Pick-pocketed in Ho Chi Minh City: A cautionary tale

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Which pocket was it in?

The Clash - Charlie Don’t Surf

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Definitely not in the front pocket, where it should be when you are a stranger in a strange land.

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That’s what I’m wondering. I have a hard time imagining someone stealing a wallet from a front pocket without the victim noticing, but they said they were warned about pickpockets and were being extra aware of their wallet. Surely that would include taking the most basic precaution of not leaving it in their back pocket?

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I must say, that is a lot of dong.

(Sorry about the wallet.)


Yes. I got in the habit of putting my wallet in the front pocket whenever I rode the tram in Moldova. It gets pretty packed in there sometimes, and someone could grab it even when you know it’s happened but still it would be hard to identify them because of the mass of people.

I find these kind of comments frankly racist. There are pickpockets everywhere. From the story the wallet is as likely to have fallen out climbing between two motorbikes. I live in Vietnam and I was warned to be wary of thieves and pickpockets. But my actual experience has consistently been more like this. I have left items on buses and had them return after heroic efforts by the locals. I leave my house unlocked. I carry cash in a front pocket without the bulk of a wallet, not out of any concern, but because I don’t like bulky wallets. I have found Viet Nam to be one of the happiest, cleanest, most honest communities I have lived in. I’m sorry about your experience, but damn, stop trashing a country because of one unfortunate incident.


Racist? Not sure about that. Vietnam has a well-deserved reputation IMHO. I’ve traveled in Southeast Asia very often, but Ho Chi Minh City was the only place where some guy on a motorbike tried to snatch my smartphone right out of my hands.


Yeah, not sure here either. Moldova’s the only place where I’ve ridden public transportation that was packed wall to wall. More densely than the Red Line in Chicago, but still not as bad as those trains in Japan where they shove people in. Didn’t have anything to do with race, just a packed tram is all.


New Years Eve 1993 my friend and I watched a crew of pickpockets work the crowds in Amsterdam. One guy was the ‘drunk’ who embraced everyone and patted them down. One guy behind him talking to the mark to distract them while it happened. A couple more, presumably for backup or something, and one guy who would walk away with the wallet or whatever within seconds of it being dipped - all while ‘drunk’ guy continued to play it up.

My worst pickpocketing experience was in Vancouver though, just a few blocks from my home on the bus. The ONE time I carried my wife’s wallet on the way home from the store. At least I think that’s what happened to it.

Well, I had my doubts about generalising wildly about the population of an entire country, but you do have that one anecdote, so…

(Which pocket you have it in means bugger all. Breast pocket inside a jacket? Gone. Front pocket inside your jeans? Gone. Watching out extra hard for pickpockets? Gone. These guys are seriously fucking amazing at what they do, and you’ve got no hope.)

You just try to take my graphing calculator and pen…


I don’t know, he says

I could feel it in my pocket as I stepped over the tires of a pair of bikes

which suggests the front pocket to me (wallet being pushed against his thigh as he raises his leg).

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I got pick-pocketed in Hanoi (Vietnam. Of course).
Was kind of hilarious. I kept all valuables in a ‘moneybelt’ (Beneath the shirt type of thing.). So money + documents needed. All hidden. I kept a small amount of change in front pockets. (About $10US worth. 100,000 dong at the time I went). In back pocket? That’s where I kept my toiletpaper. When you visit the dunnies, toilets don’t always have toilet paper, and I like my little luxury.
Let’s just say, I’m glad I didn’t have to use the toilet on that outing, that day.
The only time I can ever say, “A pickpocket made my day”. Imagine his/her expression.


I hear where you’re coming from, but I don’t think this is racist. This is simply the story of a bad experience a guy had in a big city. You could substitute “Rome” for “Ho Chi Minh City” and the story would be the same.


that is mad skills to get your dong out of your pocket without you even noticing!


Yeah, I’m having difficulty seeing what the lesson of this “cautionary tale” is supposed to be. Is it not to keep all your valuables in a wallet in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet while watching the fireworks? Is it as banal as ‘Watch out for pickpockets’? Or is it to buy two wallets from this totally bitchin’ wallet-maker so you have a back-up when your main wallet gets lifted?


my solution that has served me well in lots of domestic and international travel and everyday life: carry cards & money loose/distributed, no wallet. Why make it easy to lose or have stolen everything important all at once?

Sure, you might lose some paper money now and then when it gets pulled out of your pocket alongside a card. But I’d say less overall, less traumatically, than a single lost/stolen episode.

Bonus: no unsightly bulge.


If you go to the link describing his wallet, he had a wallet designated as “front pocket friendly.” Doesn’t mean it was in his front pocket, but it’s possible that it was.