Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Getting duped in Beijing..

My friend Steve and I took a trip to China over our Christmas vacation. This actually leads into another story, because Steve is currently living and working in China. However, that's all too long for one blog. This is an e-mail I sent on Christmas to some family and friends.. Let's just say Christmas 2007 was pretty interesting! Does adventure follow me or do I go searching it?

Anyways, here's the email:

"I just wanted to send you all an email before Christmas ends. Currently, I'm in Beijing, China. It's been a crazy few days already! On Monday, I went to the Forbidden City which was just massive and amazing. I guess China is just massive and everything within it goes right along with it. Even the architecture of the city exudes some sort of power when you stand in front of a building. I really like the city so far.

After we went to the Forbidden City, Steve and I got completely duped by a few Chinese guys that appeared to be tourists from outside of Beijing.

They were REALLY good at their jobs. Their English was excellent and we were just chatting with them about a lot of things: family, freinds, China, government, etc. They ended up taking us to an "innocent" traditional tea house where we could just talk. When we finished tea and dinner, the bill came, that we would split down the middle. It cost 1,000 yuan per person! Just so you know, that is equal to about 130 dollars. IT was crazy. Steve and I looked at each other confused and angry, mainly at our stupidity. But the guys just played along, looking shocked as well. The tea house gave us a free (crappy) tea set and sent us on our way with them taking all of our money. Just so you know, that was about a quarter of what I had planned on spending in 10 days.

We were so angry on the walk to find out rented bikes for the day. And what do you know, Steve's bike was stolen! Luckily it was only a 300 yuan deposit that he lost.

The next day we had a planned tour to go to the Great Wall, which was incredible. We went to the Ming Tombs and Sacred Way first, and after a couple shopping stops, we went to the wall. We talked to our tour guide about what had happened to us the night before, and he said that we paid a ridiculous amount and that we should call the police and go back to the tea house.

We were exhausted after the trip so we decided we shouldn't stress out about the tea house situation anymore.

We ended up walking around the city a little bit, to try to find some necessary things we had forgotten to bring. We bought a few things at a souvenir shop and were just browsing when the same 3 guys from the night before show up! Steve yelled out, "Hey!" and one guy just looked shocked and was practically shaking. We noticed they were walking upstairs to another tea house with a couple girls who looked like they could be from Southeast Asia.

Two guys just walked upstairs without acknowledging us and the third stood and talked to us telling us we should hang out and go around the city. We refused, left him at the store and walked down the block. We turned back as he was standing outside the store looking around in suspicion.

We decided at this point, we need to call the police. So we found a payphone at the corner and called 110, China's police phone number. I asked for someone who spoke English and then told him what had happened. After about 10 minutes, two HUGE policemen (although they appeared to be the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum of the Chinese police force) came and we waved them down. We busted right into the place. You should have seen the women in the store flee. One older lady ran into a small closet underneath the stairs! I can't get that mental image out of my head.

We took them upstairs to where the men were. I forgot to mention we had a picture of them. Steve had a picture still on his camera of the three and us at the original tea house. After a long debate and no opening of the door where the three men were, they declared that we could do nothing at this particular tea house and had to go to the tea house where the incident happened. One tea room door opened quickly, and I could see the guys inside. I could only hope they were shaking in fear at that moment.

We soon realized there was nothing that the guys could get in trouble for that night. So we drove with the police to the tea house where our incident happened. It was already 10 pm at this point, so the tea house was closed. However, the police told us they would call our hostel in the morning so we could go when the tea house was open. However, no call just yet. I think we have gained closure on the whole situation now, just by scaring the pants off the guys who did it and knowing that the tea house is getting in trouble.

Now, I'm on my way to Shanghai. I'll be taking an overnight train for 13 hours tonight! Wish me luck. I'll be meeting my old college buddy, Mike, who's teaching outside of Shanghai at the moment.

Well, Happy Holidays everyone! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you have a great one!"