HAPPY DRAGON HOSTEL BEIJING BIKE TOUR
This is probably the most exhilarating bike ride…in the world! And gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘exercise’. If you are a thrill seeker, death-cheater, or just plain mental, then this is the ride for you.
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the pavement then maybe a market or a walking tour of Beijing would be more up your street.
Just be prepared to be up, and in the lounge before 6am so you can get the best bikes, preferably with brakes…that work…a bit!
The tour took us across Beijing City and we spent the time winding in and out of the hutongs getting a real taste of Beijing life away from the glamour of Forbidden City and Beijing Opera House. We stopped for a long and much needed break by the river in one of Beijings’ many parks and played Xiete, which is basically haki sack, just with a feathered bouncy thing that jingles…we weren’t very good and soon left it to the professionals. Surrounding us were old people waltzing to some very bizarre Chinese pop songs, small children climbing around on monkey bars and a tai chi session going on. There were old men playing table tennis and checkers and some even brave enough to swim in the river, though I can hardly blame them as the temperature was 38C with a humidity level of 72%! After this little cultural snippet we got our bums back on our seats for the exhilarating mission playing chicken with the traffic and pedestrians back to our hostel!
After checkout our bags were stowed in the store room and we set off for a very sticky walk in J Park, ending with a ‘hike’ (it wasn’t really a hike, just lots of steps) up to the top of the Pavilion to the Buddhist shrine for a rather smoggy view of Beijing and the Forbidden City. For those who didn’t brave the steps it was a nice nap in the park with old men hassling them for their plastic water bottles- there’s a pretty efficient system here, old homeless or very poor people spend their time earning money collecting plastic bottles and sweeping the streets, so, although China would appear somewhat grimy and dusty, in terms of rubbish it is surprisingly clean and tidy.
GETTING TO THE TRAIN STATION…
Proved to be more of a mission than getting the train tickets was! After a near disaster trying to hail 6 taxis down from the side of the road, all 15 of us did infact make it to the train station and after much fuss and confusion, consulting of the phrase book, fretting and a few too many cigarette breaks, we made it on to the T17, 21.26 hard sleeper train to Haerbin, with an estimated travel time of 11 hrs. Good points of this situation were that there were bunk beds…but you couldn’t really sit up in them, you can only get in or out by sliding your way to the side- in between the threadbare old seat belts designed to hold you in while you’re asleep. You also have two options of which way you can sleep: head facing the gangway, or head facing the window. To most the second option would sound much more appealing as the first option results in a very inquisitive guard sitting right opposite you and then standing above and staring down at you while you are trying to sleep. The second option…is right next to the spit bucket, and every time the train jerks, this spit sloshes about like a horrible miniature sea of scum…