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Beijing Wheeling Round II

Our Most Noble Steeds

First waypoint of Beijing wheeling round II was a breakfast with Scott’s good friend, a Mr. MCK. The man is co-founder of Khaki Creative, a raging design firm, and currently resides in Beijing.

The fellow lived in the Russian section of Beijing. We had ridden by the day before, and marveled at the Cyrillic writing the great number of Russian groceries and restaurants. Having gotten off to a little of a late start, we wheeled hard through the smoggy Beijing morning towards that place. We finally turned into a courtyard which, at the entrance, sported a particularly a Russian grocery. At the door to MCK’s building we found another little bit of Russia. Three police officers approached us asking for our papers. I carried a photocopy of my passport and visa, but Scott had only his passport number. The similarity to Russia ended right there, however, when the cops smiled and began to converse with us jovially in English. It seems they were primarily concerned with us not sleeping at MCK’s house without registering that activity with them. To ensure this, they followed us upstairs and talked at length with MCK as well. In the end, assured that we were simply tourists, staying in a normal hotel, and soon to be gone, we all shook hands and they went on their merry way.

MCK had a very nice apartment and spoke glowingly of life in Beijing. I must admit, the city is a very exciting place. Like all over china, buildings are rocketing up everywhere, but there has been a hold on the explosive expansion here during the time surrounding the Olympics. Regardless, however, Beijing is still able to give one that same of feeling progress, the same osmotic pressure of opportunity, and it still seems to be running in fast forward. I was, as you dear reader have already gathered, quite impressed.

We breakfasted in a decidedly un-chinese way on eggs, ham, and milk. We shared tales of Brown and of our current projects. MCK seemed especially intrigued by our tmail project (www.tmailme.com). I heartily invite you dear reader to take a look as well. He was currently working a building an online tool for the Brown community in China. It was not up and running yet, but the site looked great. All in all, the breakfast was delightful, and MCK was a relaxed, intelligent and, if I may say so myself, quite the dude.

We bid him farewell, and started wheeling again. Beijing resisted us at first, opening its skies and pouring an astringent rain upon us. We waited this out by working on correspondence back at the hostel, and in no time we were once again on the road.

After the Rains

Beijing after a rain is a most beautiful sight to behold. The city glistens and steams with a kind of “fog of war” effect. We decided this would be a good time to wheel hard through the Tiananmen Square.

Gateway of Heavenly Peace

And wheel we did. The fountains which surround Tienanmen raged to life, synchronized with Chinese patriotic music.

Delightful Beijing Yogurt

We stopped in an ally for a quick slurp of yak yogurt and were approached by a pleasant woman who chatted with us in english. It was only after some 5 minutes of chatting that she finally revealed that she was a shop-keeper trying to sell us bits of jade. It is so hard to convince people that when raging across the eastern hemisphere, once cannot carry excess baggage, especially not a bunch of rocks. So, though she still seemed unconvinced, we bid her farewell and wheeled on.

Alley Chaos

We ate dinner that night at a local Uighur joint. I know, dear reader, I know. We were in Beijing, what were we doing eating Xinjiang food? Well, what can I say… Uighur food is so so so good, and so so so unavailable outside of china, that it had to be done. Simply had to. And here at AsiaWheeling we know only one way to do things: hard.

Chilling Beijing Style

We were lazing in a muddy hu tong (these are the tiny narrow alleyways that are not so slowly being bulldozed to make way for Beijings new massive skyline) having a beer, digesting our feast, and watching the people go by when we heard the rumble of a large motorcycle approaching. A white man pulled up in a giant black, world war II style BMW motorcycle, with a savage sidecar. He pulled it into the house across the street. The fellow then emerged and walked over to the noodle vender next door. He began waving a sheet of paper around and speaking fluent, Beijing accented chinese. The two fellows had a laugh, and he began to hang around chatting with locals and making it quite obvious that he lived right here on this street. The man’s pants were black, and so redundantly pocketed and zippered as to make pick-pocketing the fellow’s wallet quite the game of needle in the haystack.

Just then some cops walked by and saw us. They began to gesticulate and this fellow was called over to act as a translator. This was now the second checking of documents that had occurred in one day. Beijing is one tight ship, it appears. Between Scott and this man, we were able to more or less re-visit this morning’s episode, only with a little less smiling and laughing and more frowning and making of clucking noises. “This is not a safe place for foreigners to be at night,” the cops finally told us “so finish your drinks and go home.”

“That’s bullshit,” the man told us, and offered to help us if we ran into any more trouble. While we continued to relax, he continued to have roaring-laughter-filled conversations with the locals. When we were done we came over to chat.

The fellow turned out to be a originally from Denmark and named Nils. He owned a few companies in Hong Kong and was currently in Beijing selling old sidecar motorcycles. He was quite obviously infatuated with the machines, and gave us a tour of his own. Another 45 minutes of pleasant conversation later, Scott was getting a call from Jie, so we took our leave.

We whiled away the rest of the evening assembling correspondence and chatting with the many interesting travelers staying at the Red Lantern.


  1. Ann Kidder | July 20th, 2008 | 7:49 am

    I can’t believe you know MCK. He was a huge help to me this past spring when I was organizing my international art show…I wish I had known you would be meeting up!

  2. crosby | July 26th, 2008 | 11:31 am

    why do you have to register if you want to stay overnight at somebody’s place? and, if you do register, do you have to pay even if the offer was free?

  3. Woody | July 26th, 2008 | 2:14 pm

    This is all about bureaucracy and control, Crosby. The Chinese government wants to know where and why every foreigner is in China at all times. Especially with the upcoming olympic games, I think the vehemence of the procedure is amplified due to terrorist worries.

  4. AsiaWheeling » Blog Archive » Best of AsiaWheeling | September 21st, 2008 | 2:28 am

    […] Wheeling Tienanmen square, sipping sweet yogurt, navigating hutongs, and scoffing at rain. […]

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