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Today we had a free day in Beijing. IE no tour guide or set schedule.   We deliberately set this up to help overcome any jet lag.   After a decent night’s sleep we enjoyed a good breakfast in our hotel and decided to go out and walk to Beihai Park.  On the map it doesn’t look too far.

 To keep us from getting lost we have internet access via a rented wifi hotspot as well as lots of data.  We also can use Dave’s VPN to bypass any restrictictions that China may place on access.  Most social media (facebook, Instagram etc) as well as google is totally blocked.  But we have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) it basically creates a secured tunnel inside the public internet to the other end. In Dave’s case that’s his company headquarters and/or the Tokyo office.  This allows us to legally access the above. Which on a day like today when we planned to explore a bit, google maps was an awesome tool to use.

This is our hotel entrance.

Local street in our neighbourhood:

It really is a quaint and pretty neighbourhood.  Actually, Beijing in general is quite nice so far.  Lots of smog but very clean.  We walked around Dongsi area and found a market street that was quite interesting.  Lots of bubble tea/ice cream vendors as well as assorted fresh fruit and amazingly tons and tons of what Kris and I call “Crap Stores”.  You know, the ones with cheap junk made in China? We did wander into a nice silver store, mostly because we thought it was a museum.  Still interesting to see.

While this was very interesting to see and experience it did take us a bit out of our way.  Thankfully google maps got us to the more planned part of the day. Which was Beihai Park.

One of the things we wanted to see was the 9dragon wall.  It is one of only 3 such walls in China, built in 1756. The wall was part of an old temple. At almost 6 meters thick, 1.6 meters high and 25 meters long it was very impressive. Depicts 635 dragons in total. It is the only remaining double-sided dragon wall. Dragons in China are protective divinities, not destructive as viewed in the west. Dragons are synonymous with springtime and vital energy. Dragons live within the earth, giving shape to the mountains and forming waves on rivers.

There was this little girl all dressed up for some sort of family thing.  We managed a quick sneak pic:

After the dragon screen we decided food would be good.  We found a restaurant not far away.  Some very tasty dumplings and beef noodle soup fit the bill nicely.  As did the very cold beer!

Then we headed around the “Northern Sea” which is really just a lake.  Very pretty but still just a lake.

And looking back we saw the 5 pagodas, green and gold-roofed ‘gazebos’ right along the shore of the water.  They were built in 1602, as places where emperors, queens and high-level officials fished and spent their spare time.   

And this sign.  Both the translation and the intent we found humourous.  If you’re not going to see the lake, you’re not gonna see the sign!

It was around 31 Celsius today and the above photos would have been bright blue sky.  But nope, that’s smog.

Around now we’d walked almost 13km and felt we’d covered enough ground so we headed back to the hotel.  On our way we stopped and picked up some water at WuMart.  A curious mix of products inside but it was cheap.

We were picked up and went to a show on the history of Kung Fu.  Kind of a history lesson, demonstration show and a little Cirque de Soliel thrown in.  Those guys make it look so easy yet we instinctively know it’s not.

This is Kris at the entrance to the Red Theatre where the show was.

Finally back to the hotel for a quick but tasty dinner and sleep.  Tomorrow is a “proper” tour of Beijing with our guide.

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