Trying To Get Robbed in Vietnam

I have a short, and funny, story I want to share with you. As I’m currently sitting on a bus on my way to Dublin for the Irish Blog Awards (fingers crossed!!) I started thinking back to my adventures last summer and a funny memory came to mind about trying to get robbed in Vietnam!

In many countries all over the world there are known travel scams that most people now know about, but sadly the off naive backpacker here and there will fall for. There’s the women who gives you a rose as gift in Rome, then demands your boyfriend pays for it. The man who ties a bracelet so tightly around your wrist in Barcelona that you can’t get in off and thus must pay for it. The men selling trying to sell you carpets in Turkey or fake Chanel perfume in Egypt and lets not forget the taxi drivers in Bangkok who lie to you telling you all the main tourist sites are closed for a religious holiday that doesn’t exist!!

In Vietnam, while there are most definitely scams to be aware of, the biggest problem that tourists encounter is ‘drive by robberies’. As everyone travels by motorbike all over Vietnam, you hear horror stories of thieves speeding up in traffic, closing in on you as you sit on the back of a bike, yoink your handbag or backpack away from you (even if it causes you to fall off your bike!) and speed away.

To see we were paranoid upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh city would actually be an understatement. I was travelleling with 3 friends (Shruti, Johann and Morne) and we were all beyond worried about the prospect of getting our most prized possessions stolen from us. So much so that we decided to check into a nice hotel instead of a hostel, locked out passport and credit cards in a safe and never left home with more than a few dollars. We didn’t even take our phone out with us to take photos for fear they would be stolen.All of us, except Johann!

Johann had heard about the scams and robberies long before leaving for Vietnam and thus came prepared. He had packed an old iPhone that was totally broken, keeping it in a clear waterproof bag which was a prime target. Inside this bag, he also had some fakeĀ US dollars (sort of like Monopoly money!!) which they used in the school where he taught. While we all thought his plan was pretty ingenious, albeit maybe a little cruel, I was also a little worried about the lengths people would go to to rob him.

For the few days we were in Ho Chi Minh he walked up and down the busy streets, with all his worldly possessions on show, trying desperately to get robbed. He would swing the bag around tempting people riding by on motorbikes. He would practically hang the bag outside the taxi as we drive through bust streets. And yet there was not one attempt to steal it. Not even a glance was made in his direction.

We literally did whatever we could do get that goddamn phone stolen and yet nothing seemed to work so alas poor Johann was stuck with his broken iPhone and fake $$$ while some poor locals were saved the trauma of thinking they’ve hit the jackpot when all they would have stolen is fit for the trash! I guess they’re just to clever for us and our scheming ways! :-)

  • TravelOftenAdventureAlways
    October 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    This is hilarious! We were so afraid of the same thing while in HCMC! I thought for sure our GoPro would be taken from us so I tied it to my wrist and clutched it with all my strength the whole time.

    Lucky we had ZERO attempts to steal it. The things you read make you think it will 100% happen if you let your guard down.

  • Jess Carey
    October 21, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    My sister and I were worried about the same thing – honestly, I felt like it was actually one of the safest cities I’d visited!! We never felt under threat! But as TravelOftenAdventureAlways says, it’s the one time you DO let your guard down you know you’ll be in trouble!!

  • Gloria Atanmo
    October 22, 2015 at 6:28 am

    OMG! I was almost hoping for some climatic ending, but alas, people really can be awesome and scams happen whether we’re prepared or not. Good read!

  • Saints
    October 22, 2015 at 6:29 am

    We totally fell for the “all religious sites closed today” in Bangkok this year, ended up scammed into a very expensive boat tour. In hindsight we laughed about it and were thankful we came to no harm and learned a valuable lesson and remained ever vigilant afterwards. Also ran into a little girl in Chiang Mai wearing most stunning national costume who demanded payment after I had taken her picture! Was very careful about who we pointed the camera at afterwards. Great post, really enjoyed this and thanks for the tips about other countries. Cheers.

  • Jessica
    October 22, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Hahaha, it just wasn’t your time. Quite heartwarming though.

    I’m sure you (like most of us) have met plenty of people it has happened to. For me, Vietnam had the rigged taxi meter in what looked to be a Bluebird taxi. Around $150 US for a journey I’d walked in 20 mins on the way there! The meter whirred round so fast it was hard to see the numbers as it span!!! (I paid 15,000 dong with a disapproving look and live to tell the tale).

  • Dermot Barry
    October 27, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Ha ha! I’ve also lovingly prepared a dummy wallet with cancelled cards and a few bob that has survived several countries. Each time a part of me was disappointed it wasn’t robbed :-)

    Of course those of us who remember the “Welcome to Dublin, Beware of Pickpockets” sign in Heuston station on our first school trip probably have developed an unconscious habit of checking our belongings every ten seconds anyway.