On the Qianmenxidajie there is a teahouse, well indicated in the guidebooks, called Laoshe Teahouse (Laoshe chaguan) where for a reasonable price you can get watered and entertained together. We went there yesterday after a morning in the spectacular Temple of Heaven and a browse through the little alleys of Qianmen. For 210RMB (a little more than 20 euro) the whole family could be treated to a show of acrobatics, music, comedy, shadow play and the like. And the price included "tea and a snake".
What now? Snake is definitly on my to-eat list but I wasn't expecting to encounter any here, and certainly not with tea. Dammit - turns out it was "tea and a snack". The snake will have to wait (presumably in long grass somewhere). But despite this initial disappointment, the show itself was great. From the very start, the tea was flowing. I got a cup with some jasmine tea leaves, and the waiters come very regularly to add some more hot water. The girls didn't think much of it, but I sipped away and needed a refill each time.
First act: Shadow play. From behind the screen, a group of puppeteers recreated scenes involving the Monkey King and various other charaters I'm too ignorant to identify.
Slurp of tea. Then came some vocal imitators - birds, jets, trains. Nina and Sara lapped it up. More tea slurping. Peking Opera. Slurp.
Vase juggling. Slurpedy slurp. Another hour of all kind of wonderous entertainment involving magic, song and (apparently) satire, all accompanied by refills of tea.
The highlight for me was something called Kung Fu Tea. My colleague Simon Wang had told me about this already. 'Kung Fu' (actually Gong Fu) is an adjective that can be applied to any activity taken to its ultimate height in expert execution. In this case, two tea waiters performed synchronized acrobatics with very long-handled teapots, pouring tea in improbably difficult ways and directions. Sluuuuuuuuurp.
I don't know how many litres of jasmine tea I consumed, but when the curtain came down I made straight for the gents where I put on an inpromptu demonstration of the little-known, but exceedingly satisfying occidental art of kung fu pissing. I haven't included photos.
Liping and Ian: Today we went to the Summer Palace - photos will be uploaded presently - and on the way I chatted - yes chatted - with the taxi driver all the way there. I'm not saying it was the most scintillating conversation the man ever had, but personally I've been treated to worse by Dublin cabbies. So anyone in Cork who wants to learn Chinese, note that you have an excellent local teacher available in Xiong Liping.
Tomorrow we'll check out the Forbidden City before jumping on an overnight train to Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors, and of course, have more tea.
Giangi: I've reduced the exposure. Thanks!
Simon Moore: Now that you know the trip isn't an elaborate hoax, I'd like to see photographic evidence that your new offspring isn't one either...