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Beijing whirlwind

Beijing Travel Blog

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Rusty Jr. relaxing by a tranquil lake

Wow, Beijing has been a whirlwind the past week! I think the Chinese are great and their capital is terribly interesting. On our first full day here, we pulled the bikes out and went for a tour through the city's wide bike lanes and colourful alleyways. We eventually found our way to a tranquil pond northwest of the city centre and we rode around it, taking in the atmosphere. It was amazing to be able to find nice calm spots in the middle of the busy city. We stopped to explore some outdoor exercise equipment (they have them in every park, I assume something to do with the Olympics) and we saw some old Chinese men stripping down out of their business suits into speedos! They had come to go swimming in the lake and it was a joy to watch them yell as they dove into the cold water.

Old Chinese men going for a dip
One was particularly energetic and he jumped around like a frog to prepare himself before jumping in.

I have been staying in a hutong area, where houses, shops, and people all mix on narrow, maze-like alleyways. They are very colourful and there is always something to see. People play badminton next to the lady doing her laundry, bikes honk their bells as they squeeze by the pedestrians, shopkeepers bellow at tourists to come in (Hello! Come! Looka looka!). At mealtime stalls appear out of nowhere, selling all sorts of tasty Chinese treats. The food can be very cheap if bought from the roadside vendors, but there are so many things to try that you can blow your budget stopping at each one for a taste.

I have had my first opportunity to bargain here and it is really fun.

View over the lake
Nothing has a fixed price and often tourist rates are stratospheric compared to what the locals would pay. My strategy is to start ultra-low and stand firm. If the vendor laughs at the price, I'm probably going too low, but if they don't, then I stick with it. I also find that leaving the stall is a good method for lowering the price. The merchants will sometimes chase after you and drag you back, suddenly offering you a bigger discount. I picked up a Chinese chess set for about 30% of the original asking price this way. I toured through the famous Sunday Market (aka the Dirt Market), but the (literally) thousands of vendors selling the exact same rocks got tiresome and I didn't buy anything.

I've also visited a few of the typical tourist sites.

Rusty Jr. outside the Forbidden City
I went to the Forbidden City, but was too cheap to pay the ever-rising admission cost, so I spent my time visiting the nice tranquil parks that are situated around it. One of them has a big hill that was built using the dirt dug to make the Forbidden City canals and it had nice view of the Forbidden City and the rest of the city from the Buddhist pagoda at the top. As I strolled through this park, I happened upon a group of seniors getting their afternoon exercise beside two huge old stone lions. They were playing a Chinese game that I would call "hackysack with lawn darts." They kicked a feathered dart around to each other, yelling loudly as they did so. One man in a business suit kept doing jesters (a fancy trick where you kick the dart with one leg behind the other) over and over again.
I wonder how many photos this soldier is in
You better believe I joined them! I was determined to show off my skillz, so I busted out a few jesters like the suit man, then I completely wowed them with my SUPER-jester moves. It was a lot of fun and we played together for at least half an hour. Afterwords I hurried back up the hill to view the sunset over the mountains to the west of the city.

On another day I took a trip to the Summer Palace, about 10km outside the city centre. It was truly beautiful. Even the crowds of Chinese tourists (which are everywhere) could not ruin the tranquility of this place. The emporers sure were spoiled! There is a big lake and I spent a couple hours strolling around it, admiring the view of the Palace and a temple off in the distance. Small boats crisscrossed the lake in every direction and small islands were joined to the outside by beautifully constructed bridges.

Grand National Theatre building
I can't really describe things very well in words, so I will try to post pictures soon. I lingered to watch the sun set and discovered that the palace park was closed at night, so they didn't turn any streetlights on! I had to find my way along many dark, winding passageways before I found the exit!

Another day was taken up with a visit to the Temple of Heaven park. Again more crowds of Chinese tourists. Again more beautifully designed buildings fit for Emporers. Again tranquil gardens all around. Again, pictures will describe better than words.

Oh, yeah. I also went hiking on the Great Wall. But that's another story.

casey says:
What new news from Beijing? Awaiting updates...
Posted on: Nov 06, 2007
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Rusty Jr. relaxing by a tranquil l…
Rusty Jr. relaxing by a tranquil …
Old Chinese men going for a dip
Old Chinese men going for a dip
View over the lake
View over the lake
Rusty Jr. outside the Forbidden Ci…
Rusty Jr. outside the Forbidden C…
I wonder how many photos this sold…
I wonder how many photos this sol…
Grand National Theatre building
Grand National Theatre building
Night market scene
Night market scene
Tiananmen Square after dark
Tian'anmen Square after dark
Gate to Forbidden City
Gate to Forbidden City
Beautiful pagoda in a serene park
Beautiful pagoda in a serene park
The oriental architecture is an im…
The oriental architecture is an i…
Colourful garden scene
Colourful garden scene
Chinese women checking out the vie…
Chinese women checking out the vi…
Hackysack lawndarts next to giant …
Hackysack lawndarts next to giant…
View of the Forbidden City from ab…
View of the Forbidden City from a…
Fishing in Forbidden City canals
Fishing in Forbidden City canals
Forbidden City gate at night
Forbidden City gate at night
Colourful display in Tiananmen Sq…
Colourful display in Tian'anmen S…
Summer Palace
Summer Palace
17 arch bridge crosses Kunming Lake
17 arch bridge crosses Kunming Lake
One of 30 bridges on the causeway …
One of 30 bridges on the causeway…
Sun sets over the lake
Sun sets over the lake
Tower in the distance
Tower in the distance
Elegant bridge
Elegant bridge
A giant marble boat
A giant marble boat
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
The Emporers walkway to the temple
The Emporer's walkway to the temple
Rooftop scene
Rooftop scene
Im getting good at cutting the cr…
I'm getting good at cutting the c…
Pillar scene
Pillar scene
The sign doesnt lie
The sign doesn't lie
Beijing
photo by: Deats