Beijing Travel Blog› entry 20 of 37 › view all entries
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.
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.
I've also visited a few of the typical tourist sites.
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.
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.