Beijing on foot, Beijing on bike

Today marked my last day in Beijing, as tomorrow morning I will board a train home for Nanjing. I woke to a beautiful Beijing Autumn day – sunshine and clear blue skies, crisp air with a good amount of wind. My hostel happens to be about a 15 minute walk to the Forbidden City, so I wandered out through the nearby ‘hutong’ (traditional Beijing living quarters that are disappearing rapidly as Beijing develops newer and bigger apartment complexes everywhere) – greeting many yeyes (grandpas) and nainais (grandmas) walking to the nearby parks and markets.

I made it through the fabulous Forbidden City in just under two hours (which I’m told is quite quick). It is stunning. A paragon of Ming design, it is quite literally a city built for the emperor and his ‘family’ (aka – his numerous concubines and their children). Common people were forbidden to enter, and the entire place is simply replete with beautiful halls, temples, receiving areas, imperial gardens, and more.

Just South of the Forbidden City lies Tiananmen Square. The square is quite large, with the national museum flanking the East Side and Chairman Mao’s Memorial to the South. I walked the square with mixed feelings of the grandeur of the many ceremonies that I’ve seen on CCTV here (especially the recent celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the PRC) as well as the reality of the demonstrations repressed just 20 years ago. I decided to pass and skip viewing Chairman Mao’s body (which is on display for public veneration), and head directly to the Temple of Heaven Park.

The Temple of Heaven is also a Ming dynasty era architectural wonder. Set in a lovely forest of old trees and beautiful walkways, this Temple of Heaven served as the emperors place of Divine connection. The emperors came here to formally pray for the good of the country – for good harvests, for peace, etc. The main attraction, the Temple of Good Harvest, is 38 meters high and built in the round out of wood – without the use of nails or cement. It’s gorgeous and covered in intricate paintings of dragons and gold-gilded edges. I had a wonderful time imagining the rituals that occured during the Ming and Qing dynasties!

After this marathon tour of mostly the Ming era, I met up with my friend Robin, and we rented bikes to take a look at some hutong. I love biking in Beijing! I won’t comment on how risky it was to ride around Beijing 7 months pregnant without even a helmet, without reflectors, in a grey sweater, at night – but I will say it was a heap and a load of fun to get around Beijing this way! I highly recommend it!

We ate our hearts out at a local diner – taking in many different and interesting snacks only found in Beijing. And then we wandered around Houhai – a lake to the Northwest of the Forbidden City and a very trendy fun area.

Now back at the hotel (and ready to sleep)… and running out of time on the computer! I’m home tomorrow night and promise to post pictures soon.

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1 Response to “Beijing on foot, Beijing on bike”


  1. 1 Becca October 19, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I’m so thrilled you’ve had such a wonderful time! You totally deserve it!


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