Bell and Drum Tower, Nanluogu Xiang, Frozen Houhai

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today we started our adventure a little late due in part of the previous night's heavy partying. We got the ball rolling getting off subway line 2's Guluodajie station and proceeded to head south. By our stroke of luck, we decided to explore a random hutong which led us to the Drum and Bell Towers. Between the two structures was a public square where we witnessed children at play, old men engaged in mahjong and rickshaw operators hawking at us to obtain some business. What also struck our attention was an old man with his trained birds. He would hold the bird and prepare the throw it like a baseball up in the air, while a second person would launch a marble for the bird to catch in mid-air. The bird would then return to its masters hand, but sometimes the bird would just rejoin its brothers on a little perch. It was quite fascinating as fellow observers asked if the birds would ever fly away, the old man responded by saying ,"No, they will always return to me."

Pressing forward, we made our way to Guolou Dongdajie and discovered a trove of little shops. It had appeared we were transported away from the chaotic street markets and in to a proper shopping district where every store has an equal opportunity to sell its own products. What stood out in particular to me was the abundance of video game shops and hobby shops. The products were most likely legit as I observed one shop playing Gran Turismo 5. Nevertheless, the competition looked like it was cut-throat, if you didn't like the prices you saw at the present store you could simply go next door.

After several more blocks of interesting boutiques and shops we made it to an interesting attraction, Nanluogu Xiang street. Dating back to the 1200s, the street was tiny, cramped and full of little surprises. The first of which was the Panda shop which sold items ranging from face masks, earmuffs, to full on children's clothing. Following our noses and bellies, we stumbled upon a large crowd gathering around a little shop. The attendant the shop was busying shuffling out chocolate covered churros with the option of ice cream on top. We quickly got in line and ordered one serving for myself, Jeff and Thibaut to share. At 15 RMB, it was expensive but the chocolate was piping hot and delicious. Continuing on, we also spotted more small snack shops that included yogurt, toast, and the waffle egg balls. A match shop had some intriguing trinkets as well, some with adult content, others just plain childish.

We walked on over to Houhai as it had been our primary attraction for the day. To our delight, we discovered the lake to be entirely frozen over with people walking on top of the lake itself. Since we had been walking for several hours in the cold Beijing air, we decided to make camp for a bit at the local Starbucks to warm up. After resting and collecting our warmth, we braved the cold temperatures and hopped the fence and got onto the lake. To our surprise, the ice sheet was quite sturdy, the only fear was initial first steps of getting on to the ice. We goofed around and took some shots, Thibaut even went as far as to fall down while getting his photos snapped. We used some broken ice as a puck to see how much friction was involved when it was kicked across the ice. It was good way to end our day, a nice surprise by seeing Houhai lake frozen over was quite the treat.
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