Nationless in Vietnam, the Lumia 920 life saver, and a friend lost forever

Nationless in Vietnam, the Lumia 920 life saver, and a friend lost forever


You might be reading the title of this post right now and wondering – what? Well my fellow readers, if you slow it down a bit and read on, I’ll explain the entire thing. I’ve been mulling over writing this article for 2 months, not because of laziness or forgetting to do it, but rather I didn’t want to remind myself of one of the worst holidays I’ve had.. in ever. The first thing to know is that I’m a world experienced traveller – I’ve lived in 8 countries, travelled to between 25 and 30 countries (I should really tally it up some day), and been to ever continent except Antarctica (and I mean really, should we even consider that white barren land an actual ‘continent’?). All that by the age of 24. The point being is I’ve travelled a lot, so I know what I’m doing which makes the story even worse.

Nationless in Vietnam

If you’re even more confused now, i’ll cut to the chase – I had my passport AND DSLR stolen in Vietnam. Now this is a trip I was really looking forward to, going with a couple of friends to a new country full of promise, and ready for a new experience. We were going on a rather cheap-ish backpacking trip, as opposed to staying in hotels as I normally do. This trip had been in planning for 7 months at least, so as you can imagine everyone was happy to go when the time came about. I had bough a hiking backpack, some essential hiking/walking gear and was most certainly set.

But I don’t really understand fully how it happened. I flew in alone to Ho Chi Minh City (as the other 2 girls had flown in the day before from Malaysia, and I from India where I was at the time). When I arrived in HCMC, I decided to remove my DSLR bag from the backpack and place my passport in it (essentially a dumb move) and I slung the DSLR around my shoulders. I caught a cab from a random booth (there were no designated Airport Taxi’s, just people in uniform asking if you wanted a taxi). I was told 300,000 Vietnamese Dong (the currency thank you very much) and I agreed, solely because I just wanted to get to the hostel. I had 2 hours sleep the previous night, and barely managed a wink on the 2 hour flight – so I was a bit loopy. Remember, it’s always important to get a good nights sleep. As I got into the cab, I took the bag off, as well as the DSLR bag to get more comfortable.

The Taxi driver didn’t speak a word of english so when we got to the hostel area I was unsure of where we were. As he got out of the cab, ran across the street to show me, a random guy opened the cab and asked me which hotel, and when I asked he confirmed that I was in the right place. His english was oddly immaculate, but I was rather happy to have reached. Now at this point a random guy opening the door of my taxi should have been a dead give away, but I waas loopy as I said. He must have grabbed the dslr bag before I realized and turned towards him. I walked out of the cab and never even realized the dslr bag was gone till I reached the room. Oh the feeling when I realized. Not only was my $1600 Sony NEX 5 DSLR gone, with 3 years of pictures and memories from around the world in it (another tip: BACKUP all your photos, always – I had only the recently China pictures backed up). And even worse – my Passport.. and I was suddenly, Nationless in Vietnam.

Wrapping it up, I told my friends to go on while I spent 8 days alone in HCMC. I moved into a much better hotel immediately (one with a safe!), got someone to bike me around to the immigration getting what I needed done, filling out the form. I did have to spend 4 hours at the Airport with the Airport Police getting a complaint, getting the cab driver back, and another 4 hours in the Police Station. It was a terrible ordeal.

Eventually I got an emergency Passport and was able to leave, and I’m not sure when, or if I’ll ever go back.

The Lumia 920 Life Saver

So literally a few weeks before the Vietnam trip, I had glady ditched my Lumia 900 for a more advanced and powerful Lumia 920. I didn’t plan to take many pictures with the 920 (except at night) because the DSLR was ‘supposed’ to be with me. However after it was stolen, The Lumia 920 became a life saver. I don’t give Nokia enough credit with the Pureview technology they’ve thrown into the phone, because it really was a blessing in disguise (and most certainly a life saver) as I went around for that week to places taking pictures of Ho Chi Minh. Honestly those who ever complained about the weight were in some world of their own, because it weights less than any point and shoot camera ever has, let alone a DSLR. The Lumia 900 was a nice phone, but the camera was a dud. Luckily Nokia came out guns blazing with the 920, and I have plenty of great pictures in Vietnam as you can see below.

