By Lauren Hallanan, NorCap Program Coordinator
Located in the center of Beijing, Houhai is known for its traditional hutongs, lively nightlife, and of course its chain of small, picturesque lakes for which it is named. Once the lakes freeze over in the winter, they turn the area into a massive outdoor ice skating rink which, as you can tell from the picture below, is hugely popular among the locals. NorCap decided to brave the cold and check out this fun winter activity.
Once we arrived, we discovered that the experience here was not exactly the same as what we might find back home: Houhai has a much wider variety of ice equipment, including not just ice skates, but ice-chairs and ice-bicycles as well! Ice chairs look like school chairs on gliders that riders propel along the ice using mini ski poles (simultaneously putting large dents in the ice) and ice bicycles appeared to be single wheel bikes set up on gliders. This time, we went the traditional route and rented ice skates, but I think many of us are planning a return trip to try out the other options.
While the majority of the people at Houhai consisted of amateurs having fun, some experienced skaters were also out there showing off their skills. When we were ready for a break, we stopped and joined the rest of the crowd, watching the speed skaters gliding around in a circle and the figure skaters in the middle, skating backwards and sideways with the occasional twirl or jump. The most impressive part was that many of these skaters appeared to be in their 50s and 60s!
After we wore ourselves out, we returned the skates and headed to the cafe across the street for some hot chocolate, cookies, and roasted chestnuts. What a perfect way to spend a winter afternoon!