Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve. We woke up to another bright, sunny and cold day. After a hearty breakfast (the hotel has a breakfast menu with lots of unusual choices, all cooked fresh and served with coffee and juice), we decided to borrow some bicycles from the hotel and head for Tienanmen Square.
Due to the holidays, the roads are unusually quiet, so it was an easy ride to the square. On arrival, we discovered the Forbidden City had closed early for the day and National Museum and Mao’s mausoleum were both shut. It didn’t really matter as we were still able to stroll around, soak in the atmosphere and take some pictures in the sunshine.
Tienanmen Square would normally be crowed with tourists, both foreign and Chinese, as well as all sorts of hawkers and scammers. We felt lucky to be able to enjoy it in the relative calm. Cycling around the square, we were a little worried one of the many guards or police might stop us, but nobody seemed interested in the two wobbly laowai on their dusty bicycles.
By now we were getting peckish. Luckily we found a small family restaurant which served up some tasty food and jasmine tea. Typically, the restaurant didn’t have its own loo. I took the plunge and visited the public convenience over the road. On the positive side it was very clean, on the negative it was all squat loos, with no separate cubicles. Ah well, when in Beijing…
Our next stop was the Lama Temple via the excellent foreign language bookshop on Wangfujing Dajie. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the temple it had also closed to visitors. It was a good ride, though.
We cycled back through the hutongs to our hotel. The journey was becoming more hazardous as many firecrackers were being let off in the streets to chase out the old year. More than once, we had to stop and wait for a pile of fireworks to stop their volley before we could pass.
The volume and frequency of the fireworks will increase this evening and for the next seven days. We don’t expect to be able to get much sleep this evening. Luckily, the hotel is having a party so at least not being able to sleep should be fun.