If you've ever doubted the #Lumia920's low light power, doubt no more here! Some color boosting, but its still good!

I don’t know many phones that can take a picture like that above (yes I’ve enhanced the color a little bit, but the quality is unchanged). Nokia have surprised me by really taking on the world with their unique designs and throwing in mega cameras, and I really enjoyed my first trip with my Lumia 920 taking pictures, and I know Microsoft had a part to play in the phone as well, so a good team effort all around. A few more below from Instagram. Feel free to follow me on instagram if you want.

It was a fantastic experience using the Lumia 920 as a full fledged DSLR replacement, and while it wouldn’t be as good as the Lumia 1020, you know it does the job. It’s been on the market for about 8/9 months now, so you should know this by now, but it’s always an option. Who knows, maybe the Lumia 1020 could be the next lifesaver down the line (though hopefully not in the same circumstances).

It’s worth noting, that I had downloaded Vietnam’s offline maps on Nokia Drive – and it really helped me get around when someone couldn’t speak english to give me instructions. Life. Saver.

A Friend lost forever

No not an actual real human being, but my Sony NEX-5 DSLR. Why a friend? Because it was my first ever camera, which I bought at the age of 21. Before then, and before the days of Mobile phones having cameras in them that were good, I used to borrow my mums or dads or sisters camera. Occasionally I had to ask a friend for one. I had never physically owned a camera that I could call mine, because of one reason or another. So when Sony released the NEX 5 (1st gen), I knew this was the camera I wanted. I went ahead and also bought the 55-200mm lens, a super zoom lens (11x true zoom), and I spent a massive $1,600 on the camera (massive from nothing I mean). I took the camera to at least 10 different countries, and it took amazing pictures. I started to learn more about photgraphy and how to take proper pictures (you know, without the auto mode). And yes, I’ve tried Canon’s and Nikkons, and even other Sony models since then, but none (for me) even came close to the Nex. It looked good, was small (not bulky like normal DSLR’s) and took amazing photographs. It was coincidentally, the first review on Techin5 (The review that started it all in a way) as well, so this particular camera was almost like a friend (again, not a real friend), a perfect travel companion.


When it was stolen, my first thought was that at least the passport was replaceable, this particular camera and the contents of the memory card would never be replaced. It still saddens me today, and even though I have my 920 to take pictures, it still hurts to have lost such a great camera. Sony have advanced their NEX lines recently, and if you even want to get a camera with can replicate a full sized DSLR without the bulk that comes with it, I fully 100% recommend a Sony NEX Series.

Somewhere out there is a Vietnamese man, enjoying the heck out of my NEX. While I resent him and everything he did, I hope he at least get’s some great pictures in the future and keeps care of the Sony. Farewell.

Travel Tips

  • Always be aware of your surroundings and personal items
  • Keep your technology safe and secure at all times, they’re expensive and occasionally irreplaceable.
  • Use tech to keep a track on luggage and gadget such as – Trakdot, i-TRAK, and Trace-Me are all excellent solutions depending on needs and budgets.
  • Always have Travel Insurance (something I have, but haven’t been able to claim yet). If you have something expensive, declare it so you can claim back some cash on it.
  • If this ever happens to you, keep calm trace your steps back and always report it to the police or authorities.
  • Enjoy travelling. These things happen, but it shouldn’t curtail your travel life. Life is an adventure, you just need to go out and live it.

Founder and Chief Editor of Techin5, currently based in Melbourne Australia. Has always had a deep appreciation of Technology and how it helps people, which led to the birth of Techin5. You can follow me on Twitter at @jubbing and on Instagram
  • Andrew Tech Help

    Hooray for the Lumia 920!

    Something my dad taught me about international travel. Buy a thin zippered pouch you can hang around your neck under your shirt and put your passport (and maybe emergency cash) in there so that it’s nearly impossible for it to get stolen.

  • Techin5

    Well normally I have my passport in my laptop bagpack which hooks around my waist and has a small Passport compartment, but this was a new hiking bag, so it was difficult to get it in and out.

    But I guess you can’t fit the DSLR in the pouch :(