When it comes to ice skating, like everything else, the Chinese do it differently. Very differently.
And ice skating in Beijing is really something else. Especially on Qianhai Lake.
It’s not just the unavoidable presence of the PLA, whether riding ice dodgems, guarding ice bikes, administering the ice slide or guarding the ice skates.
The Chinese Army is the single biggest employer in the world, and they need to put that manpower somewhere.
It’s not just the robot-powered ice rickshaws, undoubtedly the most unnerving thing I’ve seen or heard in three years of travel. They’re musical, you see. Yes, they are singing, walking Chucky-esque robots.
Honestly. Would you entrust your child to this?
Although the ride-on skating animals, that one propels with a pair of pointy sticks, or a parent or grandparent trudging lovingly behind, are also kind of freaky.
The ice carriages are kinder, and make an excellent snack table.
It wouldn’t, of course, be China without a bit of live entertainment on the ice…
Neither of us had ever skated on natural ice, let alone in the retro white lace-up skating boots they still use in China. While I stuttered along, feeling every ridge, every crack, every embedded stick, terrified of breaking an ankle, Zac was, pretty much, in his element.
Though I like to think even I was marginally more stable than this guy…
I loved this little girl taking her turn at pushing her grandpa on an ice chair.
And these tinier tots enjoying their different rides… And, yes, that guy is about to fall over. That’s kind of part of the fun.
Zac, naturally, loved the ice slide…
And the soldiers who were administering it clearly loved watching the kids have fun.
One of the best things, though? Just watching everyone have so much fun, out in the fresh cold air, framed by birches and lanterns, enjoying a place that would have been reserved for the Emperor and his court back when Qianhai was part of the imperial pleasure gardens.
And if you’re in Beijing in winter, I thoroughly recommend you try it.
Perhaps accompanied by some candyfloss as big as your head.
Want to go ice skating in Beijing? There are two separate skating grounds on Qianhai Lake, one that is well groomed and only for skaters, another that is larger, less well-groomed and includes all ice toys. Head south from Gulou Dajie station (Line 2 and Line 8) and it’s a few hundred metres past the Drum and Bell Towers — cut right through an alley.
Payment for all activities is by a prepay card that you buy at the ticket desks: the card ONLY works on the skating area that you have chosen, but all unused charge is refunded at the end. Just charge your card at the ticket desk, head onto the ice and pay for what you want once you’re there.
Tickets to get on the ice cost 15RMB Monday to Friday daytimes, and 20RMB on weekends, holidays and evenings. Unlimited skate hire is 20RMB plus 100RMB deposit; unlimited ice carriage hire costs 20RMB plus 30RMB deposit; the ice bikes, which are excellent fun, cost 40RMB per hour plus 50RMB deposit; and the ice slide is 5RMB per turn.
For more on things to do in Beijing, click here.