The Hutongs of Beijing are a sight to behold. These narrow alleyways
range anywhere from 3 feet to 10 feet in width
are home to some of
Beijing's most fascinating dwellings. Tin roofed shacks, assorted
produce stands, and animated markets lend the Hutongs their charming
flavor. At length, it was down one
of these Hutongs that my hopes for
locating a bike finally came to fruition after searching for several hours.
old man covered with oil and sweat spoke no English but it was
assumed that the bikes in front of his shack were for rent.
demonstrating the international sign for "rent bike" (this oft forgotten
maneuver is executed by first balancing
on the left foot then extending the
arms while simultaneously flexing the right hip up and down in a
while bobbing the head up and down). This was the very
picture of a utilitarian Chinese workhorse bike, rusting and weighing
probably more than its rider it served its purpose and the brakes did work.
After negotiating the not so unreasonable
sum of $1 a day, it was off
to cycle through Beijing starting in Tiananmen Square.
The massive portrait of Chairman Mao glares stoically
Square through the thick haze annually blown in from the Gobi desert.
in 1989 that the Chinese were said to have mowed down thousands of
pro-democracy protests. Today, however,
this largest square in the world is
lively and bustling. Hordes and hordes of Chinese tourists make the
to the square and queue up to visit the "Maosoleum". Here the
chairman's preserved body lies in all its splendor for the
revere. Kites swoop high and low through the air above the square,
just don't get clotheslined.
Tiananmen Square is a relaxing place but big brother is still watch from the numerous cameras
peering down from corners of buildings and light poles. Then there is the peculiar and omnipresent Chinese soldier. Hundreds
finest cadets eye you suspiciously wherever you go, especially since
westerners here are few and far between.
These soldiers are a curious breed,
alternatively standing at attention for hours on end and marching
briskly to apparent
destination for no apparent reason.
Just north of Tiananmen
square lies the Forbidden City.
Quite the city
within a city, not a bad place for a humble emperor and throngs of
concubines and administrative eunuchs
to hang out. Hundreds and hundreds of
splendorously decorated palace halls overlook expansive courtyards and
gates. As if this weren't enough, the summer palace just
outside the city offered the emperor a magnificent retreat. The
palace is replete with grand cyprus trees and spreads over rolling hills
tranquil Kumming lake.
Beijing is crowded and virtually no one speaks English. Buses are
filled to the brim. It is not at all uncommon for middle aged ladies or
anyone for that matter to spit up huge wads
of phlegm or pass flatus with
orchestral brazenness all while standing right next to you. The Chinese
make no apologies
for their curtness. Elbows fly and crowds push, just
another day in the life of Beijing. The cuisine also deserves special
mention. Tasty and cheap…pop into an eatery and order.
The menus are
all in Chinese so lunch is very much a lottery of pointing at Chinese
characters. Sometimes the exact
nature of what has the delicious if a bit
mysterious meal is best left to the imagination lest you know you've
eaten ox entrails, pigs blood, eyes, tendons etc.
The Wall from Jingsaling to Simatie
The Great Wall needs
little introduction. Construction was begun nearly
2,000 years ago. Only after hiking five miles up and down the
mountains of the Chinese countryside can one really come to
appreciate the magnitude of the wall. The wall is rugged terrain,
were once steps are now pebbles having been weathered over the centuries.
The wall connects a series
of sizable turrets every few hundred
On to a random city in the countryside
The flatter areas of
the Chinese countryside glisten with acres and
acres of peach trees, flowers in full bloom as pink petals cascade to the
ground. The tiny provincial village of Guanjiayu is not a tourist
Mecca, rather a completely random place for the westerner to observe country
life. The old
men wear Mao style caps and dark blue sweaters and
pants. The people are very hospitable and gladly invite the anomaly
the western backpacker into their huts for a meal. Of course no
English is spoken but communication
somehow occurs with a series of laughs
Well China has been amazing wish I had more than a week to explore but
gotta move on.