CK Travels

Be aware in Marble Mountains – how I was robbed in Da Nang, Vietnam

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What started out as a pleasant daytrip today to Marble Mountains in Da Nang, Vietnam soon descended into a terrible travel experience. After 15 years of crime-free travel, I’d heard about various scams and stings in Vietnam and I had thought I had prepared myself well – but literally within five minutes of arriving and climbing up the first staircase, I’d found myself a victim of robbery, with my bag slashed and my phone stolen.

The visit to Marble Mountains started well enough – we’d bought our entrance tickets from the welcome desk and made our way up the steps to the first pagoda. We had commented how busy the area was with visitors but little did we know some of these tourists were actually local criminals.

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash

Bag slash – so how did the criminals work?

As I walked up the first set of stairs I stopped to take a photo of the temple below with my phone and then popped it into my tote bag for a few minutes until I needed it again for another photo. I then noticed three women (2 girls in their early 20s and one woman in her 40s) kept getting far too close to me.

The older woman stood behind me and was well dressed (garish bright red clothing, red lipstick and lots of gold jewellery) and was holding a traditional Vietnamese hat (which is something a lot of Chinese tourist groups wear on day trips). She ‘accidentally’ poked me with the tip of the hat as I tried to walk past her – a trick I assume to stop me moving too fast.

The 2 other younger girls were stood in front of me and also kept getting in my way when I tried to move – almost hitting me in the face with their fans and selfie stick. Frustrated, I quickly moved on and put their behaviour down to them just being rude tourists (I’d encountered so many in tourist hot spots across South East Asia that what they were doing didn’t seem too unusual).

As I walked up the second set of stairs I felt a couple of bumps against myself from behind and realised it was the three women from earlier, but as it only happened for a second or so, I thought nothing of it (although I commented to my boyfriend how annoying some tourists could be, and their lack of spatial awareness).

A few moments later, as we were climbing up to the cave area, I noticed some rips in my bag and then instantly realised my mobile phone had gone. I doubled checked my bag and then it dawned on upon me – those weren’t rips in my bag – they were four knife marks.

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
Bag slash – large slash holes
Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang
This photo of me was taken just after first encounter with the women – I can actually see a slash in my bag – they had come after me twice.

Adrenaline kicked in and we asked one of the nearby store-holders where the nearest security office was. We ran down the stairs, alerted a security officer and he took us to the tourist office. It then became apparent they’d caught some of the perpetrators already and several other tourists had already been the victims of crime after us….

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang
Security office at Marble Mountains
Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
Filling out a report for the bag slashing at the security office at Marble Mountains

After making an initial statement at Marble Mountains about the crime, we then went through our photographs and realised we’d captured some long shots of the girls scoping out the area (the joys of digital cameras). We alerted the staff and it confirmed the girl being held in a locked room in security was one of the two young women from the trio (her hat and bag were clearly identifiable). 

We then realised that they had also arrested the other young woman and they were swiftly put in a police van (unfortunately, the third older woman didn’t appear to have been apprehended). Security staff then whisked us on the back of two motorbikes to the nearest police station to make a formal statement.

We were told by one of the women who worked in the security office that there had been an unusually high number of bag slash / crime related incidents this month in Marble Mountains and attractions in Hoi An, so security had been on high alert – hence the very quick arrest of the the 2 girls.

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
The two young girls with the older woman lurking nearby
Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
The two young girls pretending to be tourists whilst seeking out potential victims

At the police station, we then saw another tourist who had had their phone stolen (via exactly the same method – their slashed bag was plain to see). As the police emptied the thieves’ bags, along with the stolen phones, you could see their tricks of the trade to make them blend in as regular tourists – the selfie sticks and fans, but alas, not the knife or my phone. The other tourist who had her bag ‘slashed’ was lucky as she got her phone back.

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
Victims filling out police reports at the station. I do not have permission from these people to use their photo.

Over the course of several hours, we made several statements although there was a language barrier. About five hours after the incident had happened, we were allowed to go (with very little further explanation) as the girls were still being held.

