Published on November 24th, 201210
ROBBED in Vietnam! (a.k.a. Thanksgiving Foolishness)
Lots ‘n LOTS of tales to tell about my adventures skipping ’round Oz. But now that I’m back in my (very own) little kitchen here in dear, dear, beautiful, magical (didImention-I-adore?) Dalat, happily sipping my (very own) morning coffee (pure, traditional Vietnamese style, water dripping through the grounds in that bitty silver thingy, down into a dollop of sweet condensed milk), a little “Thanksgiving” tale is in order – that happened at the tail-end (homophone intended) of my trip.
In a word: I was ROBBED!
Yup, veteran nomad traveler, got taken royally in the final hour of her near month-long trip – right here on her “home” turf, in Vietnam.
The recap: I was stupid. Disembarked at the HCMC airport, and wheeled my little carry-on backpack to the street and hailed a xe om (motorbike taxi) ‘cuz I’m A. too cheap to grab a cab, plus B. I actually LOVE riding on ’em. 😉
I figured we’d first head to the bus station to buy a ticket to Dalat for the following morning, then to my fave little Saigon hotel (for a mere 12 bucks/nt, where the owner hugs me whenever I walk in the door). ANYWAY… we negotiate a mutually agreeable price for the xe om ride (100k dong, about $5).
So o.k. the xe om has my wheeled pack in front of him on the bike, and perched behind him, I (oh so wisely, I mean, I’m not certifiably stupid) have all my “valuables” (read: netbook, passport, money, credit cards, Kindle et al) in my small rucksack and fanny pack on my person.
We arrive at the bus station in District 1 (where I’ve been a gazillion times) and I hop off to buy the ticket to Dalat right there at the open-air counter on the street. But… oddly enough, it turns out that just 3 days ago (i.e. whilst I was skipping ’round Oz) they apparently moved the Dalat ticket place to a different outlet (in District 5, about a 10 min. motorbike ride nearby). The ticket lass kindly writes the name/address of the outlet on a slip of paper so I can show my xe om where to go.
So… I hop back on the bike and we whiz off to the Dist. 5 office.
Upon arrival, there’s a bus (natch) parked in front of the open-air ticket office, so I hop off the bike about a half block away and ask my xe om to wait again.
(yup, you know what happens next…)
10 minutes and a $10 ticket to Dalat purchased later… I walk back to where I left my xe om, and… WTF, where IS he??? Nowhere to be found. I search high and low, further down the street, across the street (it’s all quite busy/chaotic with traffic, and the usual assortment of locals sitting on bitty plastic stools slurping pho along the street).
All the while thinking – surely he must be here somewhere, I mean, he already had waited with my pack back at the first bus station, and (in my naive mind) the wheely pack had just clothes in it, so wasn’t exactly a theft magnet like my rucksack/fanny pack.
Long story short? That (sleazy, wicked, along with a string of further choice retrospective expletives) xe om lad (along w/ my bag) was long… gone, gone, GONE. ;(
For about 20 minutes I stubbornly remained in stunned denial mode – simply couldn’t believe it. Kept searching hither and yon, asked security (the languid lads lounging in front of the bus station) via mime if they’d seen my xe om/bag, until finally even the lasses at the ticket counter came out and took pity on me – gently explaining that my dear, sweet trusty (what was I thinking?) xe om had likely absconded with my bag. Clearly HE didn’t know that there was little of value in it. No doubt he simply grew tired of traipsing after the (ever presumed “rich”) foreigner, and decided that what was in the bag likely was worth more than the 100k dong awaiting him when he delivered it (and me) to my hotel. I also wore his extra bike helmet, but that too was apparently expendable in exchange for the riches promised in the bag.
So there you have it. I’d been HAD. After more than a year in Vietnam (not to mention skipping all over creation in Australia and Singapore for nearly a month), I’d finally been HAD. Utterly, foolishly, and of my own stupid, naive making – had.
The good news and bad news? Though annoying as hell, there really was little lost save for clothes and such (though all my electronics cords/chargers were tucked in the wheely rather than in my rucksack with the netbook, Kindle, etc.) So I really didn’t lose anything all that devastating. Probably the saddest part, was that I’d bought a most wondrous pair of earrings, and an aboriginal dot-painting bracelet at Uluru, that were both in the lost bag. And sadder still, I’d gone on a (purely uncharacteristic) clothes shopping spree my last day in Sydney (to use up my Australian currency) ‘cuz such luscious duds that fit me are but unattainable dreams in Vietnam.
Nonetheless, I still had all my valuables on me, as I’m not THAT foolish – my credit cards, money, passport, techno-gadgets, etc. all on my person. Furthermore, (as I so often choose to think in such ughy situations), it could have been far worse. I could be lying in the street with a broken appendage or three from a motorbike accident, yes? I mean, I was still perfectly in one piece, and the lost bag was merely but a temporary inconvenience (i.e. no jammies to sleep in that night).
Indeed, when I finally arrived at my hotel and told my tale of woe, the wife of a lovely Vietnamese couple (utter strangers, likewise staying there), kindly offered me a couple of replacement duds that she’d just bought that day! And the next morning, I simply headed for a tech shop with my multitude of cordless gadgets, and in little more than 15 minutes replaced every blessed USB/plug gizmo-known-to-man at a little kiosk for less than $40.
Moral to the tale? That legendary S-word Happens. Nothing whatsoever to do with my beloved Vietnam (indeed, but a few hours later, I was grinning from ear-to-ear to be back in my dear adopted home – I L.O.V.E. this country, and especially its people!) Clearly I was foolish to let my guard down. Just plain dumb to let ANY of my bags out of my sight, and expect a stray taxi stranger to resist temptation. Seriously naive of me, and I truly should know better.
And oh the irony of it! The robbery happened on the fourth Thursday in November, on the 22nd – Thanksgiving Day (albeit a day ahead of when my family and friends in the U.S. would all sit down to the traditional opulent array of turkey, yams and pumpkin pie).
So, the question izzz… Post this little annoying travel-robbery (my only other such ack was losing EVERYTHING, including passport et al in Costa Rica one day long ago) am I THANKFUL?
You betcha. Thankful that it wasn’t my life nor limbs that were lost. Thankful for my many travel adventures this past year. Thankful for the MULTITUDE of wonderfully kind and helpful folks I’ve met along the way. And especially for my dear friends and family all over the globe.
LESSON LEARNED. And I’m ever so thankful that I was robbed of but a handful of threads, and not my many far-more precious blessings.
Belated Happy Thanksgiving to One and All (shoot, even the idiot lad who nabbed my backpack!)