Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tea-House Scam: An Avenge Attempt? - Part 3

Of course, after committing a crime like defacing a building you just have to return to the scene to see what's happened. Yet, who knew the tea-scammers would approach me again!

Much of the overcrowded Beijing
Subway is at least fresh & new!
Feeling a bit paranoid the next morning, I worried the police would find me and I knew I should avoid the crime scene. However, the previous night they would have lost any attempt to trail me, even if it was by accident! On my comedic return home, I got off the last train at the wrong stop - and then, unable to hail a real cab (as often happens; cabbies hate English speakers), an old man in a tok-tok-cart (like rectangular metal box on wheels) finally picked me up. Neither he nor I could figure out how to get me home (again remember, first day in Beijing!). We meandered a long time until finally finding familiar buildings - after midnight by now, my hosts (thankfully) were in bed.

My genuine Chinese friend who didn't rob me!
So in an attempt to avoid the temptation to go back, I just played tourist that day and headed to Beihai Park, north-west of the Forbidden City - but, I must admit, still close to Tiananmen Square. Unsure of the park entrance as I walked outside the Beihai Park North Subway Station, I asked (what seemed to be) a friendly Chinese guy for directions - he and I had coincidentally left the station and train together...

Telling me it was his day off and that he too planned an afternoon in Beihai, I immediately felt uneasy - but surely not everyone planned to scam tourists. Indeed, we had a lovely day at the park and no questions arose about taking me for a drink. Still - the dirty deed I had done constantly nagged at me - I must go see it.

After some hours of temples, pagodas, lakes and general scenery - we left the park (I certainly recommend this venue!). Right away, I anticipated a request to get refreshments – but it didn’t come. Still, I decided I shouldn’t take this guy to see my handiwork. But then I got disoriented – I thought we were headed towards the west side of Tiananmen, but it was the East! Soon – maybe subconsciously – I realized we would walk right past the “tea house” I had defaced.

Beihai Park, Beijing
So I came clean, and tried to explain – but we had spent the last few hours speaking only in short spurts; he only understood some English (and of course my Chinese consists of “shea-shea”). He seemed pretty surprised that I had done this but seemed to vaguely understand they had done something bad.

Finally we came upon it. I stayed across the street which (looking back) maybe was too conspicuous. They had attempted to spray-paint black across much of the pink, but the outside of the building looked hideous and they didn’t try to borrow that ladder like I had – so the marquee faintly remained “Thieves”. Surely tourists couldn’t believe those girls now if they attempted to lure them inside!
The next day the pink still remained, a bit!

Satisfied, I bid my new (genuine) Chinese friend goodbye back at the Tiananmen Square East subway station. We exchanged information – but it didn’t really sound like he used the Internet or email. Afterwards, I was ready to be done with it (I even waited to tell my hosts until the end of the trip). Despite the fact that this certainly would be an incredible tale to tell - I did want to experience more of China - and not just as a hooligan!

A friend I made in Hong Kong joined me for the weekend staying at the new (and recommended) East Hotel (where they provide a VPN so Facebook can be accessed from wifi!). We made the trek by bus to the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall of China! We visited the dusty, over-crowded Forbidden City (more temples, pagodas and shrines), stopped by the greying Bird's Nest and other Olympic venues and took in the little gay nightlife that exists in Beijing (look for my Next Post on gay-life in China; it seems bearable!)

Posing in front of the Forbidden City with my Cantonese
friend - it's difficult to see because of the smog!
China does have a number of places to offer - but as you can see, the pollution continues to wreak havoc not only on the sights, but on your ability to see and picture them! Incredibly, the one day I spent in China when I could actually see - and had to avoid looking directly into - the sun, people exclaimed that it was the best day all year!

Mutianyu Great Wall!
Sadly as I reported before, I don't think China's ready for prime-time yet - the people still act as if they live in a farming village. Kids are allowed to urinate & defacate not even into the street, but even just outside the doors of restaurants & hotels! Be surprised when traffic signals are obeyed - and expect people to spit any which way on the street.

Still I must admit, plenty of people are friendly, civilized and willing to help you in a genuine way. I didn't always fall in with the scammers... but on one of my last days, I couldn't help but get myself into trouble again.

