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