Sunshine and the Summer Palace - The Beijing Experience: Day 6.0

Wednesday, September 3rd

You guys, something very important happened today.  Something VERY important.  The sun is shining. 



It’s not just a little orb in the sky being slyly hidden by smog and haze.  It is a gigantic fireball lighting the city.  It has been rainy and hazy and gross every day since we’ve been here.  We all have a bit of a pep in our step today because the sun is actually visible.  Or as much of a pep as I can accomplish as my body is still nearly crippled from our hike up the Great Wall.


I’ve come to the realization that I’m not going to be able to see everything here.  There is SO MUCH that will be missed.  We want to see the buildings that housed the Olympics.  Not going to happen.  We wanted to see the CCTV building.  Not going to happen.  Peking Duck.  Nope.  Dim Sum.  Nothing.  But I’ve started to resign myself to the fact that this isn’t going to happen.  We’re here for seven days.  To think you can see everything going on in a city of 23 million people while only staying for six days is hilarious.


So it is what it is.  We’re seeing everything we can.  And we won’t be able to do it all.  Our final tourist stop was to the Summer Palace.


The Summer Palace is a series of lakes, palaces and gardens in Beijing.  The first palace was constructed in the 12th Century in the Jin Dynasty (Thanks, Wikipedia!!), but in 1750, the royal garden began as a place where the royal family was able to retreat and relax.  In the next century, the Summer Palace became a permanent residence.  And in the late 1880's, Empress Dowager Cixi (kind of a fascinating historical figure) embezzled navy funds to turn the palace into a resort where she would spend the golden years of her life.  There's some history here.


We had all marked our guide books with the information that we could take a boat to the Summer Palace.  Yes, we could reach the palace from the subway.  But we haven’t done a boat ride yet.  We were going to do it, and then we’d take the subway home.  That was the plan.


And actually, the plan worked pretty well.  But we didn’t find a ton of information about the boat tours.  So we did a bit of winging it.  We knew we could get to the dock from the Beijing Zoo.  I don’t remember who was the person who recommended us getting off one stop early on the subway.  There was the worry that we might be funneled through the Zoo instead of being able to get to the dock.  So we jumped off one stop early.  It was fine, really.  Just a much longer walk for us.


The dock had almost no signage.  We stopped where there were a few people lingering and ended up being in the right place.  We could buy tickets to the boat and the Summer Palace.  Adele’s book made it look like we would save a few Yuan if we bought at the Summer Palace entrance.  Honestly, I don’t think that was the case.  But it still worked.  No big deal.  We asked when the boat would take off.  11a.  It was currently 1020a.  So we had some time to hang.


There wasn’t really much to do, so we sat in the sun.  It had been so long without sun that it was kind of nice.  Though I began worrying I hadn’t put on enough sunscreen.  I do tend to burst into flames immediately upon seeing the sun, so I was slightly concerned (which, looking back, I didn't need to be).


About five minutes before the top of the hour, people started crowding around a boat.  We’ll assume this is where we’re going too.  It was.  We boarded the boat and thought we’d all have our own row.  Perfect.  Danielle casually mentioned (as she was boarding) she’d need a window on the boat because of a possibility of not feeling great on a boat.  Oh sure, now you say something.  A few more people boarded so Adele sat in one seat, Danielle and I were in another row.


Scenery from the boat
The boat casually made its way through the river.  People were talking and eating.  We were watching the scenery.  It was lovely.  And then we stopped at the Zoo.  Which was a little unexpected.  We picked up a few more people.  We didn't know it was going to stop.  No big deal.  It's cool.

The boat took off again and we were taking a leisurely jaunt through the river.  And then we stopped.  And everyone got off the boat.  Including us.  When an old Chinese man shoos you off of a boat, you listen to him.  We looked quizzically at the woman who took our tickets.  She pointed us to another boat where everyone was boarding.  Ok.  We followed the crowd. 



This time, we were the last to board the boat.  We did get a row for the three of us, but we were a bit tight for the ride.  After a while longer (10…maybe 20 minutes), we pulled up to another dock and were let off the boat.


