Sunday, 14 December 2014

A less fun Viexperience

Last week I spent in Saigon again due to our company's epic CHRISTMAS PARTYYYY. I arrived on Monday and this is how it started off...
Very well, right? 
Last photo taken as a smart phone owner... </3
After an amazing cocktail at the epic View Bar (which has, trust me, a view), we walked out onto Bui Vien, my beloved backpacker street, the first one I ever discovered in Vietnam, remember? I was with four guys, and three of my friends were gonna meet us later on, so I took out my phone and started texting Tristan that we're leaving the View now. 

Was walking down the street, texting, got about half way through my text, when suddenly my phone was gone. I screamed, but I don't think I even had time to think anything. I looked up, a motorbike had just gone past with two Vietnamese lads on it. The passenger was holding something in his hand, he looked back at me – a sort of serious, concentrated expression (can you say concentrated when it's not about orange juice?), turned round and then the motorbike accelerated and sped off down a side street.

Knowing it was of no use, I half-heartedly ran down to the side street, but obviously they were nowhere to be seen. My friends caught up with me. “Shit,” was the comment, “Did your phone just get stolen?

Yes it did, yes it did...

My love for Bui Vien has gone down slightly.
Old photo... but this may actually be the street the motorbike disappeared down
Analysis: Okay, I say I was a silly vulnerable tourist, but in all fairness, I feel I am one of the more less-likely-to-be-targeted people, because I am CAREFUL. Whenever I can avoid having any sort of bag, I don't – I wear shorts or trousers or skirts with pockets especially when I'm out at night. But I was less careful with waving my phone about publicly. I guess I usually consider myself aware enough of my surroundings to be able to, I dunno, tighten my grip if I feel threatened by a pickpocketer... Well, obviously as a silly stupid vulnerable naïve tourist, I didn't think of the motorbikes that regularly speed past inches from you especially on small streets like Bui Vien.

Coincidentally, the next day Lorraine experienced an attempted mugging – and one of them serious, dangerous ones, where a passing motorbike tries to pull off your purse/bag which is around your head and one shoulder. In those cases, the muggers would have to pull you quickly so that they could grab the bag from around your head, or, alternately, pull so hard your strap breaks. That does not often end well for you since they don't care if you injure yourself or not. Lorraine was fine, whacked them off as she does, she also has special metal something-or-others to make sure the strap can't be ripped off. Anyhows, she has now switched back to having a backbag.

And I, what have I learnt. Well, I was adamant I'd learn from my experience. It's horribly frustrating and annoying and the HATRED I felt for that thief guy... (I spent an hour in one bar ripping off beer labels and shredding them into little bits, telling D which family member of the mugger's I am currently ripping apart...) (Then I started feeling bad, and now I am trying to convince myself that my mugger was actually on the verge of starvation or his wife was about to be murdered for a debt or other... so he just needed to get money from somewhere. Or maybe... his wife had just been run over by a motorbike and he didn't have a phone and no one would lend him a phone so he just had to steal one... So, basically, letting him steal my phone saved a life. Yes? Yes? Yes?)

ANYWAYS, obviously I'd heard a lot about muggings and theft and pickpocketing – 'serious' crimes are not common in Vietnam, but petty ones definitely are. But you don't think it'd happen to you. But, well, it did happen to me. And it made me realise how anything CAN happen. I can be run over by a motorbike, even though I'm careful. So I've decided to take extra precautions especially with that motorbike aspect. I will be more careful. So that nothing worse happens.

As indirect consequences I also missed my British Embassy appointment the next morning to get my important documents notarised. Well, I found an important place on the right street surprisingly on time (turned out to be the People's Committee building or something like that), but after two hours of hassling between different desks at this place (you had to get a number from the machine to see a desk person doing what you need. The first desk person sent me immediately back to the machine to pick a different one. But then the machine stopped working – you could get a number for all the other desks except the one I needed. The man 'helping' me gestured me to go and just wait in queue for the desk anyways. I did. For a long time. And got turned down when I got there and she realised I had no number. So I had to go back to the machine, still not working, still having the man gesturing I should go to the desk, me trying to make him understand they wouldn't let me. In the end I walked back to the desk lady – who at least knew some English – and she told me to wait till all the other customers had gone. Ok... I finally did get something important done to my documents, so hopefully that's saving on future hassle, but I still missed my embassy appointment...), so anyways after two hours here I learnt this was most definitely NOT the place I had my appointment for.

Ok, as one good thing about that visit, I got speaking to an Algerian man who was in the same predicament of me (machine not working), and we spoke lots and lots of French :) :) :)
The post office. Thanks google, this blog post needs more photos.
Oh, and, as another indirect consequence from my phone-snatching, after I had finished at the People's Committee, I realised I did not know Lorraine's address (who I was staying with) – all info like this was on my phone... So, in the end I decided to navigate myself to the post office where I had seen maps the previous day, bought one, looked around the area where they lived, and decided to just bet on one street name. I remembered it started 'Tr' and luckily I remembered the house number... so I got back.

And was locked out of the house. Lorraine was out working. I knew that in the morning, but D (her housie) was supposed to be in, but I gather he'd fallen asleep. In any other scenario, I would've phoned him. But, oh dear, I didn't have a phone.

This predicament ended quite coincidentally nicely, since I decided to check if their neighbour – the lovely Patricia from Portugal – was in. I don't know her particularly well, but she is lovely and super hospitable, so I thought I'd rather wait in her flat than hang in the corridor for an indefinite amount of time. Which I then did, tried to catch up on sleep (the previous night had been a nice two hours, so trust me the whole morning was especially... interesting) on her sofa and read her guidebook for the afternoon.

One of the worst days of my life, but simultaneously so ridiculously surreal and hilarious and sleep-deprived that, well, LOL.
However, having your phone stolen is a perfect excuse to comfort eat THIS <3
I now have a new pink/coral/orange/red phone which I bought for 650,000 (like 20 quid?). It has colour screen but no internet. Internetless life is the most difficult to adjust to. My computer often lives at the school, and since coming back from Saigon I've left it at the school purely so I would not have too much temptation to whittle away my nights online. But the feeling is SURREAL when you have no internet. It's lonely but also very productive. Like, a few days back decided to catch up on my Vietnamese using old worksheets I'd got over a month ago from that one Vietnamese lesson. :)

So much has happened since I last wrote, including two absolutely brilliant Christmas parties, but I think I'll stop here and update more later... I'm at the school and I did plan to do lesson planning, but, well, maybe not. I think I may hear the pool calling my name. Though I also do need to wait for that e-mail from the Embassy about my new appointment...


(I would put a picture but I would probably actually start crying...)



  1. You tell your story well  I s’pose you need to take photos with your camera now and transfer them… Speaking of speaking French, I met a Cote d’Ivoire-ian man at my African party on Saturday who would like more French-speakers in Lahti, and then Georges and family came to our Carol Service last night… a French-speaker in Lahti. Lotsaluv Zz

  2. What can I say? I'm glad that you are fine after all that happened. And also your friend L.

    What make is your new mobile? A make that is known to us?

    All the best - protection and safety to you. <3 Äiti

    1. Went back to being patriotic! And I can now play Snake again :D

    2. Do I need to play snake again as well, to give you a sense of competition :D