A really bad week

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Sep 26, 2010

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

After arriving in Nong Khai, I made it through customs fairly easily and into Laos. From there a 20 cent bus ride 22km into Vientiane.

My first order of business was the Vietnamese embassy to get a visa for Vietnam. After finding my way there via tuktuk I got that sorted out. Then I needed to find a place to stay. I walked for quite some time in the middle of the day (hot) looking for  guesthouse with room. After about an hour and a half of searching I came across a place that was fairly decent and had a room in a 3 person dorm, so I decided to stay there since they said they could get me my own room for the next day.

I spent the rest of the night just getting settled in, walking around and saw a bit of Vientiane. It was a really charming city and I enjoyed it. I had some Indian for dinner and then went back for an early nights sleep at around 10pm.

I woke up at 4:45am to the worst nightmare for a traveller. I had my day pack stolen out of my room while I slept.

What had happened was the following:

I had gone to bed and locked my room door at 10pm, being the first of 3 people staying in that room into the room that night.

I had put my backpack and my day pack tucked under my bed, both locked up.

The last person staying in the same dorm room as me came in later that night, after me and the other person were asleep, and had FAILED to lock the door to our room behind her.

A drunk partier staying on the same floor had been out that night meeting random locals in a bar, and one local took an interest in where this guy was staying and what room he was in. He just happened to be staying on the same floor as me.

A random traveller had an early flight and had to leave at 3 in the morning, so the two hotel staff on duty, security or whatever you want to call them unlocked the front doors at 3am to let her out, and then FAILED to lock the front door again, and then both of them fell back to sleep in the front lobby.

The drunk partier came home at about 4:30am with the local with him. his local guy was obviously interested in robbing him, but it didn't work out like that. The drunk guy walked in the front door, with the local walking in right behind him, and since security was asleep and had left the doors unlocked, no one stopped either of them. The drunk guy went to his room, got something, then decided to go out again, so locked his room behind him (even a drunk guy can remember to lock his door). So he left, and the local that followed him into the hotel stayed in the hotel. And then he went to check the drunk guys door, which was locked. So then he started walking up and down hallways checking for other unlocked doors. And then he came to our door. He ended up first stealing the money belt of the person that had originally left our door unlocked, but after taking the money belt and going through it in the hallway (security tapes showed this happening) he decided it wasn't worth it, and PUT IT BACK IN THE ROOM, and then managed to crawl in and the next thing he could find was my day pack. Since it was locked up he didn't bother waiting around, he took off.

Security tapes proved all of this happened, and showed that I woke up 4 minutes after it happened.

I was confused and upset and furious all at the same time. The day pack contained every single piece of vital equipment and belongings that I had. Passports, money, electronics, medication, all of it gone.

I did everything I could possibly think of to fix the situation. I went to the front desk and asked to see security tapes, which they couldn't let me do until 8am when the owner got there. I asked them to call the police but they would not since they had no proof of what happened, which was conveniently on the tapes. So I ended up waking up every single person in the hotel to check their rooms to see if the bag was still in the hotel but it was not. So I waited, and finally saw what happened on the tapes, and then the police were called.

The next week was very unhappy and stressful. There is no Canadian embassy in Laos, so I ended up having to deal with the Australian embassy. Laos is unlike Thailand in that not many people understand English so the communication barrier with the guesthouse, the local police, the tourist police, the immigration was all extremely difficult. I even had an extremely tough time getting a hold of anyone back home since the internet connections were so bad in Laos that Skype could never get a clear connection if any at all.

It was one of the most frustrating and horrible experiences I can ever recall. I didn't even feel as if I had done anything wrong, and I had been very careful with my stuff, and I was stuck with nothing in a place that I couldn't communicate properly with anyone.

The guesthouse refused to claim any responsibility for the thousands of dollars of stuff I had lost, and the tourist police we're impossible to talk to.

Luckily I ended up getting help from the Australian embassy but that was my only saving grace at that point.

I basically had a few options at that point. My choices appeared to be stay in Vientiane for the next 3 weeks waiting for new things to be sent from back home and buying a bunch of new stuff there to replace all the lost items, going to Bangkok and getting help from the Canadian embassy to replace some of my stuff and buy new things there, but again, be stuck there for about 2-3 weeks, or go home and sort myself out there.

I opted for the last choice. I got temporary exit visas from Laos, and made the extremely long tiring trip back home. The only really neat part about this situation was that I was going to get the chance to see the Olympics in my backyard, which was really quite neat. I would also rather try and sort all my belongings out back in Vancouver where I had family and friends and knew how to get things done efficiently.

It took me about 60 hours in total to get home from Laos but it was worth it when I finally got to go to sleep in my own bed.

UPDATED: The Tourist police in Laos managed to catch the guy and recover some of my belongings. They then tried to sell me my stuff back but the Australian Embassy stepped in and recovered what they could. The tourist police would not comment on what happened to the thief.
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