Tea Shop in Lhasa

Old Town, Lhasa

We still had some free time before meeting back with the tour group for our night out in Lhasa New Town, so we decided to wander Old Town for a while. Yi wanted to drink tea so we went into one of the small tea shops that are almost invisible in the streets of Old Town.

The shop was small with several tables and benches were people were pouring tea out of thermos flasks into various styles of small cups. There was no room here so we made our way up to the first floor and found an empty table. Yi went downstairs to get some tea while I saved the table. While I was waiting a Tibetan family came up the stairs and sat at my table. I felt a little uncomfortable, but I just tried to ignore the stares I was getting.

In some parts of China white people aren’t common, so people get excited when they see a white person. They often respond by staring, saying “Hello!” and waving, asking for a photo, and sometimes by simply sneaking a photograph. Yi came back up with a Thermos and two cups and poured tea for us both. I was a little more relaxed having someone to talk to. It was then I noticed that the younger man sat opposite me was sneaking a photo of me and the older man who sat next to me.

Local Tibetan Friend
Local Tibetan Friend

Of course I responded by posing for the camera. After that we tried to talk, but it turned out that these guys couldn’t even speak Mandarin. So we just enjoyed tea together while the older man showed me all the pictures he had managed to gather of white people in Lhasa. It seemed that collecting pictures of white folk was a hobby of his.

After an hour or so of hand talking, nodding and pouring each other tea we finally had to leave. We waved goodbye and headed out to experience the wonders of a night out in a Chinese night club.

Author: Bok McDonagh

I am Bok, a British-born expat living in China. I was born in Lancashire but identify as a 'plassie-Scouser'. I spent my youth growing up in Cumbria. Here I developed a great taste for exploration, climbing mountains and camping in the wilderness - a taste for travel that has defined my life.