Saturday, December 15, 2007

Beijing Polar Bears


I took my cousin and his friend sightseeing around Hou Hai today. And we went by bicycle which I highly recommend.

It cost 30RMB (US$4) for two bikes, one single, and the other double seater, with a 300RMB refundable deposit.

The sky was blue and temperature was chilly at 5 degrees Celsius, but we kept warm pedaling around the back lakes.

I hadn't ridden a bike for a while so it was good that there weren't too many people along the roads and sidewalks to navigate around.

And passing some hutongs converted into bars and restaurants, we came across some Beijing polar bears going for their ritual swim in the lake.

I've seen them there during the summer, and you wonder why they swim in there when it's so dirty. But it's even more surprising to see them jump in when most of the lake is frozen over.

But there they were, older men in their 60s and 70s standing around in their Speedo-like swim suits while we stood watching them in winter coats and scarves.

One by one they jumped in, did a few strokes and clambered back onto shore and rubbed themselves down with a towel.

The male swimmers outnumbered the females, and they all enjoyed the attention even though they acted nonchalant about their crazy stunt.

Perhaps this is the secret to longevity in Beijing - plunging into Hou Hai everyday regardless of the temperature. It surely gets the blood going and gives new meaning to respecting the elderly.

Us young ones are definitely not worthy.

1 comment:

ks said...

i love swimming but i dont think i can ever do the polar bear dip. it takes long term conditioning to the cold water. i have been pampered by the nice and warm water at the arbutus club. the past summer/fall there has been lots of renovation at hot tub and pool area. that caused a lot of hardships for us. the water at one point was a little colder than usual . lots of complaint was raised with management. we are just too spoiled.