Published on November 24th, 2012


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!)

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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

10 Responses to ROBBED in Vietnam! (a.k.a. Thanksgiving Foolishness)

  1. Sending Good Vibes from Canada…(but no snow)…
    Such a drag to be robbed… but you kept your passport and all…whew…
    john r

  2. Turning lemons into lemonade is difficult or impossible for some which is why it’s refreshing to hear about it from someone who seems to do it out of core beliefs.

    On an almost completely unrelated note my brain loves to turn equally unrelated instances of wordsmithery into band names, usually comprised of a front person and the supporting band members. I present for your consideration: Luscious Duds and the Retrospective Expletives.

    • TravelnLass says:

      Indeed FLN, it can surely be tough to look for the silver lining. But what’s done is done, after all, and no use crying over spilled milk. I honestly do believe we ever have a choice in how we react to things. Grumbling most certainly won’t bring those earrings back (though they truly were wondrous – sigh…), and ranting on and on about it (Oy the INJUSTICE! Woe is me!) only prolongs the ack even more, so may as well cheer up and look on the bright side.

      And yes, yes, I too enjoy a bit of sterling wordsmithery. The Duds and those jiving Expletives – very imaginative!

  3. Too bad you didn’t see the Amazing Race last week. The exact same thing happened to a team. They left their bags in a taxi in Russia and asked the cab to wait for them. Of course, when they got back, the taxi was gone and they spent a day trying to get a replacement passport only to be eliminated from the $2,000,000 race. Now THAT would be a bummer. (FYI, a friend in Cambodia had the same thing happen to him. But there it was slightly different in that the xe om had brought him to his house, he got off to take out his wallet to pay the guy and the guy took off. Ever since then, I stay on the motorbike until all my stuff has been offloaded…) Glad you’re OK, tho!

    • TravelnLass says:

      Yep James, now THAT would indeed have been a bummer. And thanks too, for the story of your friend in Cambodia. Wow, that really is amazing – he’s standing right there, just trying to get out his wallet! Makes me feel a tad less stupid. But you’re oh so right. Never again do I get OFF the bike til my stuff is unloaded.

      Thanks for poking in here – sooo glad to see you’re back at the helm of Fly, Icarus, Fly.

  4. Paul says:

    A sad tale, but you’ve kept a positive attitude about it. Good for you!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • TravelnLass says:

      Thanks Paul. Once it finally sunk in that I’d been HAD, there surely wasn’t much else I could do but somehow make lemonade out of it.

      I mean, if nothing else – it made for a rather interesting TL post, no? 😉

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dyanne-glad (thankful) it was only clothes and that you are safe and well.

    • TravelnLass says:

      Thanks Ronni. It honestly could have happened most anywhere in the world – to anyone foolish enough to entrust their bag to a total stranger.

      I never feel the least bit anxious for my personal safety here (well o.k., save for when I’m on a whizzing motorbike in suicide-traffic in HCMC). But one can hardly expect angelic honesty after handing off your stuff to a stranger.

      Still, those earrings were truly to-die-for… 😉

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