Our plan for the fifth day of our trip had initially been to visit Beihai Park first thing in the morning. We had an early breakfast at the hotel and walked north up Xuanwumen and then dallied briefly through some Hutongs before heading east on ChangAn. Having studied the map at the start of the day we identified the large park structure with several lakes in it all down the western side of The Forbidden City as Beihai park and, when we reached the large red walls on Changan we followed them down to find an entrance, what we found, however was an increasingly large number of guards and eventually the large gate was completely inaccessable due to security type people. We assumed that something official was happening and decided to leave it for another day. We jumped on the subway at Tiananmen West and headed back to Oxidant where our luck was much better than the night before. We visited the local Muji store and stopped for an iced espresso drinks before exploring to find the source of a loud binging and binging which turned out to be the “Joy City Foot Piano” which we shamelessly pranced on for some time. Then we visited a China Mobile store and, with a lot of broken English, broken Chinese and patience, got a sim card and internet for my phone.
With our moods much improved we ducked into the hotel before heading east again, on the subway, this time to Dashilar, a hutong shopping area. We wandered down a large restored area with upmarkety type shops aimed mainly at tourists before heading down a side alley where the shops were still aimed at tourists, just cheaper. The calls of “lady lady!” and “Hello tshirt!” were a bit annoying but Emily got to practice her Chinese “no, thank-you”. We saw plenty of interesting gewgaws that never would have occurred to us; lifesized automatic rifle shaped cigarette lighters, sculpted bobble head portraits of yourself, googly eyed squeezy dogs and masks of faces wearing masks. After a while we emerged from the busy tourist oriented area into the regular hutong backstreets where the people who lived there and the few who ran small businesses all went about their business in the beautiful quiet of the alleys. We stopped in at a tea shop where we looked at ALL the teasers with the help of the lovely shop assistant with excellent English. We got a few things from the store and headed on emerging onto a main road that appeared to be all musical instrument stores. We crossed the road at an elaborately decorated footbridge before continuing our journey through the alleys, this time the stores were all calligraphy related before emerging onto Soho, a shopping center on Xuanwumen so we grabbed another icy coffee drink and headed back to the hotel for the night.