Homepage Everyday Adventures Work Visit! Contact


It was hard to sell all of our bikes before we left Palo Alto. Like most suburban kids, the girls used their bikes a lot. Giving them up was a very tangible, and unwelcome, part of our move preparations.

As compensation, we agreed that they could get new bikes in China. After all, that's where most bikes are made today. We figured we could buy much nicer ones, and spend less than it would cost to ship theirs to China. Ever the deal-maker, Sami immediately asked if she could buy a scooter instead. She had been trying them out lately, and liked them a lot.

We learned two things about all this after we got here.

  • Bikes are, indeed, much cheaper in China: about 75% less.
  • Kids under 12 are not allowed to ride bikes on city streets. This is a smart rule, since riding a bike in Beijing takes equal parts nerve and skill. Helmets are not required (and therefore no one wears them), but the many near-misses one sees everyday would surely result in more accidents if there were kids involved.

Sami bought a scooter right away -- a cool model that folds up when not in use. Miranda graciously accepted her inability to ride a bike, and got downright excited about scootering after Sami let her try. Miranda got her own scooter, a nifty petite aluminum model with folding hand-rests.

And then they were off!

Sometimes the girls scooter in the neighborhood, but today we decided to venture out to the nearby stadium parking lot, which was really smooth and shady.

First stop, the guard at the gate. Our apartment complex has three gates, each manned around the clock by young, friendly men. They love the girls, and seem alternately bemused and fascinated by the goings-on within our complex.

Then it's through the gate! We live right behind the "city hall" for our section of Beijing (Beijing has boroughs, like New York City. We live in the Manhattan of Beijing, in an area that is equivalent to Midtown, in terms of rents and convenient location).

Next door is a Russian boarding house (the red sign in the distance of this picture is completely in Russian). Most of the customers are men who spend their days buying things at the nearby markets, and their evenings supervising the loading of massive lorries headed back to Russia. Some of the boarders are women, whose synthetic hair and body parts are prerequisites for their trade.

A line of pedi-cabs is always waiting for customers right in front of the boarding house. These guys are from out of town, looking to make some easy money hauling foreigners around the neighborhood (you almost never see a native Beijinger in a pedi-cab).

Since the traffic is so bad, taking a pedi-cab actually makes a lot of sense. They cost about the same as a taxi, and usually get there more quickly.

Best of all, they're very romantic!

Our favorite pedi-cab driver is Mr. He. He's been driving for more than 6 years, is married to a hair dresser, and has a young son. His younger brother also drives. We like him because he's honest, and drives very carefully.

The same cannot be said of the other drivers, which is why we now give all of our business only to the brothers He.

After taking the previous shot, I clambered in with the girls (it was a tight fit!). Mr. He then started on the 7-minute trip to the stadium. I kept trying to get a shot of the traffric jams (or imminent accidents) through which we were weaving, but ended up with only this benign photo.

Trust me that pedi-cabbing is not for the faint of heart!

Along the way we passed several nearby construction sites, one of which is part of the 2008 Olympics preparation. We're not sure what venue will go there, but we're excited that it is practically next door!

After a short ride, we got to the stadium, unloaded ourselves and the scooters, and proceeded to have a great time exploring the whole area. We found a cool indoor archery range, a place to rent car-campers, one of Beijing's two youth hostels, and an underground store filled with gorgeous silks from Soochow. No rhyme nor reason to this assortment of venues!

But we were having fun enjoying the weather and the freedom of zooming around on scooters. So much fun, in fact, that we forgot to take more pictures!


Homepage Everyday Adventures Work Visit! Contact