If I had to choose out of the two I’d probably prefer to be pickpocketed rather than mugged, but that didn’t lessen the initial shock when the former happened to me in Bangkok a few years back. It took just 30 seconds for me to notice what had happened as I did that reassuring pat of the trouser pocket “thing” that we do, but in doing so realised that the rectangular protrusion of my wallet wasn’t where it should be.
Part of me felt violated, part of me felt stupid, a small part of me felt upset, part of me even felt guilty! After all it was 1am, I was in the less than salubrious district of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, and I’d been ticking off that unique experience of watching live “ping pong ball” shows. Although to be honest I’d been more impressed by the entertainer firing out paper darts and popping balloons attached to the ceiling! Anyway I digress. How can a fairly savvy traveller like myself put myself in a position to be pickpocketed, and worse of all the pickpocket had been talking to me quite openly beforehand?
It all happened back in October 2009 when I left a bar at the end of the night and started to make my way home. A hispanic guy in the street started chatting to me, correctly guessing I was English and walked with me all of 10 yards down the road. My “spidey” senses were on full alert so I was fully aware of my surroundings and his reasonably close proximity to me, although the street was fairly busy and it wasn’t just me and him standing there so I didn’t particularly feel in any danger. Within seconds he was initiating a half-hearted football tackle on me with an imaginary football while smiling and cheering “Ronaldo, Rooney!” I went along with it, while still continuing in the same direction. In hindsight I can now see why he went in for a second fake tackle. He hadn’t been able to get at my wallet the first time round!
Looking back, what had given me a slight false sense of security was that the trousers I was wearing were of the cotton “backpacker” variety and had zipped front pockets. If my wallet had been in my back jeans pocket, poking its head out, looking back down the street I can understand how it could have easily been swiped. But this one was safely “locked” away. So the first pretend tackle was to undo the zip (something that no doubt happens to Western tourists for a completely different reason in this part of town) and the second tackle was to take the wallet out.
It was at this point I was getting slightly uneasy with the unwanted attention and made it clear I wasn’t playing any more football and headed off on my way, but not before my new friend had the audacity to shout back saying that he and his friends were meeting for a drink in the bar down the road in 20 minutes and that I should join them. “I don’t think so” I thought. Then just 20 strides away I pattered my left pocket out oh habit and realised my wallet wasn’t there. I turned round in panic (not quite in blind panic, but panic all the same) scouting out the groups of people in the near vacinity but nothing. I moved back to where the game of football had taken place but nobody I recognised was there either. At this point I just wanted to get the hell out of there. However it was least a 1h45 minute walk back my hostel in Khaosan Road and how was I going to manage that without any money? And that’s when beautifully I reached into the zipped rear pocket of my trousers and pulled out a small wad of 100 Baht notes (about £10 total), easily enough to get me back home in a Tuk-Tuk.
I was still slightly shocked by the sad end to the night but flying along the streets back to the relative sanctuary of Khaosan Road, a wry smile came across my face as I pictured the culprit opening up my cheap, blue “freebie” Fosters wallet in the shadows to disappointly find out it contained NO cards, NO notes, just 2-3 coins worth about 20p in total and a solditary PADI divers card I’d got back in Australia a few years earlier. So essentially he would have opened it up and seen a picture of me inside giving him a big “two fingers” and a “**** YOU!” Now that was totally satisfying, made up for any intial upset and most importantly made be much more aware of looking after my belongings in the future. Now this could have happened anywhere. It just happened to take place in Bangkok! I’d certainly go back to this beautful city again.
Anybody else been pickpocketed on their travels? Or worse still mugged?