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A Rickshaw ride around Lake Hou Hai 

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My best friend of over thirty-eight years and her son (my godson) and his cousin [two very handsome boys I think] came to visit me in Beijing and whilst I went to work, they went out sightseeing, however when it came to Saturday [my day off] I decided to take them to Lake Hou Hai for lunch and a ride around the lake in a rickshaw.

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Hou Hai literally means back sea and it is one of three lakes located together in Beijing along with Qian Hai [front seas] and Xi Hai [western sea].  All three lakes cover a very large area and include remnants of old-style local residences and Hutongs (small streets famous in Beijing).

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We decided on a rickshaw ride first up and my friend Tracey and I hopped into one and my godson and his cousin into the next.  There are not many inclines around Hou Hai however there is one in the lead up to one of the lovely bridges over the lake…well Tracey and I used to be very thin as young girls but over the years we may have put on a couple of kilograms so we were already a bit concerned that our very thin, old Chinese man was going to have difficulty peddling us around the lake; he didn’t until we came to the bridge…imagine our embarrassment when we had to get out of the rickshaw and walk up the incline to the bridge as the poor Chinese man could not peddle us up!!  Funny thing is that no-body cared apart from us.

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After our embarrassment subsided and we finished our ride, we went to lunch in a lovely  little restaurant overlooking the lake and sat outside enjoying our meal.  There are so many restaurants and bars along the lake and the area is very popular both during the day and in the evening.  Restaurant and bar owners know a lot of visitors and expats frequent the area so prices are a little high; but I still think it’s worth it.

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On Chinese New Year’s Eve, it is a wonderful place to visit to see hours of amazing fireworks.  The first year I went with friends in their motorcycle sidecar and I cannot recall ever being that cold; it was freezing, but the fireworks made it worth it [I think].

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There are so many beautiful courtyard homes to see on the outskirts of the lake and our rickshaw ride afforded us the opportunity to see many.  I really love Chinese doors and took many photos during our ride.

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There are lovely shops to buy a whole range of souvenirs; both cheap and pricey.  There is a wonderful shop selling Chinese paper cutting and you can see the elderly cutting the paper in front of you.  Amazing as are the colours of the courtyard homes; very special.

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Apart from taking a rickshaw ride around the lake and surrounding Hutongs, you can walk of course or there are paddle boats on the lake and a small boat you can hop on for a tour of the three lakes; this operates in the summer evenings also.

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In winter, in the bitter cold and once the lake has frozen you can skate on the ice. In my first year in Beijing I did just that and my friends and I rented a chair on skates and had the most fun I have had in a long time.  The lake is so completely different in winter and summer.

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I have walked around the lake a few times and also taken the rickshaw a few times and each time I see something different.  On once occasion I had lunch in a wonderful tea-house where we were given complimentary Chinese snacks by the owner.  It’s also lovely to see the elderly Chinese men sitting around chatting and playing games whilst their much loved birds sing to each other hanging in the trees in their cages.  These birds are ‘walked’ every day by their owners in their lovely bamboo cages and if you look closely inside you will see gorgeous ceramic food and water bowls.

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It’s a great place to visit any time of the year and it even brings out your ‘inner child’ – Tracey and I bought rabbit ears from a young girl and wore them part of the afternoon; again nobody cared!!

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