Thursday, 18 November
I thought today would be the
wind-down day, checking out the parks in the center of town, and just getting ready to have an early night for an early departure on Friday. I started with a good walk through Zizhuyuan (紫竹院), Purple Bamboo Park (mistranslated as
Black Bamboo on their signs), which is on the way to the National Library subway station.
It’s a very nice park, and made for a nice stroll. In all the parks, people dance, sing, play musical instruments, do tai chi, and so on. I stopped and watched some of the dancing in Zizhuyuan. I’m talking about ballroom-style dancing, here: Latin dance, swing, waltz, that sort of thing. They finished a cha-cha and put on a waltz, and I invited a nicely dressed woman to waltz with me. I could only say
xie xie (谢谢, thank you) to her, and she could say nothing else to me, but dancing is a language on its own.
I took the subway over near the lake parks: Xi Hai, Hou Hai, Qian Hi, and Bei Hai (another Zhong Hai, is government property, not open to the public), and my idea was to walk over to them and do a loop around them all. Only, I wound up getting disoriented on coming out of the subway (in New York, the exits are labelled by the corner they come out on, but in Beijing they’re labelled relative to the station; the southwest exit is not necessarily on the southwest corner of the intersection) and I walked in the wrong direction. By the time I realized that, I was south and west of where I wanted to be, so I just went to Di’anmen Avenue and headed east with a new plan: do Bei Hai (北海) Park, and see what I decide to do next.
I was delighted! Bei Hai (north lake) is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve been to. Everywhere you turn, there’s a new treasure, and I explored the park for the entire afternoon, finishing only when evening started to fall and I was losing the light. The lake is in the center, and all around there are gardens here, pavillions there, paths and buildings to explore. There was more dancing, of course (I didn’t partake this time). There were sing-alongs in some corners, and sing-alones in others. One group found a nook by a pond and had an accordion player leading some very nice singing. Over here, someone played a flute, and over there was a man playing an er hu (二胡), a Chinese two-stringed (er means
two) bowed instrument with a characteristic tone.
By the time I finished in Bei Hai, I was ready to go back to the hotel, have a light dinner, pack, and turn in. I’d have another chauffeured ride to the airport, at 5 a.m. Friday. With three weeks away, I was ready to go home. But China was an interesting and fun adventure.