him as a friend? Is he a man of integrity, a man of his word? Does his actions meet his beliefs and values? Is there more he could be doing to make life better? Is he living the life he wants?
There’s no bullshit involved when you take the mirror test and the hypothesis was bleak; I hated the man staring back at me. He was throwing away his golden ticket that he’d worked so hard to get and even worse – he felt sorry for himself and was taking no action.
“Enough of this shit” I thought. I looked back at the man in the mirror and I decided that this was my Rocky Balboa moment. My very own Phoenix from the flames. The twinkle in the eye returned, I meant business. And so, I announced from a duty-free island; Six Months of Abstinence from alcohol. I then concluded that I needed to get the hell out of Langkawi, move to a cheaper place and somehow (completely unknown to myself) find a way of making money.
After talking to Kirsty and Poi about a place in Thailand where you can pick up apartments for £120 per month – my mind was made up and before you knew it, I became a Chiang Mai resident. Fast forward to Christmas day and a weird lump started forming on the inside of my bottom lip. I had been punched in Muay Thai training the week before, so I assumed it was because of that and just ignored it – until New Years Eve – where the lump doubled in size.
I was SO self-conscious, but still went out and decided to go straight to the Doctors in the morning. The Doctor took one look at it and then pulled out a scalpel. “you’re taking it off, now” I asked, trying not to sound too wimpy. “Yes” he casually replied, “might hurt a bit.” Doc then hovered over me with a wet snot dangling out of his nose, I thought “I hope to God he wipes his nose” – nope! Snotted on my cheek while he cut off my ugly lump, blood squirting all over. I’ve never felt sexier.
As weird and painful as all that was, I felt incredibly relieved. That was until 10 days later, when the lump returned even bigger than the last time. What the fuck? I didn’t waste any time and went to A and E – which turned out to be a good move. After keeping the Doctor up to date with the chronology of events, he sat me down and softly told me that the GP made an error and that I should have been referred to him – he was a plastic surgeon!
I asked a million questions, but he told me he couldn’t tell me anything until he’d removed my lump and studied it. The one question he answered was about permanent damage. I asked if there could be any to my lip and he said the chances were probable. My heart sank. I’m not known for having rippling biceps, rarely buttered up for any come-to-bed eyes. But one thing that female of the species have consistently complimented me on – is my lips. And here I was, being told that my weapons of mass seduction (baahahaha) were about to be potentially ruined in the morning. Bad times.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I never envisaged that I’d ever have, or need plastic surgery in my lifetime and didn’t know what to expect.
So there I was, in my hospital gown and cap and lying on the operating bed, desperately seeking a distraction. My first observation of Thai hospitals being the fact that the nurses outfits are way sexier than British nurses ensemble. They hug the body tight and have buttons going up the side of the dress, nice. I thought I was in a real life FHM magazine at one point. The doctor shot something cold into my veins and the last thing I remember is him asking me if I was related to the Princess (my surname is Middleton) and I drifted out of consciousness…
…I woke up, staring at the ceiling – feeling dopey, confused, in pain and extremely giggly. I sat up and the nurse asked me if I was ok. I asked her how long I’d been there, she told me I’d been sleeping three hours and I replied by bursting out laughing in her face. She kept asking me if I was ok and informing me that I really should lie down for one more hour.
I proceeded to stubbornly ignore her, sit back up in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. My lip ached every time I laughed, but whatever I was given to put me to sleep made me extremely giddy. “I’m fine” I announced and told her and her fellow nursing staff that I wanted to stand up and go home. I persisted and they finally agreed.
But I had ummmm…a problem. What happens to a man when he first wakes up? Any women who has had the pleasure of being ‘little spoon’ and waking up beside our fine creatures, will know only too well what I’m talking about. Yup, I had morning glory – loud and proud and it wasn’t going anywhere, but up. I don’t get embarrassed, but I thought I’d spare the ladies blushes and not show off my angry manhood. However, it was too late and one nurse pulled back my blanket and sat me up. She did a terrible job at hiding her awkwardness with her umm, ‘finding’ but then told me I should maybe lie down until I felt ‘better.’
One hour later and my uninvited friend had calmed himself down and the Doc came to give me a briefing of the operation. First he told me, with a smile on his face about my behaviour during anesthetic. Apparently, during surgery I:
. Hummed the Thai national anthem.
. Excitedly commentated on football and shouted “gooooooooooal” three times. Newcastle had thrashed Manchester United 3-0 the day before, so that made perfect sense.
. Told the two female nurses that they should fight to the death, for my phone number.
. Giggled as they cut into my mouth.
I have literally no recollection of any of this. Doc then showed me my face in the mirror, my lip was pretty messed up and to say I was worried would be an understatement. My anxiety grew even more when he told me he’ll see me next week for my SECOND operation. Second? Huh? Things got a little lost in translation, but apparently there was another lump beside by first lump and it would take a more complex operation to remove.
The hospital escort helped my wobbly self to the cashier and I had to pay a whopping £700! ($1100). It would have cost loads more in the UK for such an operation, but my hemorrhaging bank funds had me anxious. I couldn’t afford the second operation and so I discussed this with the very helpful staff, the outcome being if I wanted a cheaper operation the second time around – I’d have to go under the knife without being put to sleep.
I had no other option, and paid for my 2nd operation of plastic surgery. Fast forward a week later and I’m lying on the same hospital bed, with a numb mouth and a mask over my face with a peep-hole. My mouth clamped open, watching the Doc and nurses cut into my mouth, fearing for my vanity. It was about as comfortable as it sounds. I thought of my beloved cousin who went through multiple brain operations and staunchly kept telling myself to man the fuck up and suck it in.
