I’ve been in Beijing for almost two months, and although I haven’t made it to the most frequented tourist destinations yet (waiting to go with visitors!), I have been able to explore some of the areas within the Beijing municipality. A few weeks ago I joined a group of hikers (Beijing Hikers) for a nice walk on Longyunshan, also known as Dragon Cloud Mountain. On the bus ride there, I did catch a few glimpses of the Great Wall of China I’ll be visiting later. Once we had driven outside of the main part of the city, the roads, vehicles, and buildings all got smaller. I couldn’t help but compare the scenes to those I saw driving through small towns in Peru- it seemed like more of the same short flat adobe/brick buildings on the side of the road, with three wheeled vehicles being more prevalent than cars. There were still arrays of gas stations and painted signs of telecom companies. The only difference being that, instead of reading Spanish, it was Chinese characters that dominated these landscapes. I came to Beijing expecting it to be different from all else I’d seen, and it is, but it never ceases to amaze me how similar things can be!
After the more enlightening than expected bus trip, we arrived at the top of the mountain and began our hike. This was my first opportunity to use some of my new hiking gear, and I was excited. I had also prepared for really cold weather. That week the temperatures had dropped noticeably in Beijing, and if you’ve ever been caught hiking or camping in the rain, you know it’s best to layer up and stay dry. Luckily, once we started the hike the sun came out, and I was able to shed my jacket and hike comfortably up the mountain. There were still parts with unmelted snow, but the clear air and sunshine made the weather feel refreshing.
Putting nature aside for a moment, I have to mention another key part of the hike- this mountain was actually the setting of a few different kung fu movies over the years, so as I hiked along the landscape, admiring the views of the river and the canyon, I also came across several old set pieces. The most prominent was an old (now “haunted”) house, and the second was a cave. We couldn’t help lifting up the fake boulders we found in the cave and pretending to throw them with our feigned mighty strength.
Overall, I enjoyed getting out of my daily routine of the Beijing downtown business district to see a different side of China. I made some new friends with the other hikers in my group, and got to walk around in the sunshine. I’m not sure when my next hike will be (it’s pretty freezing outside these days), but I look forward to seeing what next adventure awaits me.