Park Wars

Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote a blog, so now there is a little bit to catch up on! I have been lucky enough to visit a few parks recently, all really lovely in their own ways.

HOU HAI/ BEI HAI

We had a day off on a Wednesday to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.  Excited to celebrate a real Chinese festival in China, me and some friends planned to go to Hou Hai hutong, where we had seen on the internet that they had some festivities planned.  When we arrived, the place was very busy due to the public holiday, but there were no special activities or anything to demonstrate that it was the Dragon Boat Festival.  We stayed in Hou Hai for lunch, and we walked around it for a while, because it is a beautiful little village anyway.  It was a really warm day, so it was pleasant walking around. We then decided to walk over to Bei Hai park, as they also advertised that they would be putting up some decorations and have activities for the festival.  Yet again, we turned up to a gorgeous park, but no dragon boats! We later found out that this festival is not really celebrated up here in the north anymore, and people just like it for the few days off.

It wasn’t a waste of a day, though, as it was still really enjoyable to stroll through the parks and see how the people here spend their days off.  I don’t think it’s very common back home to spend the weekend or days off in the park, but as I have mentioned before, living in Beijing with minimal nature and in small apartments, most people here like the space and comfort of a park.  The parks here are all stunning, and very well groomed, so it is very relaxing to come here and walk around.  The parks are also huge, and it amazes me how many of these gigantic parks they have here in Beijing in amongst the city.  It just proves how big Beijing really is.  There was a man there drawing pictures of women using a huge paint brush dipped in water, which gathered a crowd.  He drew very well, it is a shame that the sun dries up his pieces so rapidly, but then again, he just draws a different one in its place.

OLYMPIC PARK

I have also recently visited Olympic park.  Created just before the 2008 Olympics to increase Beijing’s 'green’ reputation, this is the largest park in Beijing.  Unlike many other parks here, with amusement rides and games to entice visitors, this park is filled with trees to generate more oxygen for the city.  It has a huge specially made walking and jogging area, and it tells you every time you do another kilometer.  Ian and Emily went there to take their wedding pictures a few years ago, and they took me here this time to have a look.  I don’t know if it was the placebo effect of just seeing all those trees, but I think the air felt fresher there. 

I don’t think that Olympic Park is the most beautiful park in Beijing, in terms of the garden design, but there is a beauty in the simplicity and quietness of the place.  It felt quite serene there, and I felt refreshed after spending a few hours walking around there for a few hours.  Emily and I walked around the 3km track, while Ian felt game enough to do the 10km.  While we waited for Ian, we hired a bike and rode around the 3km course another two times, before Ian joined us on the bike for one last lap.  The bike looked like something out of the Flintstone’s: a car shape, complete with a wheel, but bike pedals at the driver and passenger’s feet.  It was pretty fun driving and maneuvering around the walkers.  I was the driver, and I used it as practice for when I come back driving next month at home.

CHAOYANG PARK

This park is the stereotypical park in Beijing.  Half Royal Botanic Park, half Luna Park, this park has done its best to cater to everyone’s tastes.  I think I may have even spotted a fake beach set up in time for summer.  It’s funny as Australians to think that many Beijing locals may have never seen the ocean, so there are a few fake beach set ups made to provide a beach-like experience. It’s the opposite of those indoor ski slopes in hot countries.

They had lots of rides set up, but most were running with only one person on them.  I’m not sure if it was heat of the day, or the cost of the ride, but they didn’t really look to popular. Ian, Emily and I hired a paddle boat, and went off onto the lake to splash around for a couple of hours.  The paddle boats on offer were quite impressive with their expansive collection.  They had ‘laser warships’, ‘hummer-style laser warships’, old car styles, circular boats, traditional Chinese style, and the plain ones like what we had. It made for an interesting afternoon on the water, seeing what everyone else was driving.  The lake was pretty beautiful, and we spent a peaceful afternoon together paddling around.   The only disturbing factor was seeing more dead fish than live ones floating in the lake.

The day ended at the nearby shopping district, called Solana, where we had pizza at a place called Tube Station, home to the largest pizza in Beijing.  We sat upstairs and on the balcony, where we had a nice view of the live entertainment happening below us.  It is beer festival time at Solana, and although I am not a beer drinker, it created a relaxed atmosphere with the live band, good weather and happy crowd.  We ended up sitting at a table in front of the band downstairs after we finished dinner to really enjoy the evening.
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Comments

Shirley on

Hi Amay, I was so glad to read your writng and know you have had wonderful time. You metined some places where I have been to make me think of your family. Hope we get together some day. Enjoy!!!

Joan jay on

Dear Amy
We are currently in Toronto and have a wifi connection so I can read your blog. How wonderful to be seeing so much of Beijing and how kind of Ian and Emily to show you such sights. I particularly like the idea of the paddle boats in such diverse shapes. I hope your mum thanked you on my behalf for your b'day greetings. Look forward to seeing you soon...love nanna

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