Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Summer Palace (in China!)

Another work trip -- this one to Beijing, China. Since I'd never been I stayed for an extra week. I don't believe in going somewhere for work and not seeing some of the culture and history of that country.

Beijing was so surprising. I'd been told not be believe this, but I couldn't help but assume it would be like Delhi. But other than a large population, they two cities do not share much. Beijing is extremely orderly and clean. The parks are bustling with people dancing and doing Tai Chi. There are very few children and the children that exist are surrounded by, usually, several adults.

The honesty was astounding. We were given locks for our rental bikes, but no one locks their bikes in Beijing (we did, because we were renting). If I don't lock every aspect of my bike down then I will lose it -- as noted by my front light and computer both being stolen off the bike (the computer didn't work anymore -- ha suckers!). We left a beautiful pomelo in the basket of one our bikes -- it was still there when we returned after several hours in the Summer Palace! No way that would have happened in the U.S.

And the bike lanes! Oh my goodness! The bike lanes are like a dream come true. Very wide (enough for three bikes to ride side-by-side) and separated from motorized traffic via little metal fences. The lanes were so well designed that I never felt frustrated by slow bikers, or people who think they are faster than me. Also the other cyclists do not have the attitude of cyclists in CA. No one seemed to really care that they were being passed. Even people on motor bikes were fine with it; though there may be some question as to why I, on a comfort bike, was able to pass a motor bike.

If only the air quality was better. I've never been somewhere with that much particulate matter in the air. Seriously, those of us in the U.S. need to write our elected representatives and sing our praises for the Clean Air Act. Trust me, that law is saving us. One day biking in Beijing and my throat was sore and my voice was hoarse.

But enough preaching... our first full day in Beijing we biked to the Summer Palace. Yes, technically the Summer Palace was the summer retreat of the emperors back in the day, considered distant from town, but now it is just a short jaunt from the center of the city. Just twenty-five kilometers from the Forbidden City.  Though it sounds like it would be old, the Summer Palace was rebuilt in the 1980's. Every building has a sign about how the original building was destroyed in the Anglo-Franco War -- or the Second Opium War as we know it. I hate to admit that it took me a few days to make that connection. And I'm sure the Summer Palace was a lovely place to visit during the Qing Dynasty, but now it is a little crowded and very smoggy. Still it was a nice introduction to China.
 
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