Back in the Wangfujing Shopping area again actually doing some shopping and looking at tours, two smiling Chinese girls stopped me.

The 2008 Olympic Venue - the Bird's Next
"Oh hi, where you from?" one asked giggling; begging for my attention. I started to explain - with my intent to waste these terrible thugs time, but rapidly I had to alter my plans.

One girl whispered to the others ear and suddenly, they both took off running full-speed away from me - down the main street and then off to a side street (still very crowded with tourists). Excited, suspicious and wondering if they suspected I destroyed their building - I followed them, ostensibly pretending to be interested in them - and just confused. Finally they stopped running from me since I kept pace with them.

"What's wrong," I asked in my most bewildered, dumb-tourist mode.

"Oh, ha-ha, we supposed to meet friend here. We late," one girl mused.

I had to go back for a picture again!
The other girl talked on the phone to someone else, and the gears in my head told me they might be suspicious I was their pink spray-paint culprit - but wanted to confirm with their friend.

Then the typical spiel started, the girls claimed to have a relative who worked high up in the Communist Party. Responding in kind, I played along; my host worked for the government, I lied. But I agreed to have a drink with them just like before - just to see what happened. Slowly, we walked to a second fake "tea house" in the area; they told me a friend of theirs would join us (maybe my Chinese girlfriend from my first day?!).

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To be safe, I started texting a friend my location - and then they got worried repeatedly asking what I was texting. Just responding to a friend I told them. It was extremely awkward as I faked being dumb to the ruse, but slowly my distain for them trickled out little by little.

We arrived at what's called online the Shuirutian Tea House and this time (thank god) we did not go back into a room (I certainly would have refused). I sat in a chair next to the door - I felt safe enough that I could escape. Totally crazy, I thought, what the hell am I doing! Finally, I was presented with the same menus as before and out I came with it.

"I don't understand," I stated seriously as my happy-dumb-tourist demeanor changed, "This is the same menu I've seen before with ridiculous prices! Why are you all do this this? I just want to understand."

In a mili-second, the main girl sitting next to me swiped the hard-cardboard menu out of my hands and smacked it against my forehead!

"Bastard! Why did you waste our time in coming here?" They were on to my motive to steal their time from suckering an unwitting tourist.

Trapped in this revolving door for some seconds, I had to
fend off physical abuse from vicious Chinese women!
But time to go again! I raced outside, again having to push my way around this not quite petite Chinese woman. But knowing (maybe?) now that I must be the culprit, they chased me - with much more vigor than that first girl, outside down the street again.

This time, I figured I could take shelter in the chic, western Kapok Hotel right down the road. Surely, they would help a tourist in distress! Desperately, I explained only that I needed help. With only confused looks from the staff - the girls raced in! Imagine an immaculate, white hotel lobby - doormen and security as well as staff helping guests - and these vicious girls screaming and chasing me in a circle around the lobby!

Stupidly, the exit I found was one of those automatic, 3-halved, slowly revolving doors and they bounded in with me! Kicking my shins and hitting me I had to defend myself and block punches from these girls for at least 5-10 seconds before the outside beckoned and i took off again at full speed. Racing away, I turned right and then crossed the street. And with purses flailing and heels knocking, they were still coming! Finally, I got far enough away and ducked into a building, took the elevator to a random floor and walked through the building catching my breath.

The "caretaker" of the fake tea-house turns
away as I attempt to take her picture.
Totally insane, I though as I used a bathroom and walked out the back alley, retracing the same road but from a distance, I didn't see them. Again, I just had to return to document this location, but I first spent some time back at the hotel where the staff apologized and let me rest for some time.

Walking back to picture this second "tea house" in the area, just a block and around the corner from the one I had defaced, the girls were not there, but I attempted to take a picture of the "caretaker girl" out front. A man who must have worked or owned next door shouted at me and nearly grabbed my camera from me "why picture!" he exclaimed!

"Don't you know what they do?" I retorted angrily. He seemed unfazed.

I took off again as he yelled after me - this was it - I was done with this nonsense. Sorry, but I'm not sorry I disturbed this immoral and unethical business - yet I spent too much of my China trip worrying and focusing on these thugs!

Stay tuned - Share on Facebook  - and add your input as I divulge more about the 23 countries and 45 cities I visited in my 6 months abroad!

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