Biking in Beijing: A day of Contrast
Friday morning, Nik and I set off on our second full day of biking through the city.Â This time, our goal was to get up close and personal with the CCTV Tower designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).Â But first, we took another ride through the hutongs, and here is what we found….
As we were getting closer to the modern side of town, we stopped by a favorite lunch spot that the locals frequent…none other than a little burger joint with golden arches!!Â The moment we walked in, we were greeted by the manager and asked to have a seat.Â We chose one near the front so we could people watch as we chowed down on burgers and fries.Â Then the manager proceeded to hand us menus, take our order, and serve us our food!!!Â Yep, that’s right, we were waited on at McDonald’s.Â At first we thought everyone was given this service, but as we watched, we reallized we were the only ones.Â We suppose that the manager is the only one that speaks English, and since we came in the middle of the lunch hour, she figured we would just hold up the line if we ordered the old fashioned way.Â This was our first visit to the American super-franchise in Asia, and it was strangely comforting.Â My quarter-pounder was much better than I remembered, and came served with cucumbers instead of pickles.Â Nik’s chicken sandwich looked pretty good, and the fries were top notch.Â The final little surprise in store for us was that McDonald’s serves the cheapest fresh coffee in town.
We walked out to unlock our bikes, and as we did, I took a look around at our surroundings.Â We could have been in any mid-sized American city.Â 5-30 story buildings lined both sides of the street in between long, flat strip malls with huge parking lots.Â Across the congested street there was a large shopping mall, and I did a double take as I noticed the sign.Â “SILK MARKET”Â I remembered the name, and turned to Nik and asked, “Do you think that’s the one Jaime and Tim went to?”Â Indeed it was.Â The Silk Market is 8 stories of knock-off merchandise ranging from Barbie dolls to Nikon cameras to Coach handbags to Levis jeans to Nike shoes where foreigners and Chinese shop and bargain.Â I convinced Nik to go in for 30 minutes just to say we were there.Â 2 hours and several hard bargains later, we walked out with shoes, a hat and a wallet.Â If daylight wasn’t a precious commodity on our bike rides, we probably would have stayed longer, but Modern Beijing was waiting for us.
We wound our way to the CCTV tower, which is still under construction, and stopped a few times along the way when we saw bizarre buildings.Â The area was so dense and divided by busy highways and congested streets that it was hard to get anywhere fast.Â To add to that, the tower was under construction, so standing next to it did us no good because there were huge construction barricades.
This day was one of my favorites in the city.Â We experienced the vast contrast between old and new, and enjoyed one of China’s greatest past times….knock-off shopping!!