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Walking Around Like An Idiot

Beijing Travel Blog

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Rickshaw queue

What better way to spend my last remaining days of my seven-month trip than walking around like an idiot for hours on end? Brilliant.

I negotiated the overnight train to Beijing OK. I thought I would save money by avoiding a taxi across to the other side of Beijing and take the subway to my pre-booked hostel. I got pretty near without finding it before the heat, sweatiness and early-morning daze meant I ended up bailing and getting a taxi anyway.

Later on, I set about walking into the city centre to see Jingshan Park and a couple of the lakes. I only ended up seeing a lake during the whole day because I got lost...several times. I was working on the premise that because a strip of water was running to the left of the road I was on that the city centre was on the other side.

City moat (real one)
It turned out that the city moat was actually a couple of hundred metres on the other side and I had pin-pointed my position on my (very basic) map incorrectly. After walking for over an hour, I was baffled as to why I hadn't come to the lake yet. I realised my mistake and, annoyed, walked back down a very long and boring road. I think that using a small map to represent a city the same size as Belgium maybe isn't the smartest thing I have done.

This mistake did, however, mean that I got the *clears throat* pleasure of seeing a homeless guy pleasure himself on a park bench. The less details I give, the better (email me if you want more). It wasn't the first 'first' I had seen while back in Beijing: later on I saw a young boy, helped by his father, dropping the contents of his bottom all over a public path.

Beihai Lake
Somehow I don't think we'll see these sort of things when the Olympics coverage is on our TV screens. I hope not, anyway; it's bad enough they take away Neighbours for a month, let alone replace it with this horror show.

Anyway, my clowning didn't stop there. Once on the right side of the moat, I walked around Houhai Lake successfully. It's amazing how where you are located can change your opinion on a place; when I was first in Beijing I couldn't stand being in the smoggy, grotty area of the city our hotel was in, but while next to the lake in a friendly hostel, my opinion of the place improved dramatically. Incidentally, while in Beijing the council had implemented a four-day period where only odd- or even-number-plated cars could be on the road at one time in an effort to reduce pollution levels.

Panjiayan Market
I'm not sure that it alone would make much difference, but I did see what looked like the sun on my return. Sorry, I digress. After eating a nice meal by the lake, I tried to find said park. It wasn't to happen. Each time I got to the north of Qianhai Lake, I ended up in the hutong area (which I have already explored for long enough already last time I was in Beijing). It was like the scene in The Blair Witch Project where they get the spooks when someone exclaims, "Haven't we been here before?" as they notice familiar woodland. Although, with me, it was tour groups, restaurants and pesky rickshaw drivers that were giving me the creeps. I also kept finding this 'Prince Qing's residence' and it was driving me doollally. I later found out there is also a Prince Gong's residence and I must have kept finding each one and heading back the other way in an attempt to find somewhere new.
Some things not to say to customers!
I ended up giving up on the park and retreated back to my hostel, somewhat annoyed.

That evening, I met up with Katie and Charlie, the couple who I had coincidentally bumped into twice on the east coast of Australia, once in the south of Thailand, again in Laos and then here in Beijing. We treated ourselves to some famous Peking Roast Duck, which was pretty special. Afterwards we attempted to find the footy somewhere, but, again, were unsuccessful.

My last day of travelling was spent at the markets. First, at Panjiayuan, or the Dirt Market, held only at weekends. A busy one, attracting 50,000 visitors a day, it was hard work (it was like sifting through dung finding anything worth buying). To be honest, I thought I was going to waste loads of cash on pointless stuff, but, rather sensibly, I ended up spending my remaining Yuan on the bare essentials: a 'waving Mao' clock, a book of Mao-isms and a set of Saddam Hussein playing cards.

Next up was the silk market, which was completely different. You couldn't walk without getting someone - literally - pulling you into their shop to see their produce. Set in a shopping mall, there was no hiding the fact that everything for sale was knock-off. I think I am not too bad at bartering now, buying some leather shoes for a tenner, a bunch of DVDs for 70p each, a beanie for a quid and a rucksack to put it all in for a few quid.

A busy couple of days to finish off China, and the world. With a mixture of happiness and sadness, it is home time now. Bon voyage, world - and what a bon voyage it was.

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Rickshaw queue
Rickshaw queue
City moat (real one)
City moat (real one)
Beihai Lake
Beihai Lake
Panjiayan Market
Panjiayan Market
Some things not to say to customer…
Some things not to say to custome…
Beijing
photo by: Deats