First thing to know is that despite the title of this post we found most of the ice skating was at QianHai, south of HouHai. When we started out we didn’t know that, but we wanted to beat the crowds so we parked outside HouHai lake at 9am between two trees on the side of the road.
We walked out to the lake and around and didn’t find anyone skating though the lake was full of fisherman and people walking across the ice. We even saw at a small park a 30 meter hole of open water near the shore where there were several folks swimming in speedos and swimming caps. We decided to cut across the lake and stepped out onto the ice and across. About 40 meters out the ice started settling and popping; an unsettling sound and sensation to be sure. Miles got spooked, started crying those big alligator tears and wanted to go back. You could see the large cracks in the ice that form as the ice settles, the ice was over 10 inches thick; so I convinced Miles all would be fine and we kept across the lake. On the other side we walked along the shore until we came to some men who were spreading water from a bucket on the ice and had formed a small oval ice skating rink. We watched them for a while as the kids kicked big pieces of ice around and we kept waiting for someone to show up with rental gear for ice skating. Finally around 9:45 I asked where we could rent stuff for ice skating. He told us to go down to the south end of the lake and at Qianhai we would find ice skating.
Walking around the corner the entire lake of QianHai (smaller than Houhai) was gated off and there was all kinds of skating going on. There was a gate to enter the lake and a small gatehouse next to it where you purchased a 5 rmb ticket to get on the ice and then you could rent either ice skates, a two seater ice seat or an ice bike. Ice bike’s cost a 150 rmb deposit and were 40 rmb per hour of use. Miles went straight for the ice bike while Sofi and I opted for the ice chair. She wanted her own, so we got two.
The ice bike is a standard back wheel with a metal frame as a base; there are two small metal runners on the back on either side and the front has a skate hooked the steering wheel. The standard bike chain and pedals power the wheel and in a slip sliding fashion you move forward and you can somewhat steer in a gradual fashion with the front skate. There is also a brake, which drags a bit of metal on the ice and will eventually after a 100 meters or so stop you. Usually you’ll use your feet to drag and stop as well. The ice chairs are two seaters with metal runners along both sides. To propel yourself your given tow “pokey ice sticks of death” which have large sharp metal spikes on their end and you stab them in the ice and push yourself forward. You turn by pushing on one side or another and if you try to turn too hard you end up spinning out and twisting around; good fun. Using your arms you can get yourself going quite fast across the ice, though you really are only going straight and you’ve got these massive spikes in your hands you could kill someone with.
Set across the ice are all these structures. There are food vendors selling fried potatoes (delicious), cotton candy, fried tofu and roasted sweet potatoes. On one side were huge poles driven into the ice that supported a large metal slide into which there had been set thick blocks of ice forming a slide of ice. For 10 rmb you could slide down and across the frozen lake at the bottom.
An hour or so after we go there the Sheppards joined us and we skated around the ice, it was really a lot of fun. The kids still didn’t want to leave even after 5 hours. As the day wore on the people kept coming and coming and the large lake started filling up with people, though there was still plenty of space to skate around. In typical Chinese fashion they formed large lines of ice chairs and shouting “Jia You, Jia You” (Add gas, or go faster, go faster) as they skated around the island in the middle in a massive ice conga line. Eventually Sofi and I swapped out our ice chairs for a pair of ice bikes and we set out playing tag.
Tag on a slick surface is a lot of fun, but as you might expect makes the dangers of falling a little worse. Once as a teenager we were playing tag on outdoor ice rink in Central Park in Logan and I crashed into Catherine Edwards and her skate sliced my right thumb splitting it open in a bloody mess. Sofi and I were chasing each other, she’d tagged me and I was chasing her and she jumped off her bike to escape me and slipped on the ice and smashed to the ice on her cheek. I jumped of my bike to find her unconscious on the ice; she immediately woke up and I held her in my arms as she moaned and in a dazed fashion asked where she was. We sat on the ice for a while, me holding her and worried if she was ok. I kept asking her if she was ok, if she could see if she felt nauseous and if she wanted to go home. In a testament to how much she was having and to the fact she was fine she eventually after 15 minutes said no she wanted to stay and we turned in her bike and she rode tandem with me around the ice for another hour before we went home after 6 hours of sliding around. (We got Sofi checked out later at the clinic and x-ray’s confirmed no fracture and just a bad bruise)