Dec 03 2011

Robbed then “murdered” in Bali

Published by at 10:06 am under Health & safety


It was over before it began: a motorbike’s engine goes down a gear, I lean back towards my open car door to let the bike pass, the driver grabs my shoulder bag and I scream — teaching my two children, still in the back seat of the car, a few choice swear words as my bag sails away in slow motion. Another bike appears immediately with two men who indicate that they’ll chase; I think there’s a chance I’ll get the bag back so I wait, along with the crowd who somewhat reassuringly have appeared in response to my yelling. A third biker, who also gave chase, returns saying he couldn’t keep up.

The bruise. (Also: hours of pilates.)

The bruise. (Also: hours of Pilates.)

Of course, the second bike doesn’t return, and it seems obvious now that they were part of the scam, giving chase in order to first give their guy cover, or make the snatch if he misses, and second reassure others that there’s no need to give chase as they have it covered.

It could happen anywhere, but this snatch and grab occurred on a quiet suburban street in Sanur, Bali. Getting robbed, I think, can be a little like there being a recession; it’s only a recession when you lose your job, and the neighbourhood is only going to the dogs when you get robbed.

I’ve heard of snatch and grab robberies going on in Bali occasionally for the more than three years we’ve been here, but anecdotally I’ve been hearing of more this past year. It makes sense; Bali is booming, not everyone is making money from the boom and — well, I’ll stop the layperson analysis right there. I don’t feel any less safe than I did before the robbery — which could have resulted in something much worse than a bruise on the arm — but it’s a reminder that it pays to be vigilant.

This doesn’t mean needing to be paranoid, but a few things I think I’ll do from now on:

* Wear a backpack instead of a shoulder bag, despite the fashion pain this causes me (travellers would do well to consider using a moneybelt instead of a bag, fairly standard advice);
* Make sure I leave at home anything that I don’t need. I was carrying an HSCB security device that could easily have been stashed at home, along with a few credit cards that I needn’t have had in my wallet;
* I’ll leave things I don’t need but could on the spur of the moment in the car glovebox. I was a bit sad to lose all my loyalty cards — I was up to a free cream bath at Glo after more than a year! a year! — and I also lost my Cozy vouchers, sniff.
* I’ll keep plugging on with my Indonesian — it helped enormously with the police. If you’re travelling, even just spending a few hours learning key words can help you out a lot in a tricky situation; and
* I’ll carry paper books. My Kindle was lost, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the reader. I’m a convert. But I’ll stick to paper when I’m out, I think.

I went to make a police report at the station on the bypass road in Sanur near Mercy 2. I explained what happened, and that I needed a report. I certainly wasn’t expecting them to catch anyone, given my description of all three culprits extended to one of them wearing either a red helmet or a red jacket. Yeah, that reporter’s astute eye came in real handy.

I could make a “lost items” report, or a “criminal” report, they said, even though I had explained I was robbed. “The criminal report will take two hours,” they said, seemingly expecting me to go for the lost report instead. A mixture of indignation and perhaps misplaced civic duty — shouldn’t it be filed as a crime SO THAT PEOPLE KNEW!! — led me to insist on the criminal report. My Indonesian is bad, but I managed it all without English; I don’t know what ordinary tourists do as they definitely weren’t receptive when I asked about speaking to tourist police, who are based in various stations in Bali.

The process did, indeed, take two hours, with exactly the same information being punched up twice on different computers, in rooms with broken chairs, cigarette smoke and slouching but solicitous officers who fed the kids rambutans. At no stage was I asked for money — though they did know I had none.

The next day, at the bank, there were nervous chuckles all round when I presented the report and asked to get a replacement card. The teller pointed to a line and said the police had made a mistake. “Oh god,” I thought. “Don’t make me go back!”

“They have written that you were killed, that you’re dead,” the teller said.

Everyone wants to come back from the dead, right?

Everyone wants to come back from the dead, right?

“Oh,” I said. I wondered how I should explain that I was still alive. “Look! I signed the report, so I can’t be dead!”

More chuckles as the teller made the necessary change in pen and asked me to sign the amendment.

Amusing — but sort of a reminder that I was indeed lucky that all I lost was a few things and nothing more.

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Robbed then “murdered” in Bali”

  1. Sparkyon 03 Dec 2011 at 2:44 pm

    - Loosing a bag and contents is always a pain…

    A Hidden money belt for credit cards, passport & emergency cash is the best solution.

    For 10+ years of traveling in Asia I have carried one…not convienant but its safe.

    Another note for those traveling – Hotel safes are not safe unless its a global hotel chain.

    Never leave your money / passport / credit cards
    = in your hotel room
    = in your back pack

    Every-time I travel, I meet people who have lost / had stolen their passports and cards.

    And each of them had them in a bag / pocket or in their hotel room….

    I say why wait to loose these important item and put yourself through the drama of arranging replacements from your home country.. keep them secure in a hidden money belt….

    = carry day to day cash ( maybe 1 card) in a visible money belt / back pack …

    Then if your robbed you can let it go and carry on enjoying your holiday!
    enjoy the world and be safe!

  2. Jodion 03 Dec 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Sam, so sorry to hear someone did this. Of course I’m glad you’re (mostly) ok but it stings to lose all those things, and also to think of the vulnerability in whatever information of yours they now have in their possession.

    To Sparky, I’ve never worn a moneybelt in my years of travel and do not plan to start. They look bulky (as a woman, it’s hard to fit under pants/jeans and in many cases if you’re wearing a dress they’re useless anyhow), and I never, ever carry my passport with me when I’m wandering around – it stays locked in my pack in the room. I know this is a very subjective subject (there’s a whole reddit thread about just the moneybelts), but in my experience it’s best to leave them locked up inside your bag – the times i’ve been mugged at gunpoint or knifepoint, the first thing the assailant asked was to see my waistband and make sure I wasnt’ wearing a moneybelt. Had I had one on, I’d have lost all the things that were safely in my hostel.

  3. Mikeon 05 Dec 2011 at 10:30 am

    How can the police make that kind of mistake? In all caps too.

  4. Karenon 09 Feb 2013 at 12:51 am

    Frankly, as a single woman, I am beginning to hate Bali – specifically Balinese men.

    Embarrassingly, I got swindled by a so-called “healer” in Ubud named Dewa (women beware), who goes around with a soft, peaceful aura, lures single women to his dirty, run-down shack and does “healings” on them. These healings involve putting his hands and fingers on strategic positions on your body (around the breasts and pelvis) and pressing down.

    Then, he pulls you close to his body – so close you can feel his tiny little penis getting hard. Disgusting to say the least. Then, you receive constant texts inviting you to his house again… and when you don’t respond, will say it’s your “bad karma”.

    While there may be legitimate healers in Bali, there are plenty of scum like this man – so please, watch out.

    Taxi drivers also like to pick up on single, Western women. They will often bring up the topic of sex completely out of the blue – and always – tell you that they are “separated” from their wives.

    The other night, I had a taxi driver push himself on me as I was getting out of the cab. Thank God there was a car behind me, as I was in a very remote area at the time.

    Some Balinese men are really like dogs. They will sniff and sniff, hoping to get lucky. I find it repulsive. Plus they often stink as personal hygiene is not a priority here apparently :-P

    Glad to be getting out of here. Not sure if I’ll ever come back. Bali is great, don’t get me wrong – but the cultural elements can be really disturbing at times. You need a thick skin here.

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