Here in Beijing, it’s walk, walk and wok

BEIJING (Originally posted on Aug. 11, 2008)—For the past three days since we’ve arrived in China, as soon as we’ve arisen and stepped out on the bustling streets, we’ve joined the one sport that millions of people here do every minute of every day: Walk.

My wife Jasmin and I estimate no less than 8 kms. of trekking—each day. So at the rate we’re hiking (with the Great Wall looming ahead for us to climb), we’d have finished a full 42-K marathon in five days or can represent RP in the Olympic sport of Walkathon!

Last Saturday, taking a break between the Opening Ceremony and our first Olympic sport to watch (tennis), we meandered to a tourist spot with the most number of visitors: The Forbidden City. After riding the ultra-efficient bus and subway lines here, we got off at Tiananmen East and stepped out of the underground to see the red wall of this gargantuan site called the Imperial Palace.

Before entering, we strolled across the street to the world’s biggest public open square: the Tiananmen Square. And what a square! It’s not only vast and brimming with tourists snapping photos, but it was littered with all items Olympics. At the center arose a massive “Beijing 2008” logo which rotated and was swarmed with flowers bearing colors of yellow, green and red.

Flowers. That’s one of the most common—and ravishing—sights to view in China’s capital city. On one side of Tiananmen, an assorted array of flowers mushroomed—and they made a garden patterned after the athletes together with signs that read, “One World, One Dream.”

Next, we bounced across the road to enter the gates of the Forbidden City. Leviathan. Behemoth. Stupendous. These words are not even enough to describe how immense this “city within a city” is. Also, as expected, the works of art are intricate. They’re filled with color, design and were painstakingly carved by hand. They’re also immersed in history that date back to the 1400s.

I only carried a basic point-and-shoot camera but I imagined if one of my friends who are crazy about photography (Dr. Ron Eullaran or Papicture’s Lemuel Arrogante or Raul Arambulo) were with us. This palace is a photographer’s paradise.

The weather here? Sizzling. At noon-time, when we crawled around Tiananmen, the sunglasses and cap and umbrella we used could not fully shield us from the rays of the searing sun. It’s much more fiery here than in Cebu. But then again, no one’s complaining—because two days ago when we walked these celebrated sites, the sky was clear. Remember how we descended into the Beijing airport shrouded by grey skies? Last Saturday, the sky was blue, the clouds were white and swam upstairs while the yellow sun glistened.

Back to the Imperial Palace: Finally, after stomping our feet roaming the palaces from 1 to 6 p.m., we finished touring this UNESCO World Heritage site. By then, our legs were fatigued—but not about to give up.

We next rode a bus to the nearby shopping district of Wangfujing Dajie. We walked and walked until we saw a side road teeming with people. It was a food street and, spanning over a hundred meters long at the side of the road, what a walk along this wok.

Named Donghuamen Night Market, you can buy any food you wish, including these delicacies that—literally and figuratively—are quite hard to swallow: starfish, centipede, silkworm, dog, sheep penis, and scorpion.

Did we sample any? Sure. The non-adventurous, we ate chicken dumplings!

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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