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Fool Me Once, Shame on You

One Chinese experience stands above the rest. It involves some tea and a few female fists thrown in my face. Read on.

4622771061 127cfd5e29 Fool Me Once, Shame on You

On our first day in Beijing we were off for a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was historic Tiananmen Square before making our way to the Forbidden City. Along the way we met a group of 20-something Chinese tourists. The two girls and one guy spoke pretty good English, and soon we found ourselves in a friendly conversation. Before we knew it, we were off to the Forbidden City together when one of the girls mentioned she wanted to stop and grab something to drink. We were getting along so well, we opted in, too.

Into a teahouse we went. We were led to a back room which should have been the first sign. The door behind us shut, and we bellied up to the table for some tea. When we saw the ‘No Photo’ sign, this should have been a second clue, yet still we continued on. We took a brief glance at the menu when our new-found Chinese pals suggested we partake in a tea tasting. We agreed. Some lady in some ridiculous silk robe soon pranced out to lead us in our tea tasting. She served up various teas while giving an explanation on what each tea signified.

“This tea is for long life and this one for happy marriage,” our Chinese pals translated as we gulped it down.

Teacup Fool Me Once, Shame on You

We’d been on the road for six months at this point, so you’d think we’d have our head on straight and be able to spot a scam from a mile away. We certainly fell right into this one, but I have to admit…These guys were really good. We were among professional con-artists.

At this point Ryan and I were both looking for some extra sign to confirm our subtle doubts. But there weren’t any. Everyone in the room was so calm and collected. They seemed so innocent. They had also strategically sat so that Ryan and I were apart. Separated, this meant Ryan and I couldn’t exchange questioning glances each other’s way.

Well, the bill came and a doozy it was. We were told to fork over $150 for our tea tasting! When our Chinese comrades willingly started emptying their pockets, I confirmed my fear. We were involved in some mega scam.

Teahouse Fool Me Once, Shame on You

I felt uncomfortable. I told Ryan to throw money on the table and we’d just get out. I didn’t know who might be behind the closed door and violently threaten us to pay up. Ryan reluctantly obliged.

As we exited the tea house, so did our Chinese pals. They walked silently, trying to scurry past us. As they walked away, I decided I didn’t want them to get away with this so used the only weapon I had: my camera. I started snapping photos of them and yes, rather close, like some overzealous entertainment paparazzo. Just then one of the girls turned on me. I went running into the grocery store yelling “jing cha” (police in Mandarin), but no one would help. The girl proceeded to physically attack me. She began throwing punches in my face and trying to rip the camera out of my hands. I was half terrified, half enraged.

DSC04163 Fool Me Once, Shame on You

We’d had enough trouble already, but Ryan was adamant about coming out on top. He went back to the teahouse and threatened “jing cha” one more time. This time it worked. The money was put back in our hands.

The morale of this very long story is beware of Chinese teahouses and if you ever get the urge to snap photos of your enemy, think twice.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Echofeifei says:

    Wow, it’s really an unpleasant travel experience… As a Chinese I’m so sorry for these kinds of things happened on foreigners during their visit in China…
    Please kindly warn your friends to be awre of unexpected hospitality from some Chinese while visiting wherever. And if it happens again, do not hesitate to go to the police!

  2. Meg says:

    Wow I know this was awhile ago now but interesting story guys!!! I am happy to hear you turned out on top. Lol did you have any black eyes? My oh my.

  3. Ryan says:

    Great story… sometimes these guys are so professional that even seasoned travelers can’t pick up that it’s a scam. Glad to hear you got your money back though!
    Ryan´s last [type] ..Travel Video Spotlight- Paris Montage

  4. roundwego says:

    Completely forgot you guys visited Beijing! We had a really great time there. Actually stayed with a college buddy so he was able to show us the ins and outs of the city. Sometimes easy to get lost, i.e. miss out on the local spots, without some good recommendations in a city that large…I can’t believe you guys got involved in a scam there too! What are the chances it happened to both of us and we both fell for it? Ah!

  5. Nora says:

    WAY TO GET THE MONEY BACK! i cant believe you were assaulted. way to think on your feet kiddos! you are my hero laura keller!

  6. Kristin Rohlfing says:

    We should have warned you about this! We fell for a similar scam with the same set up. Polite well-spoken Chinese student approaches you as you’re enjoying the sights, says he’s an art student and well shucks, aren’t you in luck? Today is the art show! Colin and I later agreed that warning bells were going off in our heads as we were lead into a building, an elevator and into a small room. We basically took one look at each other and could tell we needed to get out quickly. We were chased down the hall and I swear the elevator door never closed so slowly! We had some other friends who fell for the tea scam too, bad news! Anyway, enjoy Beijing! Not sure how long you’re there but let me know if you want some restaurant reco’s. We had some really great meals there, and unfortunately they are hard to find. The first couple days we were there I was so disappointed with the food. Luckily we had some local colleagues of Colin’s help us out. Safe travels!