Since I have yet to set up a bank account, I went to go pick up my cash this morning. I'd been contemplating a trip to Beijing for the last few days and decided to take it today.
There wasn't much of an intention for the trip other than to explore and see if I could catch a few decent photos. The high speed train from Tianjin to Beijing costs 54¥ ($11) and takes 30 mins. Upon my arrival, I made my way to Tiananmen Square.
Shortly after exiting the subway station, a lady approached me and we started talking. After about half an hour we headed to a tea market together.
For the next hour or longer, we sat and sampled teas inside this shop while a light tea ceremony was performed. The host made the tea, poured it for us, then we lifted it a certain way: Males lift the sampling cup with three fingers, and curl in the pinky and finger beside it while females keep them sticking out -- similar to how you see high rollers drink liquor on TV shows. You pick it up, examine the colour, smell the aromas then drink it in three sips. The Chinese character (which I cannot recall) has three components to it, thus, the three sips.
There is a massive tea industry. With thousands of types, the age of the tea, how it's been processed, which part of the plant is used, which region it's from, amongst others, are all factored into the price and its quality. Imagine the tasting, elements and culture of wine, whisky or cannabis. Tea is the exact same.
This is where my day took a bit of a turn (my own fault). At this point I was asked if I wanted to purchase any tea. The tea is worth the purchase, can be reused, and some ultra high end teas can costs upwards of 40,000¥ ($8000), for 500 hundred grams of tea! I decided to go with 100 grams of a black tea which I quite enjoyed, forgoing the dried fruit tea I really liked. This "tea" was very sweet by Chinese standards, and not really considered a tea. For my purchase the lady allowed me to have a free portion of any tea, I took the dried fruit, and ate the fruit pieces like candy. The tea can used several times over and cost 200¥. Furthermore, we'd sampled 9 teas at 40¥ a sample (between the two of us) totalling 360¥.
My new friend, said she'd cover the extra 60 and we'd split the 300. For some reason, I kept thinking 300 and thus handed the lady 500 (200 for tea, 300 for samples) who made no haste to offer me change. It wasn't until later I realized this error, whereby I should have paid her only 350!
At this point, my expenditures had been the taxi to the train station, the train fare, lunch, two subway fares and the tea. Throughout the rest of my trip, I purchased another subway fare, a meal from BK, the train fare home, a cab fare from the Tianjin train station back home, and some fried rice once home. All in all, about $180! Pretty pricey for sipping some tea and taking several trains! :/
The set back of the tea was really annoying to me. I walked around for two hours after buying the tea before making my way to the train station. There wasn't much I came across I thought photographic and this added to my disappointment.
It's worth noting, the city has 4G coverage everywhere, it's so nice being able to go in the subway and continue using my phone as if nothing changed. For how developed North America is, one would think this would have been an innovation originating from the West. It seems many things are inverted between these regions: China has massive high speed train networks, and underground 4G but can't clean the water. North America has safe water... Well, except for Flint Michigan, but can't figure out how to put 4G in the subway (underground wifi was a MAJOR announcement with TTC, like nobody had put wifi antennas indoors before). And the train system is North America, particularly in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is a joke (but I hold onto hope -- thank you Hyperloop One)!
The most important lesson learned today was to continue to be extra mindful with cash and until you hand it over, there is always the option of saying no. Additionally, doing a few more moments of research on an area I'd like to visit would have been helpful.
Despite the apparent mishap, I still deem the trip to be a positive learning experience. I have expanded my comfort zone and now have a sense of what to expect for transportation costs and time. Upon my next visit I'll be more scrupulous and have done some prior research, or at least know what I want out of the visit.
I also like the fact there are mountains surrounding Beijing! Next month, I plan to visit one with my colleagues and get a serious hike in! I'll provide details as I receive them!