Imagine yourself on a vacation in a foreign land where mostly no one speaks or understands your language. You have no clue of their language either. To spice things up, you’re traveling all by yourself, and sites like google, facebook or whatsapp are banned in the region, so emergency contact or quick-search information is out of the question. And if things aren’t adventurous enough, you lose your wallet -which has your identity card, lots of cash, credit card and debit card. This is my story on a solo-backpacking trip to China in April, 2016.
On the evening of 22nd April, 2016, I lost my wallet while getting off a taxi on a Wangfujing Street in Beijing. Quickly after getting off the taxi I had realized that I didn’t have the wallet on me. The majority of the population in China doesn’t converse in English and honestly, I felt completely helpless in that moment. Without a driver’s license, credit card and debit card, how was I to survive for two more days in China? What was I to do next? Using we chat app, I called a friend of mine in China, Nina, asking for some help.
She asked me if I had collected a receipt from the taxi driver. I sent her an image of the receipt and she made a call to the taxi agency, DiDi (Uber of China), who contacted the taxi driver and asked him to return to the same spot where he had dropped me. Within a few minutes, the same taxi driver had arrived. We searched frantically and the wallet was nowhere to be found. The strange thing is that I was at the same spot where I was dropped by him, I had paid using the cash in my wallet and that was the last thing I did before getting off the taxi. If it wasn’t in the taxi, I had no clue where else it could have been.
The next step was to quickly get my credit and debit card blocked before someone could misuse the cards. I had no access to the mobile network, so I quickly activated VPN on my mobile phone, which I had already installed through an app called ExpressVPN. Now, I was connected to the internet and I could make a phone call through skype credit, to the respective banks.
I had some reserve cash in my luggage and thankfully, the Park Plaza Hotel had readily agreed upon charging me later, when my new card was issued. So I knew I wasn’t going to starve in China for the next two days. After a long eventful day, I dozed off to sleep.
Next morning, a weird, loud and unfamiliar noise woke me up in the morning and a half asleep, I was trying to figure out the source of the noise. It was a phone call from the hotel reception and they informed me that my wallet was found and I could collect it from a Police Station 20 km away.
I arrived at the police station in almost an hour, at around 10:30 am. A police officer greeted me at the entrance and guided me to stand behind a counter on the left side of the corridor. On the other side of the counter stood a lady police officer, holding my wallet and looking at me with a pleasant smile. She asked me for my passport to confirm my identity and within a few seconds, handed my wallet over to me . Everything in the wallet was intact. She picked up her phone, dialed a number and gave it to me, I heard the voice at the other end, and I said Ni Hao, Xia Xia (Hello, Thank you). It was the person who had found my wallet. I asked him how and where he had found my wallet, but, he didn’t understand English at all and disconnected the call. Was it the driver himself or was it the next customer who took the same taxi? It still remains a mystery!
What intrigued me even more, is how the Police was able to found my without any clue in my wallet about where I was staying. Here’s what the hotel staff explained to me:
The Police in China has a database of all the hotel residents in Beijing and when they found my driver’s license in the wallet, they realized that I’m a foreigner and scanned through the database to find out where I was residing. Then, they called the hotel staff and requested them to inform me urgently. I was highly impressed by how organized and structured the Police administration is, in Beijing. I hope that the police administration in other countries can take inspiration from this kind of promptness and . My biggest learning form this experience is that kindness is the universal language of humanity and it extends beyond the communication or geographical barriers.
How was the noble soul who helped me? Was he the driver himself or maybe the next customer who took the same Taxi? Please share as much as you can to help me find that person and ask him how and where he found my wallet!