Monday, 23 August 2010

China - The first teahouse

Day 4

Hello everyone!

You may recall last time that I stumbled in at 6.30am. We were leaving at 8am for Tianenman Square, so I decided to fight through and charge my camera on the computer downstairs.

My head lifted from the keyboard. 'Good sleep?' I heard someone say from behind me. 'What time is it?' I ask. '11.30'. BUGGER. Totally missed the meetup. I found out later that Kelly had tried to wake me - twice - and got a response along the lines of me being amazing, before my head crashed onto the keyboard. Modest as ever.

Nonetheless, Tianenman has to be seen, especially by a Modern History graduate. So I dragged myself over to the world's largest public square to see it with my own eyes. It is impressive in its own right, but made more so by the surrounding buildings, such as the Mao Memorial Hall and the National Grand Theatre. Most impressive, however, was the Gate of Heavenly Peace - the place with the big Mao painting.

Behind this beast is another major attraction of China - the Forbidden City. The history of this place? It was home to two dynasties - Ming and Qing. It is a vast place, and is pretty cool, but I always felt a bit underwhelmed when I was walking around. I think I hyped it up too much in my mind; being 'forbidden', I thought it would be truly special. Still worth a visit though, even though there were loads of people.

I decided to go up the hill behind the Forbidden City to get a better view. I was buying a ticket when I heard someone shout 'Matt' in a familiar accent. I turn around. Not a white person in sight, but I wasn't expecting one. It was a Korean accent, and a short distance away from me a group of teenagers start shouting 'Sorae-gu'! This is short for...Sorae High School. Amazing. Some of my students had found me in Beijing. They were on a church trip. That made my day. I can't escape them!

After hiking up and seeing a big buddha, as well as the City, I was heading back to the subway when two Chinese people started speaking to me. I walked and talked for a bit, before they said they were going to get something to drink. Why not, I thought, and we ended up in a teahouse.

I've since been told that this is a popular tourist scam, as the tea is normally extortionately priced. I can normally pick a scam, however, and this seemed different. Firstly, they were tourists as well, from near Qingdao. Secondly, they were the ones that wanted to stop the tea ceremony before me, after realising the price. OK, you say, that could have been good acting. But they paid their share and then hung out with me for almost two hours afterward, which only ended when I said I had to get back. We exchanged emails and are hoping to meet in Qingdao. Not a con, just naive on all sides.

The ceremony itself was awesome. Not worth the price - one-third, my share, was 400Y - but I am glad I did it, as it was a great, authentic Chinese experience, Through my translators, the tealady explained each tea, its history and its health benefits, before we tasted them. I was also taught about the etiquette and the importance of Buddhism - the first cup is washed over the Buddha. It was great to get to know some Chinese people as well.

That's a wrap for Beijing. I've really enjoyed it, and there is so much more I didn't see or experience. Having a couple more days would have been perfect, but its a great incentive to come back - something I definitely want to do.

Love you all


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