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Day 4. Cycling Around Beijing

Monday, September 14, 2009 permalink [Permalink]

With the bikes assembled, it was time to check our equipment by doing a quick tour of Beijing and along the way see some of the sights.

A lazy morning and breakfast for everyone - we didn't hit the streets until after 11am, by which time the sun was beating down quite hard.  We'd checked the 5 day forecast just to see what's in store for us; 30, 28, 29, 26 and raining, 29.  Not bad at all.

Putting our bicycles together
[Putting our bicycles together]

With a small map to go by, our first mission of the day was to see some of Beijing and also find some new eye glasses for Dave.

You really can't understand the scale of Beijing until you start to cycle its streets.  The length and width of boulevards is awesome, and the scale on the map pales in comparison to the scale of the city.  What we thought would take 10 minutes to cover, ended up eatign up almost an hour.

Cycling Beijing
[Cycling Beijing]

Once you come to terms with the size of the place, the number of cars and commuters, both bicycles and scooters, smaller details start to filter through.  Like the fact that Beijing is actually quite a clean city.  Petrol scooters are not allowed, and have instead been replaced by electric.  I would have liked to have been here before the 2008 Olympic games just to have a mental picture of the before and after images of the city.  I know from friends and some background reading that many things have changed.  Many people were relocated to make room for the Olympic venues, new roads built, new train system, and the pollution levels brought in line with that of western countries.  I'm guessing that many older cars and petrol scooters were simply removed from the roads.

Cycling Around Beijing
[Cycling Around Beijing]

I must admit that cycling in Beijing, a city where everyone is aware of the flow of traffic, feels very relaxing.  To the untrained eye the streets might look chaotic, but everyone just seems to merge and move along without a problem or incident.  When cycling amongst thousands of other two wheeled vehicles you feel a part of a larger organism, which is hard to explain to a non-cyclist.

Some of the construction projects and buildings are absolutely gargantuan.  Weirdly shaped skyscrapers line the boulevards, some obviously better designed than others; we saw one skyscraper that looked as though it had caught fire recently.

Beijing Modern Architecture
[Beijing Modern Architecture]

After getting David's glasses we rode towards The Forbidden City - but since they wouldn't let us take the bicycles inside we decided to give it a miss.  I've seen loads of pictures of the gardens and structures, and really wasn't in the mood for it.

Forbidden City
[Forbidden City]

From there we went up towards Tiananmen Square where in 1989 a single man carrying his daily groceries stood up to a tank and showed a country and indeed the world that one person can make a difference.

Tiananmen Square Columns for 60th Anniversary of The People's Republic of China
[60th Anniversary of The People's Republic of China - Tiananmen Square]

We rode around the whole square and I looked at all the people, the lanes and tried to picture the tanks and that one individual standing in their path.  No matter where you find yourself in the square, you can't miss the massive mural of Chairman Mao.

Chairman Mao
[Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square]

We cycled around some more, trying to find somewhere decent to sit down for a meal, in the end we settled on a small restaurant not far from the lake near the hotel.

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