Biking around Beijing is not for the faint-hearted, but it was the most fun I had during my stay. I thoroughly enjoy cycling and this experience allowed me to see a different side to this great city.
I hired a bike from the hostel for 20RMB (~$4AUD) and set off with Bill from Massachusetts and Dan from Malaysia to explore Beijing on two wheels.
My trusty steed had seen better days, but that didn’t matter because it was equipped with the most important element – a working bell. Don’t get me wrong, the brakes are very important too, but the bell is crucial when you’re fighting for bitumen with cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, pedestrians and other cyclists.
We headed for the Lama Temple (Yonghegong), which is an active Mongolian-Tibetan yellow-sect temple located about 3km from our hostel for our first destination.
I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face throughout the first leg of our ride. Simply put, I felt free. No helmets are required on bikes in Beijing and with the wind in my hair and the adrenaline flowing through my veins, I was buzzing.
Bikes are also immune to normal road rules, or so the locals seemed to act as if they are. We ran most red lights and followed the route of a car or a pedestrian, using the road, bike path or footpath – whichever was the most convenient and allowed us to keep moving, and this is the norm!
After leaving the Lama Temple, we found a restaurant for lunch and some well-earned Tsing Tao. I’m not too sure on the drink-cycling policy in Beijing, but the beers definitely made the ride towards the Olympic Park an interesting one!
The ride out to see the Bird’s Nest and Cube took about 25 minutes and we were moving at a fairly substantial rate. I’m not too sure if it was the beers, but the earlier feeling of being free had changed, and it now felt like we were in a video game. It was like a real life Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing where you dodge and weave in and out of traffic!
We explored the large expanse of the Olympic Park and took an obligatory photo in front of the Bird’s Nest before cycling back to the hostel. The smiles on our faces were still there from earlier in the day and I would highly recommend hiring bikes in Beijing and exploring the city like a local!
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