What started as a fun “study” trip ended on a reckless note and misfortune of a weekend.
The highlights of my overland travel with friends were not the food trips, the walking tours, and the cities’ architectural wonders; rather, the loss of my Sea-to-Summit pouch with cash and cards, and the trip to the Ho Chi Minh police station.
Last June 12, 11:30 PM (Vietnam time), upon alighting the cab at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport for our return flight to Manila, I realized my pouch was not in its usual place in the inside pocket of my camera sling bag. A few flashbacks later, I remembered sitting on the hotel’s lobby couch nursing a headache and an uncomfortable tummy. I remembered taking it out one last time to pull out a dollar for a service tip. I remembered putting it on top of the bag. But, I did not recall placing it back in the bag as I leaned back on the couch and as we hauled our stuff to the waiting cab. With the claim of a friend who thought he might have indeed seen it on the couch, the realization hit me. I left it. On the couch. For the first time, I left something valuable. For the first time, I did not check and recheck.
After a flurry of calls to the hotel and plans to go back, I went back to Saigon Mini Hotel 5 to check it out myself. I scoured the area and requested the desk officer for access to study the security video. To add insult to injury, the CCTV footage revealed that the person who took my stuff was the security guy who helped us with our luggage and who was the very reason I pulled out my pouch from the bag. Rubbing more salt into my wounds, the security guy claimed the pouch was empty and that he threw it out from the building’s tenth floor (?). Now, why would an obviously lying creep say that?
The long and the short of it is, I missed my flight that night. Now I know how surreal it feels to see your supposed-airline taxiing from the terminal to the runway. Fast forwarding and skipping all other details (basically, to save me from sheer embarassment and further unwanted attention), I ended up spending more for the airfare back than the entire trip to Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh.
The good things that came out of all these? Over and above the 600+ miles earned from the credit card purchase and the 1,002 flight miles (yeah, yeah, sue me for being shallow): 1. I discovered how surprisingly calm and composed I can be in the midst of it all; 2. I have proven once again the presence of amazing friends who made decisions for me, gave me money, and cared for my being finally home; 3. I was saved by a very caring sister who did all the thinking and booking for me, and; 4. I will forever be marked with a memory bank full of lessons on what to do and what not to forget when off wandering. :D