I hopped on my bike a few of days ago to head to the beach in Hoi An. The bicycle ride out to the beach is really quite lovely – rice paddies, cows, birds, trees, people on bicycles with those traditional triangular hats – classic Vietnamese country side! As I was pedalling along the road, enjoying the scenery and smiling, the wind was blowing my dress and the sun was kissing my face. I could see that I was getting really close to the beach, and I started thinking about where I would park my bike. At that moment, I heard the sound of a scooter coming up behind me, which was completely normal, but what was different was that the scooter was coming very close to my bike and slowly. I turned my head slightly left to see what was going on, as I did this, I saw a hand quietly reach into my front basket of my bike and pluck my backpack out of it. My eyes turned to follow the hand and I let out a terrified scream. I reached pathetically forward for my bag, and began pedalling as fast as I could (on a 70’s rusty bicycle with one gear, mind you). But I could never have caught up, the two men were on a scooter and I was on a bicycle. I screamed for help repeatedly, looking around for anyone, but I was alone. I wasn’t only thinking of the contents of my backpack exactly. I mean, I was of course, thinking of my iPhone, my camera and all my money – yeah, that sucked. But this is honestly what I thought of when I was screaming: my iPhone screen saver is a photo of my sister, my niece and I, and it made me absolutely sick and filled with anger to think that these bad people would look at it. I couldn’t bear the thought of them looking at that photo and seeing my heart.
I did finally find some people who tried to, bless them, help me. And the police showed up, but none of them spoke any English. They motioned for me to get on the back of a scooter, I guessed they wanted me to go to the police station. I felt really uneasy about it, going with three male police officers in the middle of nowhere. But what can you do? I had to go didn’t I? As I rode off into the distance, wearing nothing but a flimsy orange dress, with no phone, no ID, no idea where I was going, and three men I didn’t know, I began to sob uncontrollably. My tears fell and the wind swept them away as we barrelled down the highway. I felt like such an idiot. But nothing else bad happened to me, aside from my fears getting the best of me, and I never did get my stuff back – it was long gone.
That evening I went back to my hotel, and slowly went insane… Well, rightfully so! In my backpack there was a receipt that had my name, hotel room number, hotel name (complete with map of exactly where it was) and the contents of other valuables I had left at the hotel. I asked to change rooms when I got back, but there was nothing available until the next day. I put all my tables and chairs in front of my door. And hardly slept a wink. I woke up the next morning and decided it would be best to get out of Hoi An, bad memories kind of ruin a place don’t they? I decided to take a train north, up to Cat Ba, which has some great rock climbing, beautiful scenery, kayaking, etc.
On the overnight train that night, I shared a room with three locals. The door of the room was always open and never locked. I slept in the fetal position, clutching my bag that contained all my remaining valuables. Each time the door flew open I held my backpack tighter. I was woken up in the morning by the old Vietnamese woman hitting me, saying something in Vietnamese, and then laughing. She continued to hit me and laugh, despite my pleas that I didn’t understand her, whenever she was up. I gave up and decided to go to the food car and have some breakfast.
Over breakfast I was talking to a Russian girl, Marina, who was also traveling alone. The train staff had just dropped off our soup for breakfast, I said thank you to her in Vietnamese and smiled. Marina and I had just been talking about the dangers of traveling alone as a woman, and I had told her my story about being robbed in Hoi An. As the waitress walked away Marina asked me, annoyed, “Why are you so nice to everyone? Even after what’s happened to you?” Sorry, let me put this in better context – not only was Marina a rude person, but she spoke to all the train staff in ENGLISH (we were in Vietnam, you got that right?), she didn’t even attempt to be patient when they didn’t understand her, or even say please or anything in Vietnamese. Apparently, the Vietnamese were all ripping us off, and that wouldn’t happen on her watch. Needless to say, I was really regretting having to spend any of my time with this person, but I was too tired and emotionally drained to tell her she was being a proper asshole. Despite being robbed, despite people trying to rip me off constantly, and despite the occasional instances of unwanted sexual aggression, I NEVER want to be like her. I always want to see the good in people. More importantly, I always want to treat people with kindness, and if it turns around to kick me in the ass in the end, then so be it. As I was contemplating how I could explain to her my feelings on being “nice” to people, I glanced out the window lost in my own thoughts. Our train had stopped, and we were momentarily stopped beside another train. I saw a train worker glance at us as he walked down the tracks, and get into the train beside ours. He sat down and smiled at me, he then proceeded to clearly masturbate while looking at me and smiling, as our train pulled away. After I stood up and shouted, “Fuck you!!!” out the train window, I had to sit down and collapse in laughter. To Marina, I had proven her point and it probably made her mad that I wasn’t getting angry, but to me the situation over the last couple of days had become so ridiculous that I had to let out that laughter. It had actually become funny, and it felt so good to laugh.
If I waste time being mad, instead of making light of a situation that I cannot change and being able to be kind to people, everyone just suffers then don’t they? Including me. Looking back, I know I was incredibly lucky the day I got robbed. They could have physically hurt me, pushed me off the side of the road or something, or I could have had my passport and computer in my backpack. I am sure there have been so many other instances during my travels where I am lucky that nothing actually happened. What I lost was just stuff. I will take this one, as a good lesson learned, and am happy that I am safe and in one piece.