Pickpockets in Ho Chi Minh City and Tokyo
Some awareness of predators feeding on travelers is probably advisable, but maybe mostly at home.
by Bob Kerstetter
We were warned by friends and advisors—in print, online and in person—about pickpocketing all across Ho Chi Minh City and on the crowded trains of Tokyo. While annoying if it happens, petty thievery normally consumes very little of our limited thought power while traveling. Depending on your point of view, life is either too short or too long to spend a lot of time worrying about small-time, unauthorized withdrawals. We never carry valuables or lots of cash when traveling anyplace in the world.
While warned about pickpockets in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the people were friendly and helpful
This time, however, the warnings came with intense frequency. “They’ll grab your daypack from behind, pull you to the ground and steal it,” the red flags continued about Ho Chi Minh City, in particular. Someone even emailed us a link to a security camera video tape from an Asian country—it showed a backpack swipe from a speeding motorbike. Of course, all of these cautionary tales did influence our attitudes a bit.
The streets of Wakayama, Japan, were quiet and safe at 11 pm
Some awareness of predators feeding on foreign travelers is probably advisable. When wayfaring we normally carry money and important documents—passports, visas and customs papers—in travel wallets. These zippered fabric folders fit around your neck or waist, inside your clothes. Also, as journalists, we remain observant, scanning our environs, mostly looking for interesting photos or stories. Pickpockets or purse snatchers seldom strike the attentive. Nevertheless, in Vietnam and Japan we were sensitized to look for quick, stealthy plunderers.
Nothing happened. In Vietnam, our security was never an issue in downtown Ho Chi Minh City or in Nha Trang. We did receive slight sarcastic verbal abuse in one outlying neighborhood, until these locals got used to seeing us daily. Then they smiled and spoke, “Hello.” In Japan, we walked the streets of Wakayama safely from early morning until 11 pm without threats. While the trains of Tokyo were crowded, not one single person patted our wallets. Mostly, the people of both countries were polite and helpful to the foreigners.
Given human nature and the financial stresses created worldwide by the US-generated recession, we assume Vietnam and Japan may grow some petty thieves, yet the only pickpockets we have noticed recently are the investment banks, wall street short sellers and government mortgage agencies of our home country.
The people were intense but polite in the busy Tokyo transit system