Getting mugged in Phnom Penh – my narrow escape! 

So hopefully you’ve all seen my notice about how I won’t be able to post properly for a while. Currently in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, I’m writing this on my phone and in all honesty, I probably could write some more long posts like this but it’s the most annoying thing… Especially as my nails are now at the stage where the length makes it uncomfortably difficult to type but they just look too cool painted so I am unwilling to cut them off.

But yeah, laptop out of action. And the reason for that is… I got mugged. Well, it was more of an attempted bag snatch so I won’t be over dramatic.

I had been warned about Phnom Penh, especially about its change of character after dark. However, I am generally not one to let warnings stop me from living my life and perhaps I was careless last night. Scratch that, I was definitely a bit careless.

I had gone out quite late in the evening – maybe around 10.30pm – to have dinner and catch up with my journal (!!!) in a nearby restaurant. When I say nearby, I really do mean that it was literally a ten minute walk from my hostel near the Central Market in Phnom Penh, by the Riverside area. I had my food and a couple of (soft!) drinks, and wrote for approximately ten minutes before getting sucked into a fanfiction. Sorry guys, that’s just how I roll. Eventually they threw me out at around midnight because the restaurant was closing.

Pre mugging calm

 

I don’t like riding in Tuk-tuks because they always rip you off and as previously mentioned, I was only ten minutes away from my hostel. Maybe I should have taken one after all. So I slung my bag over one shoulder and started walking. Funnily enough, when it happened, I was just thinking how I didn’t feel unsafe here at night.

I heard a motorcycle drive past and thought they were coming a little close, when one of the two guys on it grabbed my bag. Instinctively, I grabbed for it too. It’s a handmade cloth bag I was given as a present in India, but the material isn’t the sturdiest and so it ripped clean in half, scattering all my things across the road. I started frantically picking things up as the guys on the motorbike slowed a little and looked back. I don’t think they had expected me to try and hold on to the bag.

It all happened very quickly but my mind was going at a million miles a minute trying to decide whether to give my stuff up, clutching at the bits and bobs of self defence I have picked up in my life. Thankfully, a car pulled up as well as a man from a roadside stall walking over to see if I was alright, and I think because of those, the thieves thought better of coming back, and drove off. Miraculously, I had all my stuff! I had been carrying my laptop, phone, hostel keys and quite a bit of money as well as my currency card and driving license in my wallet, so it could have ended up a lot worse. Well, I hope they enjoy that half of a bag…

Clutching all my stuff in my arms, I asked the driver of the car – he was also a taxi driver – to drive alongside me as I was wary of getting into a stranger’s car and quite shaken. Eventually I accepted his offer of driving me literally to the next street to my hostel, where he helped me in and gave me his card if I needed transport in the future. I briefly explained to the hostel staff and went to my dorm, shell-shocked.

If it had been worse, what could I possibly have done! I doubt the police would have been any help. I do have an iPhone tracker on my laptop at home but I doubt it would be much good whilst I am here. The taxi driver’s words stayed with me.

“Promise you will not go out alone again in night time. Phnom Penh not safe for girls alone. And my government is bad government, corrupt, they do not care that people steal and cheat.”

I suppose I should have heeded that from the start. My mistakes were being alone, being out so late, and carrying my bag on the traffic side of my body where it was easy for someone to grab. For some reason, I just didn’t expect it to happen to me at all!

When I got back to my dorm and explained, all my dorm mates were very sympathetic and worried about me. I thank my lucky stars that nothing worse happened. The only immediate casualty was the bag. Oh, and my dress ripped quite considerably at the back. I’ve since decided it looks edgier as a top and ripped it all the rest of the way. I like to think I’m coping fairly well.

The bag came off worst

Today, I found that when it dropped on the floor, something must have broken inside my laptop charger which has put it out of action. Thank goodness my laptop, in its padded case, escaped without a scratch, as did my phone. The charger thing is a pain seeing as now I cannot write properly or back up my photos, but I will get by.

If I had actually been attacked, I can’t say whether I would have tried to keep hold of my stuff. I grabbed my bag on instinct and it’s a good thing I did because otherwise they would have gotten away with everything I was carrying. So if this ever happens to you, grab the bag! Chances are they don’t want to fall of the bike so might let go or not pull as hard if you are on the other end. I try not to think about how that situation could potentially have ended a lot worse. I don’t like to imagine what might have happened if nobody had stopped to help and the men on the motorcycle had come back.

I’m leaving Phnom Penh for Kampot early tomorrow morning and I’ve got to say that I’m looking forward to leaving. I didn’t do anything much today, and when I did step out for a wander, I felt uneasy and was clutching my bag across my body, heart skipping every time a motorbike came a little close. I don’t want my memories of Cambodia to consist solely of this one incident, but it’s difficult not to be jumpy now. Hopefully moving to a new place will rid me of some of the jitters. Safe to say that Phnom Penh isn’t a city I will be returning to in the near future!

I would urge anyone but especially solo female travelers, here, or in any major city anywhere in the world, to stay alert and be wary of the possibility of things like this happening. Walking alone at night in a city where motorbike snatches are common was probably unwise and I am extremely fortunate I didn’t lose anything important or get hurt. You never consider it happening to you until it does. I won’t let this ruin my trip but I am definitely going to be a little more cautious from now on.

I hope my next update will not be too far away from now, and end on a happier note!

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