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash

All in all, this is the first time I’ve ever experienced any crime in many years of travel and I also appreciate I was lucky, given knives were involved – it has made me a lot more wary about my surroundings and based on my experience, I don’t think I’ll be visiting Vietnam (especially Da Nang) any time again soon. I will also be using a much more sturdier bag next time I am out and about – an expensive lesson learned.

Beware of Marble Mountain, I got robbed in Da Nang | crime | bag slash
4 hours in the police station!

Credit to the staff and security at Marble Mountains for catching the thieves – we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I write this, I’m now trying to resolve this with my insurance company ‘Holiday Safe’, but matters are complicated by the fact I’m not due to return to the UK until April next year (2019). Update: After 3 months of chasing and an angry email to the complaints department of Holiday Safe, I eventually received an insurance payment. I’m pleased it was finally resolved but would probably use a different company in the future.

Do not let our experience put you off travelling in Vietnam / SE Asia, but merely as a warning that no matter how savvy a traveller you think you are, always be aware of your surroundings and belongings, as thieves can look like regular tourists. Ultimately, stay alert and travel safe, and maybe research into the best anti theft travel backpacks available on the market!

Have you experienced any crime or bag slashing in Marble Mountains or in Vietnam? Let us know in the comments.


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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Kristen
    December 31, 2018 at 3:23 am

    Eeeekkkkk. Thank you for the warning. Being aware of my surroundings is definitely something I try and do but sometimes you still get complacent. I’m glad they were able to catch two of them but sucks you lost your phone ????. However, makes me very frustrated at how some people can act ????.

    Kristen
    Kristenabroad.com

    • Reply
      admin
      March 9, 2019 at 1:48 am

      Totally – you really do get complacent after a while. Losing the phone was so much hassle as I relied on it for so many things such as my banking 🙁 – I am SO careful now!

      • Reply
        Tom
        March 26, 2019 at 11:12 am

        I am seriously considering moving there from Chiang Mai but now I am concerned. In Chiang Mai I spend late nights walking talking on my phone. I would hate to put myself or my girlfriend at risk.

  • Reply
    Emilie
    January 4, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Wow they were very organised!
    I’m very sorry for you. Hoi An, a few kilometers away, is such a peaceful and lovely city. Hope you manage to see it.
    But anyway thanks for making us aware of this ‘interesting’ technique.

    • Reply
      admin
      March 9, 2019 at 1:46 am

      So organised! I hope the post helps spread awareness of what is happening in tourist spots in Vietnam

  • Reply
    Martina
    March 6, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Yes, we can confirm that the marble mountains is a place where you better keep an eye on your stuff. Unfortunately we weren’t successful on doing that and also got robbed there today, on a spot a little higher up where you met the thieves. There’s a very narrow cave through which you can climb up, to get to another viewpoint. It was pretty dark in there with slippery stones and you had to hold on with both hands on the stones in order to get through this passage. it was packed with people who wanted to climb up or waited to come down. After leaving this cave my husband recognised his wallet was gone. He had kept it in a belt with pockets and the wallet actually stuck really tight in one of the pockets. It always was some effort to get it out. But apparently the thieve managed this without him even noticing. We also went to the tourist help office. The staff was super friendly and helpful. We were allowed to use their computer and phone to cancel the credit card and the bank card. Our bank told us, that the credit card had already been used by the thieve, this must have been no longer than 30 minutes after the theft. Another 30 minutes later the thieve tried using the card a second time, but by then the card was already cancelled.
    You describe it in your post just how i feel about it: we’ve also been travelling in asia so often and never ecperienced something like this. But still, i’m convinced this isn’t something that is usual here. Vietnam really is a very safe place with so many friendly and helpful people.

    • Reply
      admin
      March 9, 2019 at 1:40 am

      Oh gosh! I am so sorry this happened to you guys! They are so sneaky – it could happen to the wisest of traveller. So pleased the staff were able to help you like they did with us – they were great. Hope you enjoy the rest of your Vietnam trip 🙂

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