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China 2: City lakes and lights

It was our first afternoon in Beijing and I trotted along after Mike, who seemed to know where he was going, and we duly arrived at another renovated hutong with nice shops and whatnot. At the other end were three lakes collectively known as Shichahai and an area known for its nightlife.

Mike navigated us to Yandai Xiejie aka Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street

Mike navigated us to Yandai Xiejie aka Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street

Here we grabbed some food - hot chips, I'm almost ashamed to report

Here we grabbed some food – hot chips, I’m almost ashamed to report

We crossed the humped bridge over a pinch point on the lakes and meandered along, looking for somewhere to rest and rehydrate a while.

On the bridge between Qianhai and Houhai Lakes

On the Silver Ingot Bridge between Qianhai and Houhai Lakes

If you look on the map, the three lakes (along with three more to the south) are elongated and follow a curved path so it’s not hard to imagine them as the northern end of the 1800km-long Grand Canal a few hundred years ago. This made Shichahai a commercially very important area. It still is, though the grain transported here in historical times is more likely to be found today in fancy distilled formats.

We found some of the latter and a place with a breeze to sit. Mike started yawning about once a minute.


Pedal and paddle craft on Houhai Lake

Pedal and paddle craft on Houhai Lake

The bottom of the three lakes can be reached by following the road lakeside, or by taking a ‘short cut’ through the hutongs. Though, given the haphazard layout, it hardly got us there any quicker. Not that that was the point: these alleys are fascinating places. Even with those damn bikes sneaking up on you.

Would we emerge from the hutong maze?...

Would we emerge from the hutong maze?…

We popped out on the shore of Qianhai Lake and proceeded to make our way slowly back to the humped bridge from whence we started, past more restaurants eager for our custom, past places renting pedal boats – available in several varieties including camo, and my personal favourite, yellow duck. I do regret not taking one of them out (I’m sure I could’ve eventually convinced Mike?), even given concerns that our fatigue could have seen us stranded and cast adrift forever.

We were probably several weeks too late to see lotus flowers in bloom

We were probably several weeks too late to see lotus flowers in bloom

This would be a great place to see in winter. Apparently the lakes freeze over and you can come here to ice skate. That is probably also the surest time of year that the no fishing, no swimming signs would be obeyed. Lord knows what’s in the water but many of the locals were loving it.

At a square we sat down for a bit. It was the perfect place to people watch and to be asked about six times by about six roving vendors if we wanted a massage.

We were taking our time because we wanted to see this place after dark. In our deteriorating states this wasn’t so much about the nightlife but the night lights.

Yinding Bridge - we watched the sunset from here and other things such as cyclo riders grinding their way up and over, and occasionally bailing and pushing

Yinding Bridge – we watched the sunset from here and other things such as cyclo riders grinding their way up and over, and occasionally bailing and pushing

We saw lots of heart-making around the setting sun

We also saw lots of heart-making around the setting sun

A haze-constrained sunset

A haze-constrained sunset

Night lights kicking in around Houhai Lake

Night lights kicking in around Houhai Lake

This area was an explosion of colour and noise, venues competing with each other with neon and different live music

This area was an explosion of colour and noise, venues competing with each other with neon and different live music

Boats queuing for the single-lane passage under the humped bridge. It got very congested at times but they always muddled themselves through

Boats queuing for the single-lane passage under the humped bridge. It got very congested at times but they always muddled themselves through

The skewer symbol is one of the 3 Chinese characters I Iearned (only about 4000 or so to go until I'm functionally literate)

The skewer symbol is one of the 3 Chinese characters I Iearned (only about 4000 or so to go until I’m functionally literate)

Topped up with meaty sustenance, we backtracked around the lake a bit before Mike led us back into the hutongs. Dark though it was and often poorly lit, we felt perfectly safe as we negotiated the concrete maze – the map application on Mike’s phone was a godsend. I was relieved to finally make it back to the hotel, whereupon we flopped.

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Through your posts, I do enjoy exploring a part of the world I haven’t really thought about visiting.

    Fatigue when traveling? Totally understand!

    Heart-making around the setting sun? Maybe a little trite … but fun to watch (and photograph) others doing it, eh?

    The night lights were fantastic, even just through a computer screen.

    And: Hot chips?? I need more details. They sound DELICIOUS.

    28 September 2014
    • Thank you, Cindi! Hot chips… you probably know them better as fries. Fries and ketchup (or hot chips and tomato sauce as they would be better known as here) in China did feel a bit wrong.

      6 October 2014
  2. Gee these are some interesting photos. I am most impressed with the fact that there were no obese people in any of the pics. I think the Chinese are wise not to eat junk food or over eat.

    30 September 2014
    • Great observation Yvonne and you’re right, we saw very few overweight Chinese. The comparison between there and here in that sense is unmistakable.

      6 October 2014
  3. I love your photos – great observations of people and place! Beijing looks very appealing – I’m starting to think I should add China to my (long) list of places to visit.

    5 October 2014
    • Thanks so much! Based on our myriad of positive experiences, I would say definitely add it – but I’ll try and persuade you further through the remainder of the series :).

      6 October 2014
  4. Excellent travel report. I especially enjoyed night photos – gorgeous.

    25 October 2014
  5. catching up with your exotic trip! it’s all looking very ….chinese! and wonderful! great photos, what an interesting place 😀

    28 October 2014
    • Much appreciated Lottie and thanks for reading! 🙂

      28 October 2014

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