Saigon Stories

Tonight I went out with a friend of mine to a local Australian Pub called the Blue Geko. It’s a great place to meet drunk Australians who are really open and easy to talk to.

One guy shared a story with us about how he got conned out of 200 australian dollars and one million dong. He had hired a motorbike taxi who took him to all the usual sights, and then to a girly bar in the evening. He was sat down and a lot of girls came in. He chose a few to sing karaoke with but about an hour after all the girls left and three Vietnamese came in with a bill totaling $276 USD.

They wouldn’t let him leave without paying, so he at first put down a million dong but they said no and wanted the full amount. He wouldn’t pay so they started beating the motorbike taxi driver. He said it was all staged and as an ex-pat in Saigon, I would have to agree with him. The motorbike taxi driver probably took a few blows for a handsome kickback from the thugs. Finally the tourist got freaked out and pulled out all the money he had after which they let him go.

It’s not uncommon to get scammed like that in poor countries and tourists have to watch out. If you are taken to any shady places, it’s best to leave right away without ordering anything. Even in Japan I have heard stories of the Yakuza doing stuff like that in the shadier districts. You have to be on your guard when in a city you don’t know, especially a poor one.

As an ex-pat this stuff never has happend to me because I don’t let myself get taken to shady joints and have learned how to get out of certain situations without losing my cool. That really is the key, which is to remain calm, smile, and work your way out of it. If I was in that situation, I would have pulled out my cell phone and called some influential Vietnamese. They might have taken my cell away, but they can be intimidated if it’s done in the right way.

You just have to keep cool, refuse to pay and let them play their game. But really one shouldn’t let themselves get into that situation which is the best defence. I did have one incident at the coconut stand where I didn’t negotiate the price first and they gave me two coconuts which I drank. Also, it was in broad daylight and in the middle of a busy street so I was safe anyway. They wanted to charge me twice the price and refused to let me leave. It really wasn’t that expensive but I refused to pay that price on principal. I pulled out my cell and started to call an influential friend. Once they saw that the let me leave.

A tourist does not know how to get out of such situations and therefore are easy targets.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/


  1. Nope, not smoking crack. I did get mugged in Brussels but it was the fault of my friends. We had just gotten into the station at 10:00pm and I never like to venture into a strange city for the first time late at night. So I said we should get a hotel near the train station but was overruled by four friends who were more concerned about finding the cheapest hostel. So as most mugging stories go, we found ourselves walking down a dark alley and four “dark” guys came up behind us and asked for money in French. None of us spoke the langauge so just kept walking. But then I found myself with a knife to my stomach. As I mentioned in my post, one always has to be vigilant and think ahead. I had my wallet in my front pocket instead of a hard to reach money belt and this way it would be hard to pickpocket but I could still have fast access. I also pulled out all the bills and handed them to him and quickly put my wallet back. So he wouldn’t ask for it, I also started reaching in for my small change and handed that over to him. While he was mugging me, he also had to keep an eye on his friends to see how the rest of the mugging was going. So by giving him all my bills and change he knew I had given him everything. I had my big bills not in my wallet but in my money belt under my shirt. So even though I was mugged it wasn’t a catastrophy.

  2. i was flickin through google wen i found this i am 15 and want to study criminology, i live in the uk in a small town, but have been mugged in it, i believe wherever you go its best to be on your toes and yes, especially at night. when i got mugged it was a different situation though. i had a glass bottle held to my head and a knife to my neck then my pockets emptied if i had of moved i wouldnt of been here to tell the story possibly, so wot do you do in that situation? as i say i dont com here regular but i looked it up in interest, would you please e-mail me back if possible thanks from Sam Batchelor

  3. Hi Sam,
    Thanks for the comment. Really sorry about your horrible experience of getting mugged in your own town. As you have read from my earlier comment, I also got mugged in Europe and it wasn’t very pleasant. I have really come to believe that most countries in Asia are the safest in the world. One of the reasons I think is that people here are generally more calm and outright unprovoked aggression is extremely rare unlike in the USA or Britian. Another reason, especially here in Vietnam, is that the benefits vs. risk of getting caught are way too high if they do get caught. If someone tried to mug me here, I would probably be helped by passers-by moreso than in Europe or the US and if the police caught them they would be executed. One really does not want to get caught on the wrong side of a Communist or Islamic government. The penalty is also usually death if drugs are involved.
    But as for our situations of getting mugged, we don’t have any options. One should give up all their money immediately since it is not worth the risk of getting seriously injured for some cash.
    In the case of getting conned however, it usually takes place in an establishment and one can wiggle out of it if clever. If not, you can always come back with the police and here in Vietnam, the con men would never be heard from again. They are able to get away with it though with tourists because the tourists don’t know the number for the police and probably couldn’t communicate with them anyway. Also, sometimes the police are corrupt and might not help so usually tourists just take it as a loss.

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