An afternoon of bike riding around Beijing’s Hutongs
Whilst in Beijing, I stayed a week with my New Zealand friend Nicola and one day I borrowed her husband’s bicycle and together we rode about forty-minutes down to the Hutong area.
Hutongs are a type of narrow street or alley, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, most prominently Beijing and they are a wonderful maze of shops, restaurants and courtyard homes and a fabulous way to see the ‘real’ Beijing.
I hadn’t been on a bike for years and whilst it wasn’t difficult it was a bit hard on the backside!! And the Beijing traffic…wow!!! It’s concentration all the time…but funnily enough cars are very courteous to us bike riders. And as always owners of their vehicles put blocks against their wheels to stop dogs weeing on the tyres!!
It was lovely to see this part of Beijing; being able to take in the sights properly especially the wonderful doorways along the Hutongs.
We stopped off at Mr Shi’s dumpling restaurant which is renowned amongst the foreigners in Beijing…so many choices of vegetarian dumplings – lucky for me!!
Mr Shi is an actual person and is often seen in his restaurant with his six-year old boy, but unfortunately not on the occasion I visited. My friend Nic was happy to just order vegetarian on this occasion so we ordered the cabbage, carrot and shitake mushroom, the egg, corn and chinese chives and the egg, tomato and eggplant dumplings…extremely good, two lots we ordered boiled and one lot pan fried – delicious!!
Outside the restaurant we had a lovely view of the Hutong and the people strolling past including lao Beijingren (old Beijing people) who were on the way to the communal bathroom still wearing their pyjamas. Or others just sitting around wasting the day away chatting/playing cards or relaxing.
After lunch, we hopped back onto our bikes and rode to Lake Ho Hai.
I have been there in the middle of winter and walked on the ice; this day it was very lovely with beautiful blue skies (a rarity really in Beijing) and people enjoying themselves on small boats on the lake.
It was also a beautiful time of the year to see the blossoms blooming along the lake.
My friend Nic had also told me about a residence of the wife of Dr Sun Yat-sen. It is located at Lake Ho Hai so we hopped off our bikes and paid 20 RMB each (abut $4 AUD) to walk around the residence and the beautiful grounds.
It was a really interesting place to visit with a wonderful museum telling us everything about the life of Dr Sun Yat-sen but more about his wife as it was actually ‘her’ former residence. Dr Sun Yat-sen was a medical practitioner and the first president and founding father of the Republic of China. He married Soong Ching Ling who was born in Singapore and educated in the United States as a teenager where its democratic system had a great influence on her.
Soong Ching Ling was deeply concerned about the welfare of the Chinese people and once she finished her studies in the USA, she returned to China and dedicated her life to the quest for equality and freedom for China. It seems she was loved by all and played a very important role in the history of China.
After this, feeling a bit tired, we hopped back on our bikes and rode home; this time along the main streets (bit scary!!).