I never finished writing about my trip to SE Asia, which now was over 2 months ago... Long story short, I took a boat trip down the Mekong river from Phnom Penh back into Vietnam. I spent a couple of days in the Mekong Delta area visiting floating markets, as well as touring the Viet Cong tunnels used during the war before I finished my trip back in Ho Chi Minh City. As I'm sure you've gathered by now, the trip was great and I had an amazing time.
Two weeks ago, I rode my bike into town (about a 45 minute ride). I spent the day exploring more of Suzhou, and as I was finishing my day, it started to sprinkle, and the weather looked like it would start pouring at any minute. I decided it wasn't worth riding home in the rain, so I left my bike near the pedestrian area of town, locked it (not to anything, just itself), and took the bus home. Unfortunately, due to my schedule and the wet weather the following week, I wasn't able to make it back into town to retrieve the bike for a little over a week. This past Monday, I finally was able to make it there and much to my disappointment (although not my complete surprise), my bike was gone. I talked to a guy nearby who was some sort of guard and told him (in my very broken Mandarin) that my bike had been here and now it wasn't. His response was somewhat between amusement and boredom. He wasn't any help and told me he didn't have it...The one thing that made this theft somewhat bearable is the condition my bike had been in. As I've mentioned, it wasn't the most pristine bike when I got it, and the sub-par Chinese manufacturing that is always in the news also describes the care used in the manufacturing of my bicycle. One of the plastic pedals had broken off and I hadn't gotten around to fixing it, so I had been pedaling with one pedal and just a metal bar under my other foot. Also, the brakes were a little loose. It was definitely due for a tune-up, so it gave me a little pleasure that the thief had to deal with those problems.
The rest of my week consisted of walking and taking the bus where I needed to go, which is much less convenient that having the use of a bicycle. I had been mulling about what I should do, since it didn't seem worth it to buy a new bike with only about 2 months left here, but I also didn't want to go that long without the use of two wheels. Yesterday, I went looking for used bicycles, which don't really seem to exist in China. I talked to a couple of Chinese friends and they didn't really understand the concept of second-hand bicycles ("You mean you don't want to buy a new bicycle?"). I looked around the city's University thinking maybe there would be a place that sold used bikes there, but alas, no bicycles. I wandered around the city some more and ended up near the scene of the crime from the week before. I decided I might as well walk by again and see if, by some miracle, the bike was there.
I got to the spot, and believe it or not, the bike was there! Now, the way that I know it was my bike and not one of the millions of others is that I had purchased a new seat for mine when I got it, and I have still never seen another like it(it's red, gray, and black - quite stylish!). Also, there was a sticker on the ever useful basket that makes it very identifiable. I couldn't believe my luck. It, of course, had a new lock on it that the thief had put on to stop OTHER thieves, but that wasn't going to stop me from taking what was rightfully mine. I grabbed the bike, and as the lock was looped through the back tire, had to hold the back of the bike up as I rolled the front wheel of the bike away. A couple of blocks away, I found a bike repair stand (they're everywhere in China) and I got him to hammer the lock off of the bike so that it could be pedaled. And the cherry on top of this wonderful story of karma was that the jackass who stole my bike had replaced the broken pedal and tightened the brakes, so now I have my bike back, as well as new pedals and better brakes. This just goes to show you that if you're going to steal a bike, you shouldn't steal it from the exact same place you're going to return to a week later.