But then, the mood of the room changed. I may not be fluent in Thai, but I am intuitive enough and I noticed that the Doctor and his staff had found something in my mouth that made them concerned. Of course, I couldn’t ask anything as my gob was clamped open, so I had to wait until they were done – 90 minutes of agonising waiting.
When I got all cleaned up, the Doctor asked me to follow him into his room. Ever since I met him, he acted in a jovial and mischievous way – but he looked very serious and it worried me. He sat me down and said, “You have a tumor that has been growing in your mouth, we have to wait and see if it will grow back, or not.” Everything seemed to slow down around me and I couldn’t find anything intelligent enough to say, other than; “can I see it?”
*I even considered putting photos on here of the actual lump on my mouth, but figured it lacked class*
Sound insane, but I was so curious. Doc obliged and showed me – it was about half the size of a squash ball and I couldn’t believe it had been in my mouth for so long, no wonder I was in so much pain. I then asked “what KIND of tumor is it?” The Doctor told me that he wouldn’t know until the biopsy had taken place in nine days and told me to return then to “see if I had the mouth cancer.” Not the greatest bedside manners, but I think it was just a translation thing.
I walked home trying to decipher all of the recent information, while trying to work out my emotions. Was I sad? Scared? Not at all, but I think I was in a complete state of shock. The following nights I didn’t sleep at all and it all crept upon me out of nowhere. Something I thought that I never was and have been proud of not being – needy. Mr independent, I’m the king of my own world, new explorer extraordinaire was stripped down to the bare bones of humanity – and all I wanted was a hug.
This was the first time I felt lonely on the road. There’s something to be said about a proper hug and when I have problems back at home, I can deal with them but a cuddle from a loved one does go a long way. It’s not sexual when pets like to be petted. Dogs and cats need affection, to know they are loved and supported – humans are no different.
Mr Needy told a select few travel friends about the situation, but refrained from telling too many loved ones back home, at first. I carried on outside of my place with my best poker face, I made people laugh in groups, I made out everything was fine and that my life was a beautiful musical and every time I returned to my bedroom, I dropped the mask and felt completely miserable, drained and broken (and so fucking needy). One day when Skyping with my Mother, she asked me what was up. I told her nothing, but she persisted. You can bullshit the world, but you can’t bullshit your own Mam!
After coming clean to my Mother, I checked my bank account and seen I had only $229 left in the bank and hadn’t made any money in months (I also have no return ticket). I looked in the mirror at my mangled lips and sorry eyes and decided I fancied another Rocky Balboa moment. I had an idea that I had flirted with in my head for a few weeks, with regards to how to make a lot of cash and decided that I would move mountains and stay up for 2-3 days solid until the ball was rolling. I went downstairs and handed my landlady $200 for one more months rent; leaving only $29 to my name.
I stayed up for the next 72 hours, hustling and emailing the living shit out of people with my new idea (no, I’m not telling you what it was mwahaha). Every time I stopped – I felt needy and sad. So I just ploughed into my work for a distraction and by the end of the week – I made $5k! Before that, my personal best in a month was $1050. A Rocky Balboa moment indeed! But I still wasn’t completely happy. What’s the point in having money, if you don’t have health and happiness?
Judgement day came and I sat in the Doctors waiting room, waiting for the results of the biopsy. My name got called out and my hands were sweating. I had an awful feeling in my stomach which was probably acid, as I had barely ate since my negative state of mind. Also, it hurt to open my mouth, I just lived on chocolate and sipped tea from a straw!
As I entered, Doc was smiling and joking which I knew was a great sign. He told me that everything was ok, I did not have mouth cancer and that my freakish tumor was the biggest he’d seen in a mouth in 25 years of practicing medicine. I could have kissed him. The relief was so beautiful that I felt like crying, but I didn’t want to make it weird. It could have happened anywhere in the world at any time, but I just so happened to get a tumor when I left for my round the world adventure! Me and Doc exchanged emails as he told me he wants a photo of me swimming with whale sharks in Indonesia However, I was put under strict orders to stay in Chiang Mai until he is happy with my healing, which is now 100%. You can’t even tell I’ve had an operation on my lip – those guys at Chiang Mai RAM Hospital are amazing, the hospital is clean and of course the Thai smiles come as part of the package.
My appetite returned instantly and I stopped by the hospital restaurant for a celebratory meal. Life seemed a lot more colourful and I started noticing the charms that I had ignored in my misery. As I stood up, a girl chose the seat opposite me. Her eyes were grey with a hint of green, which suited her fair complexion perfectly. She had the potential to be so beautiful if she smiled, but she was obviously hurting on an emotional level.
“Are you ok” I asked, just assuming she spoke English. She replied in an Australian accent and told me that she is travelling with her Father who has heart problems and he’d had some kind of attack today. He was stable, but she was worried, rightly so. A tear ran down her cheek as she explained how she couldn’t get in touch with her Mam back home and what was supposed to be a Father/Daughter bonding, had turned into an emotional nightmare. There’s nothing I could say to make her worries lessen and without thinking, I asked; would you like a hug?”
Without even a hint of delay, she replied “yes, I would love one actually. Thank you” And there it was – the almighty hug in all of its glory. You can read all of the positive quotes in the world, but nothing says “you are not alone” like a proper cuddle! Humans thrive on touch and often suffer without it. A hug can break down barriers that no words can.
I just wanted to share this crazy moment in my life. One that I felt stripped me from all of the bullshit and asked me to reveal myself as the person I am and asked me to grow against the odds. I’m leaving here in one week and onto the next chapter. Chiang Mai will always be special to me – for the weirdest of reasons.