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Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

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Denver, Colorado
posts: 2
reviews: 36
Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

It pains me to have to put a ripple in the tranquility that defines Luang Prabang, but it seems the criminal elements of Vientiane are finding their way up to the World Heritage City.

Last week, a young man on foot ran up behind me and cut my purse off my shoulder with a very sharp knife; he then jumped over a river embankment, dashing down a steep hill to the Mekhong River where a boat was waiting. When this happened, there were five of us walking along the Mekhong river road, just in front of the National Museum. It is very dark in that location, with no street lamps.

We were being watched roadside from the restaurant where we had just finished dinner- Luang Prabang "LPB Restaurant." Please take care - women especially! You are targeted for your across-the-shoulder bags carrying electronics and kip-stuffed wallet, ready to spend at the famous Luang Prabang Night Market. Don't bring more than you need with you when you leave your hotel, and keep aware of you surroundings at all times. Many times, the purse snatching happens while you are on on foot and the thief is on a motorcycle.

Over the past 20 years, I've traveled in some seriously shady locations and have never had anything like this happen. Won't let this deter me from enjoying the remainder of my travels. But if knife-wielding assailant won't hesitate to use a weapon to commit his crime in a city as peaceful as Luang Prabang, where else may we identify gaps in our personal safety while we travel the wider world?

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
posts: 14,394
reviews: 76
1. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

I'm really sorry to hear that! While I have heard numerous reports of bag snatchings and thieves on scooters whizzing by and grabbing purses form bicycle baskets of cyclign tourists, I have never heard of guys using a knife in this town. Thanks for the warning and I hope you haven't lost anything too valuable, and can enjoy the rest of your trip.

Perth, Australia
posts: 8
reviews: 13
2. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

So sad to read about your bad experience. Of course we have bag snatching in Australia too but I felt a real peaceful , spiritual feeling in L.B and wanted to return there...maybe not alone now : (

Toronto, Canada
posts: 3
3. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

Thank you for sharing. I will be in Luangprabang in about a week. I will spread the words around. Last time I was there my family (locals) had warned me about purse snatchers. They are not the locals. People in LBP benefit greatly from tourists and would not want to jeopardize their reputation as a "peaceful" town. Your thieves can perhaps be Vietnamese workers. Their has been an increase number of them in the past couple of years looking for work.. My local family also got her purse stolen as she was napping in front of her pharmacy. The purse was behind the counter next to her. It is truly sad to have this happened in such a small sleepy town.

Busselton, Australia
posts: 594
reviews: 174
4. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

I had my purse stolen out of my pac safe backpac in Rome two months ago on a very packed train. Thanks for the warning I will keep my pac safe bum bag attached safely to my tummy and keep just enough to buy my food and drink and then go home quickly and definately not on my own.

Vientiane, Laos
Destination Expert
for Vientiane
posts: 2,320
reviews: 224
5. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

Outside the historical peninsula/tourist area of LP it is a normal working Lao town with a full cross section of types of people from monks to hard drug users. There has been crime in LP, as in Vientiane, for years, just like any other large town in the world. I caught someone trying to steal my motorbike in LP 4-5 years ago.

Most of the meth made in Burma comes down through NW Lao and through LP on its way to Vientiane and beyond, and unfortunately is becoming increasinglypopular with teenagers and young men all over Laos. This has seen an increase in theft over the last few years.

Just take normal precautions.

Denver, Colorado
posts: 2
reviews: 36
6. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

Thanks all for your insights, comments and sympathetic tales. Truly appreicated. Please keep safe and aware on all your travels, and most importantly: enjoy yourself!!! Engage with others - just take normal travel precaustions.

Bluecramp - I especially appreciate your explaining the context of what is happening in LP and Southeast Asia with regard to theft and its nexus with drug trade. I had no idea about the methamphetamine problem in LP - that's awful!!! It rips communities apart and seems always accompanied by theft and thieves, who come from all walks of life and from all aspects of society. Many rural and mountain towns in the US have experienced similar issues; luckily, there were widespread education and awareness campaigns that helped mitigate the US issue in recent years. On a bright note, I've read in the Vientiane Times all manners of collaborations engaged in stopping the spread of drugs - and the criminal behavior that comes with it.

So, folks, please just enjoy, be aware and enjoy. Laos is a beautiful country with remarkable traditions, amazing architecture, adventure travel within pristine rivers, waterfalls and jungles - and its people are kind and gentle.

Except, of course, for purse-snatchers :)

Travel well. Sustain it.

7. Re: Warning - Purse Snatchers with Knives in Luang Prabang

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