Trust is a good thing. Thinking the best of others is as well. Getting too comfortable is not.
After a fun evening out with fellow travelers on my first night in Hoi An, I was ready to head back to my room. But, just like when we had arrived earlier that morning, there were no taxis, only men on motorbikes willing to drive you home. Taking motorbikes as taxis earlier that morning from our bus drop off had been fine (even fun!), so I thought nothing of it. My love for Hoi An and my carefree feelings overpowered my better judgement and I hopped on. But as we sped away a girl screamed after me, “Don’t go! They’re going to rob you!”
But it was too late. I was already on the bike, moving too fast to jump off. My heart was racing and I was at a loss for what to do. We rode out into the dark, near no one and nothing. Then another man pulled up on a bike beside us.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“My friend,” he replied.
“Tell him to go away. I don’t want him here.” I tired to say in a firm, commanding voice.
But he followed. My only solace was that we were heading in the right direction. He had shown no aggression and had done nothing to make me think he was going to hurt me, but I was scared and suddenly very aware of just how alone I was with two strange men. My next tactic was to appeal to my driver on an emotional level.
“My name is Margaret. I’ve been traveling in Vietnam for a few weeks now and I love it here – such a beautiful country. I’ll see my parents, Fred and Kathy, and my brother, Matt and his wife Ashlee for the holidays.”
(That last part was a lie, of course).
“Do you have a family? What are their names?” He didn’t respond.
Finally, “You’re going to take care of me, right? You won’t hurt me, will you?” He just drove.
Feeling like my final approach had failed I resigned myself to the inevitable. I would throw my bag in one direction, run in the other or come out swinging if it came to that. When we finally pulled up in front of my home stay, I jumped off the bike, scrambled towards the gate where, by the grace of God, the young hotel manager was waiting for me. I threw money at the men and practically fell inside the gate as she slammed it behind me.
To be fair, I can’t say for certain if these men would have hurt me or if they had any intention to in the first place, but after asking locals the next day they confirmed it was a common occurrence and that my ride was most definitely not a good choice. But I was safe, unharmed and had learned a very good, very difficult lesson.