As I set out on my second trip to Beijing, I called myself a seasoned 'international' traveler. Ok, I haven't traveled that much, but enough times to have mastered the drill and not get worked up. It was going to be a short trip anyway and was looking forward to get back more than ever.
The only weekend I was there started of with my visiting the Lama temple, a beautiful monastery. Sunday evening after a day's shopping or rather window shopping I took the usual subway back home parted ways with my friends who stayed in another hotel. It was dark and very very cold, just the kind of day for me to forget my jacket. I hugged myself tight and started to walk the short distance to my hotel. As I neared I could hear footsteps match mine and someone closing in. I've felt this way many times before, even in Bangalore, this thing about being a woman makes you suspicious all the time. I didn't have the courage to look back though, I just wanted to get back as early as I could. I relaxed entering the hotel premises but the footsteps were only getting closer, perhaps it was another guest eager to avoid the cold harsh winds. Not stopping, I continued, in the instant that I entered the revolving doors I could feel a man's hand grab my wallet from the bag I was carrying. I turned and saw a look on his face that I'll never forget. By the time I came out of the revolving door again he was gone.
Cash, cards and my beautiful wallet..all gone. Gone! I walked back coolly to my room and blocked all my cards within no time like a pro. This is what experience does to you. This has happened to me 3 times now. Yes THREE. First time in a foreign country though. (first time I just misplaced my wallet, was in college and broke so doesn't count I guess) What would have happened if I had decided to look back. Knowing how close he was to me, he might have done something stupid. Would he have brandished a knife? Or would he have ran? Also, I am out of kickboxing practice, he was a small man but I don't think I could have taken him on.
I told the hotel manager what had happened and I asked them to check the security camera. After long wait they said it hadn't capture anything. I insisted that I see the video. They made several calls to get permissions and allowed me to walk to the control room. Turns out they hadn't made much effort to look for the clip. After much sorting we finally found the tape and everything was caught on camera crystal clear.
Watching the video had a 2 fold effect on me. One I was convinced I wasn't imagining things. The hotel guys repeatedly were telling me that I probably lost it in the subway. I had a look of triumph when I finally found the video but I don't think the Chinese get 'I told you so'.
Second, watching myself on the screen and being robbed spooked me more than I could imagine. All the confidence I had built up vanished. I avoided the subway for the rest of my stay, borrowed money to pay my hotel bill and waited anxiously to return home safely.
Everyone says its not my fault, could have happened to anyone. I blame myself though. I let my guard slip. Was over confident and didn't take the necessary precautions I normally take before every travel. I have this natural tendency to attract disaster (Bridge Jones Syndrome) so should have been more careful. Losing the money didn't matter much. Money comes money goes. What I find very difficult to get over is the queasy feeling in my stomach, combination of guilt, being made a fool of, being gullible. On the plus side, it gave me something to blog about!