When in China, beware of man-eating manholes

A friend of mine who moved to Beijing a couple of years ago told me that his mom warned him to be wary when walking near manholes in the city. She had read a story about a man in China who fell into an uncovered manhole at night and was found dead a few days later.

A mom's worst nightmare.

A mom’s worst nightmare.

As a mom, she was, naturally, worried that this was part of a larger problem, and that road work sites in China were more dangerous than ones in the US.

As silly as it seemed, her concern stuck with me, and whenever I bike in Beijing I always glance at manholes before speeding over them. Today, I biked past a road work site and saw this …

manhole.tree

Apparently, the construction crew ran out of cones and had to get creative. It doesn’t look safe, but I guess it might keep you from falling in.

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Beijing safer than most U.S. places — apparently

A common question I get asked by friends and family back home is, “How safe do you feel in China?”

Compared to the U.S., I feel very safe. I can walk down just about any alley in Beijing at 4 a.m. without the fear of being mugged. China prohibits gun ownership by ordinary citizens, and even small weapons are hard to find.

For example, a few months ago, I went to a French sporting goods outlet to buy hiking gear for a trip to southwestern China’s Yunnan province. I asked a sales clerk whether they carried pocket knives, and she gave me a strange look. Continue reading