from my travel journal: 7 july 09
My other favourite part of Beijing was the cycle tour I went on. I almost didn’t go because it was close to 40ºC and the sun cut through the smog regularly. The breeze on the bike made it bearable but as soon as we stopped for a second I would start streaming sweat.
But visual entertainment compensated for physical discomfort. We biked down alleyways lined with traditional houses (hutongs), dodging seas of pedestrians, others on bicycles, delivery carts, and once a gaggle of ducks – all like we were in a Nintendo game. We cruised under the trees that work overtime but could never hope to clear the clinging curtain of smog. (No blue sky here, just a white/grey haze that our tour guide called “fog,” as if it’s naturally occurring.) Down an antiques alley, through shopping districts, past the amazing minalmist Grand Theatre with its underwater entranceway, on the—supposedly—widest street in the world, past massive Tiananmen Square, we biked. We went beside lakes in parks where Speedoed old guys hung out, smugly and proudly showing off their less-developed bellies.
Guys here roll up their shirts as Westerners roll up their shirt sleeves. Most have ledges for their forcibly lifted shirts. All feel the need to pat their exposed flesh. Even if I had stayed in Beijing for weeks, I would have kept giggling at the belly parade.