There are countless ways of getting from one place to another, but pop me on the back of a motorcycle and I am happiest.
I actually drove a motorcycle many moons ago when I lived, as a wife, in Japan. One night I knocked an old guy into a ditch and the next day found out that I was pregnant so that was the end of my motorcycle-driving career. The old guy was OK but I developed a phobia about two-wheeling.
This lasted for many years until I had a boyfriend whose true love was his big motorcycle. I didn't want him to know I was terrified of his pride and joy, so with racing heart and butterfly stomach I got on the back and rode.
I was elated! It was the most fun I'd had in years. We would zoom all around, as happy as two people can be. When the relationship wore down I was left with only four wheels to console me. I love driving cars, but nothing beats the thrill of a motorcycle ride. I used to fantasize about buying one and simply driving, with no goal, all over the country. Four kids and the need to pay the bills ended that particular fancy.
It was many years later when I spent a summer in Bali that my Australian friend, Shane, would show up with what they call a "moto". I'd hop on the back and off we would go exploring the island with the wind whipping our hair.
When I would go home to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, my friend Michael would rev up his motorcycle and take me for moonlight spins which were nothing short of magical. With the warm air and the ocean sparkling under the moon, it was easy to feel like we were in a dream.
When I visited Beijing I had another chance to indulge in my favorite way of experiencing the world. But it came with a twist. On offer was a night-time ride through Beijing in a sidecar.
A young man showed up with his beautifully restored vintage motorcycle complete with sidecar attached. I hopped in and off we went.
Beijing by day is monumental with all the big buildings and historic sights. By night it twinkles. There are lights everywhere and zipping down the city streets the neon signs create a brilliant panorama.
The Forbidden City is outlined with amber lights. It appears awesome and mysterious in a new way. Pagodas look like tiered birthday cakes with the candles blazing. Spotting lights all along a canal, the fun of a long, evening walk beckons.
Beihai Park outshines Las Vegas. The multicolored lights shine into the water and it is like riding through a brilliantly designed kaleidoscope. The crowds part as my driver maneuvers us through them and the happy chatter of the people and the wonderful smells wafting out of the restaurants almost add up to sensory overload.
When it was time to head back to the hutong, I was already planning the drive for the next time I'm in the capital city. I want to see all the new buildings lit up as I gleefully enjoy them from my perch in a sidecar. The Bird's Nest, the Water Cube, the National Center for the Performing Arts. I love what is old in the city, but fully appreciate the marvelous and unique new buildings that bring Beijing into the 21st Century with such inventiveness and style.
Meanwhile, back in Hangzhou, I'll have to satisfy my craving to go two-wheeling by going to the store on the school's little electric bike. Better than nothing, I guess. Sigh.