After 8 weeks overseas, I finally came back home a few days ago. The 23 hour flight from Prague to Singapore via Dubai and Colombo was excruciating. I am not a fan of long haul flights, especially when you have lengthy layovers at various airports. The two weeks I spent in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin and Prague were some of the most remarkable places I have ever been to. I gained a lot of experiences. That goes without saying that experiences tend to be both good and bad.
One of the worst experiences I had while I traveled around Europe was when I was a victim of theft. And not just any theft. An opportunist saw me being utterly stupid, aloof and complacent about my general safety, security and well-being which led to my loss of my backpack. That backpack contained a few items of value, notably my SGD1499 DSLR. I was devastated when I realized that my bag was gone, when all I did was taking a rest in a quaint little Starbucks cafe after a hard day’s walk around beautiful Amsterdam.
To the best of my memory of that awful incident, here is what happened:
It was the final full day in Amsterdam. We had planned to head to Hamburg the following day. We planned to spend only 3 days in that beautiful city, so we decided to make full use of the remaining time that we had. The previous two days, we walked a lot and explored a lot of the city itself. We visited museums of various sorts, walk through their famous red light district and walk along famous canals and identifying historic buildings based on the travel guidebook that we had. It was a beautiful day. It didn’t rained at all and it was perfect for a long walk around the city.
We were tired by the time it was mid afternoon, the general fatigue was starting to set in. So we decided to take a break and found a nice little Starbucks cafe that we could sit and relax for a bit. We planned to use that time not only to relax, but to re-orientate where we were and to find out if there were any places of interest that we might head to, around Starbucks cafe that we were currently at.
So off we entered the cafe. It was nice, cosy, just like any other Starbucks cafe expected out from it. We found two seats. Two high chairs and a table. So we head to the empty seats and I immediately plunked down my bag on my left on the floor. I was facing the windows of the cafe, overlooking the streets, watching people idly walking by, doing their business. The counter was directly behind me. My friend who was with me on the trip, sat opposite of me slightly to my left, facing the counter. He started taking out his iPad from his bag, tapped onto the free wireless service that usually comes from being in the Starbucks cafe, and immediately used it for Facebook and Google maps.
We didn’t order anything, simply sat there for at least 15 minutes. We were meant to just take a rest before heading out again. I remember there was a queue forming on my left towards the counter. So you can imagine the people going past me on my left all the time, slowly inching their way to the counter, patiently waiting for their turn to make an order. I didn’t mind too much about who goes past me on my left. I was a little tired, My mind was idling away, watching people walking by, doing their own things. I was pretty sure, it didnt last more than 10 to 15 minutes when my friend was ready to go and head out, after figuring where we were, and finding some places of interest that we might visit.
When I got up from my high chair, I started to look around for my bag. I was certain that I placed it on my left. But I couldn’t find it. Soon after, I realized that it was gone. I began to feel frantic. I asked my friend if he had seen my bag. He said no. I walked around quietly around the cafe, several times to see if there was a bag lying around. I couldn’t find it. That was when I realised that my bag was stolen. At that moment when I realised that my bag was gone for good, a sense of devastation and dread sank to the deepest corners of my heart. It was an awful feeling. I asked the manager of Starbucks if they had seen any bags lying around or if they are in possession of a lost bag lying around. He shook his head. I told him that my bag was lost and somebody may have taken it. He was sympathetic. He apologised to me but told me there was nothing much he could do about it. I realised there were security cameras placed in the cafe, but then again, it was futile, they may have an ID on the person, but it was useless if you can’t find him.
He directed me to the nearest police station so that I could make a police report. Ironically, it was just down the street where I was. I knew the drills when a crisis such as this happened. There was no used in being frantic and making a scene. It would not cause my bag to magically appear out of thin air. I reached the police station and approached the female police officer at the counter and told her that I was a victim of theft. She calmly went through the procedures with me for making a police report. I wrote down everything that I could remember, including what happened, the time of incident, and the items that were in the bag. The whole thing took about 30 minutes or so. The police officer at the counter kindly gave me a copy of the police report (in dutch). I walked out of the police station, looked up at the sky, and closed my eyes for a while. Never felt so stupid in my life. I was utterly stupid. I deserved to be called stupid on that day. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It was like all the stupidity in the world zeroed down on me.
The good news is that, most of my photos of my experiences in Tunisia prior to arriving in Amsterdam were uploaded on my notebook in my luggage.
The bad news is that, there were a few photos, during the last few days in Tunisia that were NOT uploaded and were forever lost. What’s worse, is that those photos, were, personally, some of my most important and cherished ones. I was very sad not because I lost my bag, but because those photos were lost forever.
I wasn’t too concerned about losing those items. Yes it was devastating, but I had a comprehensive travel insurance that, apart from accidental and medical coverage overseas, the insurance that I had also covers incidents such as theft, airplane delay, terrorism and hijack. And I know what to do, to get myself insured at least when such incidents happened (I took the effort to read the policy before I traveled) So while I had lost those things, I was still safe and sound. That is all that matters. But I looked back at the photos that I lost and I just couldn’t help it but be emotional about it. 😦