Monday, February 13, 2006

My first "touristy" weekend part 1 - scam warning

Ok, have a bit of catching up to do here in terms of what I've been doing. I have my first fill working week under me at the moment, and am starting into my second, so time to recount my first bit of time off around Beijing.

Saturday morning I woke up a little bit later than I'd planned, and between that and the usual missing-the-train-by-10-secs at Wodaokou, it was gone 1pm when I got into Tian'anmen square. Getting there was no problems anyway, by this stage I have the metro route sussed. The weather was maybe the warmest we've had yet (still a bit chilly tho), so I wandered around the square a bit getting my first good view of it in daylight. My first thought? "big. damn big". About the best scale I can come up with is if someone took stephen's green in Dublin and paved over it. There were loads of people just walking around the square, and a good few people flying kits as well. Defintwly a bit differnt than your average weekend activity at home, especially at this time of the year! the only rason the place doesn't look absolutley huge is because it's surrounded by these equally huge soviet-era buildings, and then there's Mao's Tomb in the center, not exactly small itself.

After a few mins of idly walking around snapping pics I sort of bumped into this chinese girl who said she was visitng from Tsingtao (I think), and was being shown around by her uncle. We got chatting a bit, and then they asked seeing as he was showing her around, did I want to tag along?

I said yup, why not, so we headed down to "downtown" Beijing, the part to the south of Tina'anmen square. We did a bit of a tour around, then we went to a Tea house which the uncle said he'd wanted to show her. So, we went in and did the tea cermony, which was pretty good. I'm not a big tea drinker, but what we got was pretty good even to my unsophisticated tea-tastebuds. Reckon it's something my father would have appreciated more than me. I would have taken pictures, but apparently you're not allowed for some reason. After the tea house, we went out and had a big meal. A good day, one of those accidental things that crop up every now and then. Or so I thought.

Later on in the evening I went out to meet the irish guys I'd met, they were having an Irish night in some bar, and when I told them about my day, they said "oh yeah, that's a scam". Apparently the "bumping into by accident" thing is all a ploy to get you into the tea house. This is a farily rare version of the ploy tho, the more common one is someone comes up to you, and after a bit of conversation, says that they're an art student, and their college is having an exhibition, do you want to take a look. Then, when you get there, you get stuck to buy some paintings or calligraphy. I actually got that one tried on me maybe 4-5 times walking around yesterday. At least the ones that caught me were way more subtle about it than the "art students". They were so smooth that if I hadn't been told it was a scam I'd prob have believed it. I'm not all that put out by it, I was planning on doing the whole tea ceremony thing at some stage, and I din't get stuck for all that much with it (altho I'm sure there are cheaper tea houses). It would have been nice to have been warned about all that sort of thing beforehand tho.

Oh yeah, the irish night. Well, on my first night out in beijing I dind't exactly get to meet too many locals, but it was a good auld session anyway. Lasted til about 4am! One of the irish guys I met on weds night was playing in this english bar, and so I spoent the night talking mostly to irish and english and a few germans and austrians (who for some reason turned up at the irish gig). Ah well, is all in the name of getting to meet more people!

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