I like people spotting at the best of times (how much people spotting can you do before you’re considered a creep, I wonder) and it was one of my favourite things I did in Beijing. That either makes me sound dull as hell or Beijing really bloody boring but I’m going with neither. Anyone who’s been to China will know the kind of gems you can spot. Chinese parks are like secret entertainment zones. They’re where Chinese people come to express themselves in ways which would make a Brit frown or blush. Although they charge a small entry free, old people can enter for free.
Parks are largely full of old people singing and dancing without any inhibition. Some also tell stories, playing instruments or having a casual game of badminton. There’s usually a small crowd of them and it’s really quite lovely just to watch them enjoy themselves and socializing. And some just love the attention of strangers! I had one old lady really playing up to my camera.
Some of the singing is lovely but usually I would walk into a park, hear a sound and genuinely think “Is that someone singing or someone screaming for help?”. Bless them. At least they’re having fun, ay.
The best parks I found for people spotting are Zhongshan Park, Jingshan Park and Beihai Park. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember the difference between Zhongshan and Jingshan and nor can I tell which photos are from which since my visit was so long ago! However they’re both situated around the Forbidden City and have lots of greenery, flowers and winding pathways with quiet corner benches to sit on (one of which I may or may not have fallen into a jet-lag induced nap on…). Zhongshan also has a 100-year-old teahouse, which my bike-tour guide took me to and you can watch them perform the ceremony for you for free.
Beihai Park is surrounded by a lake know as the Northern Sea and is connected to the famous three lakes that make up Shichahai. You can rent a pedalo to tour the lake in. Beihai Park also contains historical structures and temples, with lots of things hidden amongst the vast amount of trees and greenery. Around one corner I found a group of people practicing tai chi by the Nine-Dragon Wall.
Each time I went to a park I saw something different so definitely don’t just go to one park one time! Let me know if you’ve got a favourite Chinese park 🙂