Vietnam Travel Nightmare
It all started as a 2-day, 1-night Ho Chi Minh trip with a good friend. We were keen to explore craft shops in this city since craft supplies are still lacking in Phnom Penh. So you could say I was very excited. My friend is a keen calligraphy hobbyist and I was interested in exploring and meeting craft suppliers. I was thinking who knows I might just put up a specialized craft supply shop in Phnom Penh. Also, I’ll be honest, I was in a dire need of a break. I was a happy but really tired mama for the past two years.
So on July 30th we boarded a 9:30 am bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. It was an uneventful few hours and at about 1:40 pm we were already crossing the Cambodia-Vietnam border and doing the requisite immigration procedures.
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh at about 4:30pm and proceeded to check in our pre-booked hotel – Bloom Saigon Hotel just a few meters away from Benh Than Market. After a quick shower, we ventured out to walk to our target craft shop.
Without thinking much about it, I got my crossbody bag (a pretty sturdy Kipling bag that has seen a lot of mileage with me already)and in it was my wallet with some ID’s, phone, some personal items,cash and my passport. I was debating leaving my passport at the hotel but to my everlasting regret, I stuffed it in the bag thinking we will be changing money they might ask for it.
Anyway, off we went to our craft shopping expedition. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable 3 hours as we walked from shop to shop. Mind you, we were always cautious and was walking not near the road but on the inner part of the walk paths.I was also holding my crossbody bag’s handle aside from it being wrapped around my body. At about 8:30 pm after a quick coffee near Benh Than we decided we wanted to get a few Banh Mi’s for late dinner at the hotel.
So we walked around, bought a couple of sandwiches, then suddenly there was a heavy downpour. Since we were just about one block away from the hotel we stood in one of the shops awnigs and waited for the rain to slow down. When it was just down to a slow drizzle we walked back to the hotel.
There were a lot of people with us, I remember vividly in front of me there were a couple of Malaysians with one lady pushing a stroller. We reached the front of our hotel and were about to cross the one way street. Since it rained heavily, there were water puddles all over,so I looked down before taking a step to cross the road.
Then, all of a sudden a counterflowing motorbike with a rider wearing a light jacket with hood, just zoomed and grabbed my bag. My bag snapped and all I felt was pain on my left shoulders. We were in shock and I think I screamed ‘My bag! OMG!! My Bag!’ The snatcher even slowed down and turned to look at us, like he was taunting us.
It was a crazy few seconds as I was almost hysterical. My friend and I ran across to our hotel. At this point I was thinking of running after the thief but the doorman cautioned us, they might be working in teams and we might be putting ourselves in danger. In just a few seconds, I lost my passport, government ID’s and license, some ATM cards, my mobile phone, and almost all of my cash.
The hotel receptionist tried to calm us down and gave me a drink. After awhile they told us its best to go to police station to make a police report. I have no idea how I managed to stay together but foremost in my mind is how I can go home to Cambodia? I have a two year old boy and my husband was due to go back to work the next day?!
Police station was so near the hotel so we went there. Unluckily, the officer there cannot speak any English so we went back to the hotel to ask for some assistance. Going beyond her duty, the receptionist went with us and stayed and translated for us. We finished at about 11pm and at this point I was numb and just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. This was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. The Vietnamese police officer probably realized I was on point of collapse so he suggested we go back to hotel to rest. My friend and I were also soaked to the skin with rainwater and we probably looked horrifying. He told us, he will just bring the police report to the hotel once he was done with it. True to his word (bless his kindness) he delivered the police report at the hotel at 2 am.
We also decided to place a call to the embassy. I know Philippine embassy in Phnom Penh have an emergency line so we were kinda hoping there was a similar thing in Vietnam. Unluckily, the embassy was located in Hanoi, nevertheless there was an emergency number noted on their website and we managed to speak with a Mr. Salceda. We probably shocked him ‘coz we were calling at 11 pm but emergency happens all hours right? We queried him about me being issued a travel document to cross to Cambodia. He was non-commital and said it will be at the discretion of consul in Ho Chi Minh.The general rule is that Travel Documents issued in emergency cases like lost passport is valid only for 1-way travel to the Philippines.
So with this not-so-comforting information we settled down to wait for morning. Sunday morning came and with nothing to do, we decided to take a cab to the consulate but alas! it was closed. What else could we do but wait for Monday? I must also mention that the Philippine consulate in VN’s website is not updated and you might be put off if you see they are not open daily, but rest assured the consulate is open daily 8am-5pm.
Philippine Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City
40-5 Pham Viet Chanh, Ward 19, Binh Thanh, District 1, HCMC
phone: +848-3518-0045 ext 102
Philippine Embassy in Vietnam emergency contact : +849-0412-6164
(info above is updated at the time of post publishing)