• notrudehonest


When people tell me that a country is dangerous, unless it's currently war torn or has a disease outbreak, I always respond with scepticism. I think this is likely due to the fact that I have travelled so much (most of which I have done alone) or because the people who usually say this are a) benefactors of white privilege and/or b) basing their opinion on some media propaganda rather than real evidence. Also, danger is relative.

On this particular occasion I had flown into Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam and I was so excited because it was on my bucket list. I was staying at the Mövenpick Hotel Saigon and I wanted to explore the area surrounding the hotel as I usually do when staying in a new accommodation, especially if it's in a new city. I went down to the lobby and was walking out of the hotel when the concierge started calling after me. I turned around and he was briskly walking towards me looking incredibly flustered. Unfortunately, as a black woman, this treatment isn't uncommon, however, it usually takes place in a retail store, not on the way out of a 5* hotel.

Mövenpick Hotel Saigon

I stop and wait for him to catch up, ready to give him "polite insult". To my surprise, instead of suspicion, his face is filled with concern and a tinge of fear. He tells me that Saigon is very dangerous and I shouldn't be going out alone at this time (it was around 6pm but you could tell it was going to start getting dark soon). I relax. I've heard this a few times before too; I am often warned of the dangers of going out alone in foreign countries, but I am always as careful as I possibly can be (I might actually do a post of this in future). He tells me that thieves targeted tourists, that if I were to get attacked on the street onlookers would mind their business and asked if would I like for him to book me a taxi. I assure him that I won't be out long, I just want to get some local snacks (another travel ritual of mine) at the corner store I saw on my way to the hotel and come back.

"Madam, you should leave your bag, phone and headphones at the hotel then." This is when I really got concerned. You see, in my experience, locals are never worried by the dangers portrayed in the news, they know exactly how exaggerated they are and have a true understanding of the incidence of crime in their city. For the concierge to be this worried... it gave me second thoughts.

Streets of Ho Chi Minh City

I returned to my room, dropped all the extras (bag, headphones, sunglasses, handheld fan, wallet) and left with just my phone and the cash I would need to pay for my snacks in my pockets. I went back down to the lobby and asked him if this was better. He grimaced and said he could tell there was a phone in my pocket but that it was much better. For a second I began to second guess my decision to go out but, I quickly reminded myself that I am a bad gyal pon road and headed out.

I remember walking more briskly than I usually would have (I'm a bad gyal, not a moron!) and feeling relief when I finally entered the store. On my way back I was ready to drop the bag of snacks and run to the hotel if necessary (I knew the way now) but I am very glad it wasn't. I did see a family of 3 on a scooter get hit by another scooter in the middle of a large intersection and their child, who looked around 3 years old, went flying. Traffic continued to flow as usual and not a single person stopped what they were doing. Except me of course; I was rooted to the pavement with a look of horror on my face as the parents picked up their child who was crying and went on their way.

When I returned, the concierge looked very happy to see me but I saw him shake his head when he thought I wasn't looking, "These crazy foreigners". I liked most of the snacks I selected and did a lot more exploring the next day, but I made sure to only walk around with essentials which most definitely did not include Apple headphones.

Views from the Mekong River


  • Ask locals for an accurate assessment of risk within the city

  • Some cities are much more prone to thieves and pickpockets than others

  • Don't let fear stop you from exploring a new city

  • You can't dress fancy in all cities


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