Our friend Greg lived in Beijing for a year or more and told us the place to be was in the Park. Yesterday was a gorgeous Saturday, warm and sunny, and apparently he told lots of people that, because they all followed his instructions and went to the parks. Some of the highlights:
Jingshan Park is a 55-acre park immediately north of the Forbidden City, full of people doing tai chi, dancing, smelling the peonies, you name it. The major feature is a big artificial hill, made when they dug the moat for the Forbidden City, from which there are great views. We’d toured the Forbidden City the day before and I wasn’t enamored of it; it just seemed like a big space with a lot of buildings. But from the hill you had a great sense of just how massive it was.
People were exercising everywhere, although sometimes the exercise was … odd. As we were climbing up the hill, one older, shirtless guy was first falling backwards into a tree and later clapping his hands to it. Repeatedly. Women, again, mostly older, were dancing everywhere, though again not exactly breaking a sweat. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of being outside and moving. It was amusing, though, that it was everywhere. If there was space, there were a group of people dancing or doing tai chi, or swinging things, or … something. Of course, the most interesting dancer by far was a wonderful guy, leading a group of mostly women, who was really having fun.
The highlight, though, by far, was a couple playing music. He was playing the harmonica and she was singing. I heard her from a bit away and thought her voice was beautiful and the closer we got the more I liked it. And when she started singing from The Sound of Music I was all hers. Let’s go to the tape, though I’m not sure we have this whole posting to You Tube down right. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wbvUgwSEcIE
Then there are the lakes near Jingshan Park and the Forbidden City. There are three of them, and walking around them I felt like I was back in Minneapolis. Some people might think Beijing is nothing like Minneapolis, but only if you’ve never walked around the lakes on a beautiful spring day. Just as in Minneapolis, everyone was out and having fun and flying kites and swimming (trust me, you wouldn’t want to have been swimming in that water) and boating and tai chi-ing, and dancing … you get the point. Best of all, once you pass to the second lake, Houhai, there are gaudy bars everywhere!
And we finally found something that isn’t cheap in China – $8 for a gin and tonic. It was, however, one of the finest gin and tonics I’ve ever had: sitting on the roof of Beyond Bar, on a couch, with my Kindle. Mark hadn’t joined me for that part of the walk, so I sat there reading, relaxing, watching the world go buy below while waiting for him to join me. And though the drinks ain’t cheap, you can sit as long as you want with one drink and they’ll never even ask if you want another until you flag them down. It was sweet.
Oh yeah, the kite flying. I know I haven’t grown too old when kites in the air still awe me.