We arrived in Beijing with a whole week to spend there, and we took our time getting to know the place. Our hostel was in the Hutong section of the old city, multiple buildings surrounding an old courtyard, hidden away in alleyways and back streets. This was immediately a comfortable hiding spot for me. I would spend the next few days repeatedly wandering around the area, stopping at shops, watching people play cards and sit and chat with one another. We also began to look for different foods, and ended up enjoying local dumplings every morning, tasting a kind of fried egg pancake and watching noodles being freshly prepared.
The small, old area was not spared from traffic, though: although cars are too wide to fit along the narrow alleys, the motor bikes and electric bikes swerved quickly and silently down the streets, startling us with high pitched warning beeps. Just in general, Beijing was constantly surrounded in activity and noise. In the mornings it was the local open air gym that was teaming with people battling it out at ping pong, practising push-ups, or working out on the different training machines. In the afternoon the streets and restaurants filled with people looking for lunch or to have a break from their day, by night, the lake area slightly further north and the shopping area further east attracted seemingly countless visitors.
Bright lights and loud music often featured – it seemed no store was considered open unless it was promoting this through playing its own music, and at night everything was brightly lit and employees tried to lure us in with a few well practised English sentences. A particularly lovely walk was had at the (free to enter) Olympic Forest Park, and we spent several hours wandering the Buddhist and Confucius Temples, reading inscriptions and getting lost. We were dallying because we were going to be joined by two more friends from the UK- Ruth and Laura were arriving for different lengths of time, taking us (or joining us) for a bit of a race through the northern part of China. We had plans to see Buddhas, warriors and walls, to visit dinosaurs and walk up countless stairs on hikes in some of China’s warmest weather. So we took the time in Beijing to relax and enjoy.