Saturday, August 10, 2013

Floating on Houhai

Two fast, fast weeks have passed as we continue to get used to life in Beijing. School started this week. Monday began with meetings as the returning teachers descended upon the campus and students appeared on Thursday. Between difficulties accessing certain sites on the web and the frantic pace at school, we've been a bit slack on posting...

Last weekend, I ventured into town with other Beijing newbies to an area once frequented as a royal playground. Houhai Lake is located in the heart of Beijing as narrow neighborhoods, hutongs, wind to this central water feature.

We walked towards the boat area and the number of people swimming in the lake surprised me. Mostly older men, they walked down a small ladder into the pond and did laps between the bank and an island in the middle. Boats appeared to avoid the swimmers though I wonder if the parasites of central Beijing also steer clear.

The island destination
Our group was a bit large so we waited for a few boat conductors to show up. The atmosphere was vibrant. People - locals, expats, tourists... - constantly flowed by, music played and folks seemed to be milling about on a beautiful summer evening.

Meeting spot
Finally, we pushed off and our boats joined the others in Lake Houhai as dusk slowly turned to darkness and the lights from the banks began to brightly shine.

Imagine watching Chinese royalty floating across the lake 
After the lake tour, we meandered through the hutong section.

Tea shop window opening onto the street
In the end, I got back on the bus for the ride home but we first made a short detour through Tiananmen Square. Even under the night sky, I was impressed with the vastness of this area.

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