Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Beijing expats!

Getting fed up with China's capital? Tired of its smog? Its traffic? Its ever-increasing expense? Or perhaps its lack of things to do?

Is the culture getting you down? The language, maybe?

And is another bitter winter starting to feel like a set of icy fingers wrapping round your throat, slowly squeezing the life out of you, while that overly ornate clock your landlady bought ticks away the minutes of your existence?

Then the Tiger Father has the answer for you!

Move back home.

There. Simple.

Or, if you can't, then go to the Water Cube! It's a great day out, even in winter.

Remember when it used to look like this?

And, on the inside, this?

Well now it looks more like this ...

And this ...

Yes, whereas once there was Michael Phelps, finely-tuned athletes and fierce competition, now there are giant plastic jellyfish!

That might sound silly, but the Water Cube is actually making a pretty good fist of defying the history of post-Olympic white elephants everywhere, having been turned into a water park. It's fun, especially for kids. It's relatively cheap, at 200 RMB for adults and 160 RMB for children.

Oh, but I forgot to mention, it does get a tad crowded sometimes.

Like this ...

And this ...

No, only joking. That water park is in Chongqing. Looks nice though.

There won't be crowds like that in Beijing. Especially in winter, although the water is nicely heated.

There's a splash-about space for toddlers ...

... plus medium-sized slides for older
children, and a couple of big ones for
the older still ...

... such as the Slide of Death, as the kids and
I like to call it. It's the red one.

You get in at the top, stand on a platform, and when that
disappears you drop at an alarming rate straight downwards.
The whole thing is over in a matter of seconds, but it's
great fun. If only this had been here in 2008. They could
have incorporated bits of it into the swimming program.
I mean, hats off to Michael Phelps and all, but God what
a boring sport. Up down up down ...
Something really should be done about it.

Ways to make swimming a less boring sport:

1. Two swimmers in each lane.
2. Or maybe three. Points awarded for not just finishing, but ensuring others don't.
3. Bring waterslides into it, maybe at the start like in Wipe Out.
4. Some giant plastic jellyfish wouldn't hurt either.

Anyway there's a large wave pool with,
naturally, an enormous TV screen. Patrons
can watch, err, ads mostly. And themselves.
In case you didn't get enough of them in 2004
and last year, there's a funny announcement
just before the waves start up that "a giant
tsunami is coming".

There is also food on offer, and places to sit for anyone not wanting to go on the slides. And if, as my mum used to say, parenting is all about finding ways to exhaust your kids before bedtime, the Water Cube certainly does the trick.

I should say, though, that the Olympic pool is still there, elsewhere in the large bubble building. So if you want to see the hallowed water where Phelps won his record eight gold medals, you can.

Here it is here. Special, isn't it? If only water could talk, eh?
Phelps' bit was lane five.

You're right. That could've been anywhere. So here it is
again with a bit more context. It still looks like any pool
anywhere though. I mean, it's not like your taking in
the unique charm of Wimbledon, Wrigley Field or
the Sydney Cricket Ground. What a silly sport. And
if your kid's any good you have to get up at four or
five in the morning to take them to training. Forget
about it. I'm hoping my children are good at Playstation.

At least my two look inspired by the Phelps
Pool, more so than their father. But come on
girls - at least make it look a bit 'swimmy'!

Ah yes. Much better.

Elsewhere by the Phelps Historic Site we found a series of statues. I couldn't read the labels, so I assume it was yet another tribute, depicting the great man in a series of poses.

Here's Phelps riding his bike ...

... and here, on a horse ...

... and hunting.

When he's not swimming, Phelps also likes winter sports,
and a hot beverage. Here he is reaching for a kettle.

Of course Phelps is also an avid dope smoker who may be
prone to mood swings. I think this one depicts him getting
angry at a skier once.

And here he is engaging in a little naked tomfoolery with
another lad.

And then suddenly we were in London.

Finally, after a long and tiring day, it was
time to go home. Alas the bus was just
there for show, but for a day out, I can
think of worse things to do in Beijing.  Lots
of them actually. My God.


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