Lantern Festival Day (the worst day of the year to be hungover)
Sunday 24th February marked the official end of the Spring Festival holiday and the official celebrations of the Chinese New Year holiday. On Monday, the many people who took extended holidays to be with their families, as well as school kids, will return the grind. The hedonistic holiday days of limited traffic and minimal smog have come to an end - just as we were starting to get used to the 'calmer' side of Beijing.
I awoke early on Sunday morning, severely dehydrated after a glass too many of vino with friends the night before. I already knew full well that it would be the day that families across the city would be using up the last of their fireworks. Much like your mum tries to get rid of the last died up remains of the Christmas turkey, fireworks will be used up on Lantern Festival Day. And so, I had booked myself on a lovely refreshing hike - away from the head-pounding firecrackers, the impatient bleeps of taxis outside my window, and my neighbours across the hall - who have taken to allowing their toddler free reign of the corridor, resulting in every squeal, tumble, and gargle to echo through my ultra-sensitive, hangover-ridden shell of a body.
Little did I realize that the gentle yet invigorating hike turned out to be a Cliffhanger-come-Rambo, hardcore climb across the Great Wall. I should have guessed when I met the rest of the group at the coach that these people - with their hiking sticks, backpacks, waterproof Berghaus layers, and flasks, meant business. I rolled up wearing skinny jeans and converse high-tops, accessorized with a pair of Raybans and my Grande Americano. Stick a cigarette in my mouth and hang a couple of groupies off my legs, and I could have been Keith Richards. Only i'll bet Keith doesn't hike. Regardless, I had come thus far, i.e. gotten out of bed, and I was going to see this thing through to the end.
Incredibly, the hike was a success. I didn't get lost, I only fell over 11 times (Converse High-tops are brilliant. But if you choose to wear them hiking up a vertical part of a snow covered thousands of years old Great Wall, you may as well be hiking in flip-flops). I also met an interesting fella from Canada, to whom I was informally introduced as I fell backside-first onto him whilst navigating an especially steep hilly part of the hike. Well, that was my excuse, anyway.