I’ve had a chance to explore my local area this week. Beijing currently has 6 ring roads (though the first one is fiction) and we are between the third and fourth. Walking west from my home you can see the hills on the outskirts of the city. Five minutes walk east is the river that goes to the Summer Palace. South is the shopping centre, with major bus stops behind. North is a beautiful park.
What first strikes me as different in this place is the pure size of it. The roads are wide and the buildings tall, and I think that disrupts your perception of distance. When you see something ahead in the UK, it might take around 5 minutes to walk to it – here, you arrive at least 10 minutes later! It took me a while to adjust my calculations. I spend a lot of time travelling!
The river nearby runs North-South and it reaches the Summer Palace about a mile north. The Summer Palace is where the emperors went for the summers and is a beautiful park with many lakes. This is the entrance where tourist boats from central Beijing end their trip– not that I saw any in the time I was there. From a bridge just outside the palace, you can spy into the beauty within.
Walking south down the river you see much more bustle of Beijing life. The river branches in two, and this part of town has a lot more people passing through. A mile or so down the main branch of the river you reach a wonderful old Chinese building that’s not marked on any map. On a footbridge you can see over roofs of beautiful traditional housing. These are the things you find when you’re off the tourist trail.
My best discovery was the park. I had been searching for one for ages and was simply walking the wrong way! North just looked like housing (see picture left), but hidden between all the tower blocks is in fact a humongous park! – And it’s hardly even any distance away! (See picture right.) These are a few things contained in it:
- Beautiful landscaped lake with stepping-stones and attractive stone features
- Double tennis/badminton/basketball court
- A huge hilly grass area with track around it of maybe half a mile in length, complete with a lake
- Two play areas with various apparatus
- Features such as a sheltered seating pavilion, huge artistic centrepieces and carved pillars lining the path
- Large amphitheatre structure, with some kind of community centre (see picture above, showing preparations of a performance here)
- Mosaic flooring area with numerous benches
- Old traditional house, randomly in the middle of this park!
- Extensive areas of grass with pretty paths and a man-made stream running through
Every other day I give myself a good workout by going for a run in this park. This is another part of my preferred lifestyle that has perfectly translated to my new country. 🙂