The Kindness of Strangers: A Passing Friend in Nanjing

In the heavy monsoon rain, a Chinese girl waved me over. Her kindness saved me from a tricky situation…

On my first full day in Nanjing I decided to visit Purple Mountain and take the cable car up to take in a view of the National Park and the surrounding city.

I arrived after a frustrating cab ride (which I had only hailed thanks to some locals of the same age who saw that I was getting nowhere and spoke Chinese with my cab driver) and started my leisurely stroll through the lush green, rainforest-like surroundings. While I had no idea where I was going exactly, I was ready to wander aimlessly; it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the green scenery and peaceful atmosphere was a perfect start to the day.

Within 20 minutes an almighty burst of thunder hit the air, a rumble so hard it startled the two people on a nearby bench out of deep slumber with such alarm that they knew what was coming. What followed was a fast, hard and heavy downpour that caught me completely off guard – I had neither a rain jacket nor a protective cover for my bag that contained expensive to replace items such as my iPhone and SLR. To top it off, I was wearing flip-flops.

I began a frantic walk (clumsy run) back in the direction of where I started, stopping in spots under trees that would keep me dry for a few seconds so that I could wipe my eyes and see where I was going, and in a desperate measure to get the hell out of there and protect my stuff, walked in the direction of the main road.

On the path a Chinese girl saw my plight and stood waiting with an umbrella and waved me over. Putting a protective arm around me she asked where I needed to go. Arm in arm she led the way making sure I was dry and helped me walk through the deep puddles in my flip-flops. With no taxi in sight (typical) we made it to the Metro where I was expecting her to say goodbye and leave me to it.

Instead she held out two coins, placed them in my hand and led me to the ticket machine.

Waiting at the platform for the train she refused to take my money for the ticket and instead I just gave her a huge hug. I never got to know her name or what she did in the city. She didn’t speak a lot of English and all I could say in Chinese was ‘thank you’ but for that half an hour we were friends.

Maybe I wasn’t supposed to see Purple Mountain on this day but instead see the kindness of strangers. As we left for our trains on opposite ends of the platform I ran over and gave her my business card and asked her to say hello. I just hope she gets to read this.



  1. says

    What a lovey story! It is not often that strangers treat you with such kindness. You may not be able to repay her, but you may be able to repay that kindness through a gesture to someone else in need one day.

  2. Steph says

    absolutely love this! my favourite part of travel is the random little moments of insight and the wonderful
    (if brief) episodes that people pop into your life. What a great story. makes me smile! keep it up Brit! XX

  3. says

    Reading this post made me want to be in China again! It’s funny how in retrospect, you can remember a place more for a particular incident, than perhaps a famous landmark… because to tell you the truth, I’ve been to Purple Mountain and I can’t remember anything about it other than the cable car! Hopefully that’s because of my appalling memory, rather than a disappointing view…. if it were the latter, then maybe you didn’t miss too much after all 😉

    Let’s hope your blog has managed to break through the great Chinese Firewall so that your little saviour is able to read this post!

    • Backpacker Becki says

      I didn’t get to go back to Purple Mountain at all, so my time in Nanjing will certainly be defined by this incident. My website isn’t blocked, so here’s hoping she gets to see how much her help meant to me :)

  4. Ed Rex says

    Wow, that’s amazing! Love the kindness of strangers.

    I keep getting a vision of you as Blanche in Streetcars of Desire when she says ‘you can always depend on the kindness of strangers..’ then suddenly burst into song. Although I’m not sure you did that!

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