My grand plan for Thursday was to have a vegetarian brunch with Lisa and then go spend the afternoon wandering around the Shanghai Museum. Like Suzhou and Tiger Hill, I guess it will always be a pity that I did not get to see this apparently fantastic museum. I was walking down a park intent on the hopeful airconditioning of the museum when I was stopped by a Chinese couple who wanted to say “Hello” and practice their English. Their names were Lane and Lucille and were both from Shenzen just across the border from Hong Kong. This was their first visit to Shanghai and were fascinated by the big city. They had just come from the museum and advised me against it due to the madness of many tourists there. They were now on their way to a tea ceremony and being the happy-go-lucky Dups that I am, I decided to enjoy their company and accompany them.
If I had wanted to save money, I probably should have stayed behind and gone onto the museum. The tea ceremony itself was cheap and priceless in what it taught me about the Chinese and their fascination for tea. Lane’s translations during the ceremony were invaluable. For instance, the first cup of tea that is poured is never drunk. Instead it is offered to the gods to invoke luck and prosperity. Each small cup is drunk in three noisy sips. Women and men had to also hold the cups in different ways; one symbolised beauty and femininity while the other symbolised power. Each of the teas was amazing with some of the best Ginseng tea I had ever had.
The last tea we tried was a hand-rolled tea ball which had to be placed in a very large wine glass. At exactly the right water temperature, the tea ball opened up like a flower and actual flowers sprang from the centre. I really wish I had brought my camera with me. Also of interest to some (like pottery artists Ted and Sarah) was the pottery which changed colour with the heat of the liquid that was poured inside.
At the end I was tempted into buying some tea, specifically for Mrs. T and Sue, as well as Corey and Donna. I should probably have asked how much before I agreed to buy. Lane and Lucille made the same mistake, but hey, the tea was truly worth it. After the ceremony we wandered around chatting for a while and then it was time for me to meet Chris and finally say good by to Sarah. Sarah had had a fairly good time in Suzhou (at least she had seen more than the train station). Her next stop is Japan on her trip around the world. Meanwhile, my journey ends in 24 hours of flights, starting tomorrow morning.