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Ani, Are you Ok?

Back to Asia, a little known mystery caught my eye. It happened in hong kong. Ani Ashekian was a bright soul- paralegal with a free spirit. She loved nothing more than traveling the globe and getting into adventures. By the time she was 30, she had already explored around 30 countries, mostly solo. When she turned 31 back in 2008, Ani was ready to jet off on a new expedition, with 2 of her friends. She had just returned home to Canada after a holiday with her boyfriend. That's when she made a spur of the moment decision to join them. Her family found it a little out of character-sure, sure Ani loved to trace, but she was more the planning type of gal, the type where she wanted to go what her itinerary would be. Research which restaurants to eat at. Nevertheless, two days after returning home, she flew from Toronto to Beijing with her two companions, intending to explore China as much as possible. She would return home via India in December. However, something happened to Ani during that spontaneous trip, something nefarious, and for reasons that remain unclear, she disappeared completely and, 12 years later, her whereabouts and well remain unknown. Let's go over the details. Ani and her friends landed in Beijing on October 25th.

Their first week there went according to plan, with the group exploring the city and surrounding area. On Friday. October 31st that all changed. At 12:30 am, in the early hours of Halloween. Ani upped and left the hotel she was staying at with her travel companions. The two other girls didn't think this was unusual. Ani liked going off by herself and exploring at her own pace. They just assumed she was still jet-lagged and wanted to do something more fun than lying restlessly in bed. Here is when things get strange. Later that morning, Ani returned to the hotel room- she took a bath, had a coffee, and - strangely- packed up all of her things and checked out of the hotel alone without telling either of the friends where she was going why she was leaving. That was the last time either of them saw or heard from Ani. As I said, she loves to travel solo, but it did not make any sense why she would pack up and leave without any goodbyes or an explanation. This troubled her friends, whom both tried to contact her. Ani never replied to their call or messages. Here's what we know: sometime between October 31st and November 8th, Ani traveled to Xi'an by train, a journey that takes roughly about 5 hours. Xi'an is one of China's most popular tourist destinations. So no major cause for concern there just yet. On Wednesday, November 5th, Ani sent her final email from her Hotmail account. After this, she would never send an email ever again. On November 95h,

Ani caught a plane from Xi'an and arrived in Hong Kong. The following day, there was an unconfirmed sighting of her at live Chungking mansions. Chungking mansions are kind of a hotel that looks a bit run down. It was known to be the ghetto of hong kong. Now, this sighting was unconfirmed, but if she was there, was she visiting the mansions as a tourist or staying in the cheap hotel there? On October 11th, Ani was caught on CCTV at the causeway bay, withdrawing 2800 Hong Kong dollars from an ATM, That is around 350 dollars the US. She appeared calm on the tape. At 8:30 am that day, she sent her sister a text message, saying to wish her a happy niece's birthday. That was the last communication she had with any of her loved ones. On December 15th, Ani was scheduled to catch a plane from India back to Canada. She never made that flight. The records show that she never made it out of Hong Kong at all, not through an airport at least. Around Christmas, there was another unconfirmed sighting of Ani in Hong Kong's Wanchai Area. Wanchai is a very seedy part of Hong Kong. The kind of place where they sell love by the hour. Despite its low crime rate, Hong Kong was and still is infamous for being a transit point for human trafficking.

It's possible that her sighting in Wanchai could mean she was a victim of trafficking. However, it doesn't explain her strange behavior leading up to her ultimate disappearance. It doesn't seem like she was forced to abandon her friends, travel to Xi'an, and then Hong Kong, and it doesn't seem as if she was stressed in all of the video footage captured of her. Still. That unconfirmed sighting is the last piece of evidence we have, and where the trail for this particular case runs cold. What happened to Ani? Was she sold to servitude, or did she disappear on her own accord? Why did she uncharacteristically leave her friends in Beijing without so much goodbye? Ani had a great career in Canada and a happy relationship with her boyfriend, and the pair had bright plans to move to Argentina together. It's so sad that all that went to waste. None of Ani's belongings have ever been recovered, and the authorities no closer now to finding her than they were back then.


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