54 km, 4 hours
For our first full day in Beijing, we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and the bike lanes and head out for a bike ride. The Lonely Planet mentioned a nice ride out to the Summer Palace along a canal path. We thought we would give that a try. Every time we found the nice canal side road, about 200 meters later, it intersected with a major road (4+ lanes). This posed a problem because there were no tunnels, bridges, or overpasses. There was no way to cross the crazy intersections, rather you had to follow the road for a bit until you could find a place to cross it and then backtrack. It took us 27 km of riding to find our way out to the Summer Palace, which the Lonely Planet says is a nice 15 km ride! We aren’t sure if we did something totally wrong, but our best guess is that the Lonely Planet author has never actually ridden or even attempted the canal route on a bike, and indulged in some poetic license.
Once we found the Summer Palace, we followed the outside wall for awhile, and then decided to go seek out the funky Olympic buildings. When we did make it to the Olympic Park, we were very sad. At all the Olympic Park entrances there were security gates, with big signs saying “No Bicycles!” It was such a large open space, that would have been a pain to walk around in – the buildings are all so far apart. Alas! Instead, we chose to ride around the security guarded enclosure so as to not need to lock up our bikes.
We did see the “Bird’s Nest” a.k.a. National Stadium from a distance as well as the strange outer cladding of the “Water Cube”.
The Olympics definitely have had a few nice influences on the city of Beijing. All the major street signs now have both Chinese characters and Pinyin names, as well as cardinal markings (North, South, etc.) on them, so it is much easier to get around. Also, the city has well signed, clean, free toilets almost at every corner (you only pay if you need to buy toilet paper). Finally, most of the restaurants have picture menus (at least in the tourist areas). They certainly have made Beijing much easier and more pleasant to visit.
After 4 hours and much fun riding, we were happy to get back to the hotel and shower. Over the last few days Becky has been experiencing some stomach issues (yet again) and they were getting worse. Adding to the complications, Scott had gotten something in his eye while riding, and it had not cleared up. After an inspection by Becky and a call to our insurance company, we booked an appointment for Scott to see an eye specialist at the “Hong Kong Clinic”. At first, we planned to just pay for it ourselves, but they wanted over 1000 RMB ($200CAD) for a consultation, so we decided to use our insurance. The Hong Kong Clinic is in the Swisshotel, one of many 5-star hotels here, so we’re sure there are cheaper options. We decided to use them anyway, since finding another eye specialist at 7 pm appeared difficult, and we were hoping to go to the Great Wall the next day.
The specialist checked the inside of Scott’s eyes with a standard slit lamp, and diagnosed conjunctivitis (inflammation of the white of the eye). Some antibacterial eye drops and low-dose steroid drops, and we were on our way. Scott’s eye didn’t look nearly as bad as other conjunctivitis cases we’ve seen, so we wondered about the diagnosis, but figured better safe than sorry.