Woke up early the day before yesterday and atfer breakfast rented a bicycle. I felt good and proper riding along in Beijing’s hutong on my own bike. I rode first to the Temple of Heaven Park to have a walk round. It was about 8 am and full of people most of which were above 60 at least. There were groups doing every activity you could think of. Group dances, Tai chi, something a bit like group hacky sack but with a multi-colour feathered shuttle cock, badminton, general limbering for the over 80s, backwards walking, ballroom dancing, random shouting, group singing and musical instument practise. It was a veritable hive of activity! I think one of the good things that communism left behing was that active group ethos. There was a real community there that morning full of healthy longevity. For all the dancers out there, think of all the times you have noticed yourself generally limbering in the park, at the supermarket, at the bus stop. Well you would love China, it’s the norm here.
I don’t know but I can imagine there being quite a generation gap here. The times are changing fast and I just hope those parts I saw in the park survive to benefit this generation.
After the park I rode to the Forbidden City. It is really something special and a credit to China that it has been preserved so well and that restoration is continual. Yes ther is a Starbucks there but it doesn’t seem to spoil the atmosphere. In fact the atmosphere is so big I wish I had time to go another day. I rented an audio guide which I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Roger Moore was speaking. Imagine that. It was in fact very informaing.
If these pictures are not quite giving you a full picture then watch the first part of The Last Emporer. You’ll getter a better feel… and it’s still mostly like that.
On the way out I had my photo taken in front of the Front gates by a couple of Chinese girls who started to talk to me. I thought they seemed nice and just curious, wanting to practise English. We walked to Wanfujing, a huge shopping street, a bit like Tokyo but with the huge, open space of what I imagine New York would have. We went into a deparetment store and had a tea tasting in tea ceremony. When it came to paying, I had no idea how expensive it would be and then began to work out that these two girls obviously assumed that because I was a westerner was loaded and expected me to pick up the bill. I was very annoyed. I didn’t pay it all but a large part. I am sure they are genuinely nice but what a cheek! Obviously conversation wasn’t too hot and I made my way back to the hostel.
I think I need to find my single traveller’s razor-sharp awareness that I found in India. Beijing seemed so calm I didn’t really think it through too much. It’s just so annoying, because that money could have been spent on something a lot more worthwhile. Oh it’s only money… doh!
On the way back I rode past the Tiananmen Gate, now illuminated which stands in front of the Forbidden City.
Better luck tomorrow!
Tags: Beijing bling, Forbidden City