We decided not to get a car in Beijing. I have always wanted to live in a city where it didn’t make sense to have a car – and if we can’t do that here where K’s work is walking distance, there is a school bus, and the surf is not driving distance away . . . As well as reducing our contribution to the local air pollution – which clearly doesn’t need our help – there is the added bonus, borne out by my daily pedometer readings, of considerable incidental exercise.
The Beijing Subway, unsurprisingly, is so easy to use; and it's made even easier by a funky little app that tells you everything you need to know before starting your journey such as: where your nearest subway station is, what line to take, in which direction to take it, how many stations to stay on each train for, where to change trains and how much it will cost – which is not much. Apparently, it’s the busiest subway in the world with 3.387 billion trips delivered in 2014, averaging over 9 million per day (thanks Wikipedia), but it was quiet on the weekend holiday.
Anyway, we took the subway to the Lama temple with its traditional architecture, great textures and colours. The buildings, some of which dated back to the 1200s had been an imperial palace before becoming a monastery. Henri, Oliver and William burnt some incense (and singed a few hairs in William’s case) and spun some prayer wheels in an observant exploration of Buddhist rites as we mixed with the local and western tourists (Henri counted a dozen selfie sticks in the first half an hour).
We then treated ourselves to our first meal out, a Beijing duck lunch. Of course we ordered too much, but Henri and Oliver, K and myself did a pretty good job of getting through it all. The highlight had to be the crispy duck skin that you dipped in a kind of sugar before eating – heaven on a stick!
The rest of the weekend was spent catching up with a colleague of Ks and his family for a burger and some tasty locally brewed bears at the Great Leap Brewers Collective as well as a stroll down a very pleasant river that runs close to the apartment.
The river is actually remarkably clear, with people fishing, frogs croaking and, surprisingly, people swimming. Luckily we have access to a great indoor pool as I’m not sure we will be joining them just yet.
And of course, lots of orienting ourselves for shopping. On this score there are western supermarkets where you can get anything you need at Canberra prices, but we have also been exploring the local shops where the prices are excellent but some of the goods less familiar.