Most of what I blog abut here focuses on all the things that are wonderful and rosy about travelling. As I view this blog as a place to record my experiences and look back on all the good things I have gone through, I try not to dwell on the negatives or bad experiences.
I do however, want to write a post about being mugged in Vietnam, as though unpleasant, serves as a good reminder to me (and anyone else reading this!) to not get too complacent whenever you’re alone in foreigns lands.
My Worst Personal Incident Whilst On The Road
There was really only one bad incident that happened to me during my 4.5 months of travel. It happened in Hanoi, my first stop in South East Asia.
It was 4am in the morning and I had just gotten off the train from Sapa. My plan had been to make my way back to my hostel (10 minutes walk) to catch a pre-arranged cab to the airport for my flight to Da Nang.
I chose to walk as I knew the directions. I found myself on a quiet stretch of road with no one else around and soon noticed 2 motorbikes with 3 men and 1 woman following me. They tried to get me to ride on their “moto taxi” but I kept declining. In the end, two of them got off (one man and one woman), surrounded me and wrestled my iPhone from me (out of my pocket). I had initially thought they were after my day pack (containing my laptop, cards, cash and passport), but they were only after my iPhone, which they had clearly seen me with at the train station.
I was really angry, but also upset and shaken immediately following the event. As it was my first stop in SE Asia, my immediate thoughts were perhaps it HAD been a bad idea to travel through this part of the world on my own, as so many of my friends and family members had warned. I suddenly felt rather tired of it all and wanted to be back at my flat, in London.
After a day and a morning spent moping, I decided that I really had to change my state of mind because there really would’ve been no point in continuing my travels with such negativity. I thought hard about what had happened to me and managed to settle myself down with these thoughts.
- Why on earth did I think walking alone at 4am in a foreign city would be a good idea?
- Why did I whip out my phone at the station, drawing attention to myself?
- It could’ve been much worse – a phone is only a phone. I was not hurt, raped, stabbed or killed.
- They could’ve made off with everything I had including my passport, cards and money.
- An iPhone to them is probably 1 month’s salary or more. How much can you actually blame them?
Though I dreaded telling my parents, I eventually did and they surprised me by not shouting “I told you so” in my face, only saying (fairly) that it was a good reminder for me to not get complacent about South East Asia. They also didn’t freak out or tell me to leave the country immediately which I was grateful for. It helped me to recover and gave me the right frame of mind to carry on with the rest of my trip. The one good thing it gave me was a wake up call to be more alert and aware of my surroundings, which I generally am, but must’ve lost whilst travelling through Australia and New Zealand where I felt so safe and secure.
It Could’ve Happened To Anyone, Anywhere
I was initially also fairly angry about the unfairness of the situation as I had felt victimised because I was female, Asian, fairly small in size and obviously a backpacker. Speaking to other travellers I later met however, I realised that this wasn’t really the case. I spoke to large, European men who had also encountered dodgy situations, amongst them even men who had lived in the country for some years.
I wasn’t personally targeted because of my traits – it was just that the circumstances had been right for the robbers and they had taken the opportunity to strike as the probability of them getting caught at that time was low.
Also thinking about it, these incidents happen everywhere. I had my phone stolen from my hand some years back, in Trocadero, right smack in the centre of London, amongst hundreds of other people. Why on earth would I think that London was a safer place than Hanoi? It’s not!
Your sense of safety is warped by your perception of a place, based on how well you know an area. I was stupid and unlucky that time in Hanoi, but it doesn’t mean than the whole of SE Asia is a dangerous cesspit of crime.
I am writing about this not to highlight the negatives of travel but more just to say that:
- It is sometimes easy to forgot yourself and where you are when you’re having fun, living life through travelling. Try not to get too complacent about your personal safety though and always be vigilent of your surroundings.
- Bad experiences can happen anywhere in the world. Do not let it get you down and stop you from getting out there and exploring!