Beijing Tea Scam: Beware Many Tea Houses near Forbidden City / Tiananmen Square

Beijing Tea Scam: Avoid the Si Zhu Xiang Tea House near Forbidden City / Tiananmen Square

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Update:  Generally, if you are approached by a good English speaker there is a *very good chance* he or she is trying to scam you or sell you something rather than “practice English”.  In Tea houses confirm pricing *before you sit down* or you’ll probably be in for a surprising bill.

Beware the SI ZHU XIANG Tea House in Beijing!

I fell for the Beijing Tea Scam (also common in Shanghai) where you are approached by a person claiming to want to practice english, then subtly lured to a Tea House for a “Tea Ceremony” that is hugely overpriced.

The scam is so good I have learned that many other travelers have also been duped by this because it preys on the fact that you don’t want to insult anybody and generally are unfamiliar enough with the landscape, money, etc. that you just pay the bill.  My bill was $85 for a few tea samples. I’m guessing some who fall for this never even realize that they have been scammed – rather just think they paid “a lot” for Tea as I did untili I realized this was a very clever con game common in Beijing and Shanghai.    I have challenged the charge and cancelled my card and will post follow ups on this later.

The China Tourism groups and guidebooks are guilty of NOT warning people enough about the fact that generally if you are approached in popular tourism areas by people who can speak english they are usually working some sort of sale or scam.   Several sources suggested to me that it is common in China for people to come up and ask to take pictures and “practice” their English.  Although I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, the notion that people are looking to practice their english is only true in that that they are improving on these very clever short cons.     I think I was approached at least ten times – mostly in Beijing – sometimes it was obvious they were working to sell me something but sometimes not at all apparent.

I can only hope that law enforcement does something to prevent this during the Olympics because a lot of this may overshadow the experience of meeting some of the wonderful people of China, only a tiny number of whom are perpetrating the scams.

Beware the SI ZHU XIANG Tea House in Beijing!

Looking for legitimate tea?   Try Beijing Tea Street but still make sure you understand pricing.  China really takes tea seriously and some are very expensive.

Pangu Plaza Construction, Beijing

Pangu Plaza Construction, Beijing 389

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Dragon Shaped Pangu Plaza will feature prominently in the Olympic Ceremonies.

Update: Not prominently at all!   Pangu Plaza is directly across from the Birds Nest but you’d hardly know it from NBC coverage.  I’m wondering if they are deliberately downplaying Pangu Plaza to avoid giving them free advertising for the apartment sales?

Extremely powerful light beams will shoot up from the base, synchronized to music during the opening ceremony. Apartments here run about $5 million US, and the last building – the “tail” of the dragon – will be one of only two seven star hotels in the world, the other is Dubai’s Burj Al Arab.

Forbidden City Gate at Night

Forbidden City Gate at Night 814

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

This imposing gate leads to a huge courtyard and then through another gate you make your way deeper into the Forbidden City (I think this first gate defines the “Forbidden City” but not positive since you don’t pay until you go through the second one. There is an excellent view from the top of this Gate into Tiananmen Square though you have to pay about $2 to go up and tour this structure. Handbags must be checked as well, so if you are short on time you may want to skip this and head right into the inner parts of Forbidden City which take about one full day to in much detail – perhaps two days for a really thorough visit.