When my daughter Martha was studying in Dalian, in the far northeast corner of China, she invited me to meet her in Beijing.
We stayed in a friendly hostel in the centre of town, ate fabulous food with Martha’s many international friends, walked a section of the Great Wall, visited the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace and strolled through Tiananmen Square.
It was a stress-free, enchanting introduction to one of the world’s great cities. Martha spoke excellent Chinese and navigated this giant metropolis with ease and speed.
One day, she arranged to see a friend and we agreed to meet a couple of hours later. I felt that, with a few days’ experience of Beijing, I could get around OK by myself.
Within minutes of leaving Martha, I’d agreed to get on the back of a motorised tricycle for a ride to a metro station for $2. Instead, the driver zoomed off in a different direction, going so fast I couldn’t get off. After a few minutes haring through side streets, he turned down a small alley, stopped his trike and demanded $20. I got off, but there was nowhere to run, no-one to help me – and he was clearly threatening violence unless I paid.
Extorted, left in a strange, isolated alley, I somehow had to find my way back to the safety and security of my daughter. We stuck together after that.