A 17 Arch Bridge
And we really didn’t know what was happening at this point.  But we got in line for tickets.  Turns out we were in the right place to enter the Summer Palace grounds.  The Summer Palace was not just a place with palaces, but it was a lovely area where you could just walk around a park like setting.  And on a wonderfully sunny Summer morning, we were just one of a lot of people hanging around.


As we walked along Kunming Lake, we took pictures (regular and Selfies) and ate ice cream (it was lunch time and we needed something…ice cream is always a good something).  And as we walked and ate, something sparked in the memory banks.  This reminded me of something.  Why was it so familiar??  There’s a blue sky, water, music in the background…it feels…it seems…oh my god.  We’re at Epcot.


Mmmm...ice cream...
Seriously.  The realization stopped me in my tracks and made me laugh hard.  I’ve traveled over 6000 miles to visit a place that was just like a Disney version of the place I was standing.  Granted, I spent less money on this trip to China than the last trip I took to Orlando (seriously).  But still…it was the most Epcot-ty place I’d ever been to…outside of Epcot.

I'd love to be able to say I could remember all of the places we stopped on the grounds.  By looking at the map after the fact, I know we visited many of the places.  I know I was mostly struck by the fact that China has the best names of buildings and areas.  Precious Cloud Pavilion.  Hall of Prolonging Lifespan.  Court of Traveling in a Picture.  House of Endless Consciousness.  They were all fantastic.


I was still in a ton of pain from the Great Wall Hike from two days before.  So much that Danielle asked if I had actual pain or if it was just one big ache.  No pain…nothing is out of place.  But just one big ache.  Basically, this is the way you feel when you don’t exercise (much), but then choose to hike up a Wonder of the World.  I’ll be fine.  Soon enough.

There were two big stops at the Summer Palace.  The first big stop we found was Longevity Hill.  And on top of Longevity Hill was the Tower of Buddhist Incense.  For an extra few Yuan, you could climb to the top of the hill and building, where we were able to see spectacular views of the city.  While I complained mightily while climbing the stairs, it was a place we had to visit.  Especially considering the fact that this was the first day of sunshine, we HAD to visit.

There were easy enough steps here.  Even in my broken state, I was able to take most two at a time.

Views from Longevity Hill

Sunshine!!

This is my favorite picture of Beijing.  It's the old and the new. 
Our second big area was at the Garden of Harmonious Pleasures.  This was a place where I would love to curl up with a book.  The area was quiet.  People were sitting on benches, some just taking time out of their day.  Others were actually sleeping.  I'm guessing we were the loudest people around.  And we weren't very loud.

I love flowers...
Garden of Harmonious Pleasures
Hanging out...
More of the Garden...
We had a hard stop today at 3p.  Tonight was our last night in China, and as Adele and I tend to do, we have a nice dinner planned for our last night.  So we couldn't linger.  At a certain point, we stopped being all lingery and began actively making our way to the palace portion of the Summer Palace.



We walked out of the North Gate (while looking for the East Gate) and it was a totally different world.  This entrance to the grounds felt like a tourist trap.  20 feet prior to the exit was tranquil.  But out here it was chaotic.  Turning right outside of the entrance was a subway stop.  Danielle and I were a little rushed to get to the train.  We'd heard about the subway crush during rush hour.  And it was well past our 3p hard stop.  I mean, there was some shopping to do, so we couldn't be faulted too much for our delay.  The subway stop was close and we were far enough out of the city center, that we hoped we'd be ok.  Funny enough, this was the first time we were able to actually sit down on the subway.  The train was empty, then crowded, then empty again.  Happily, we weren't crushed.  Danielle and I both breathed a sigh of relief to be off of the subway.  I'm sure there wouldn't be a huge crush on every rush hour, but we didn't want to take any chances.

And a Selfie for the road...
The goal was to be at the hotel by 5p.  Dinner was at 6p and we still wanted to get ready.  We missed the 5p time a little.  But not a big deal.  Dinner was around the corner.  And we weren't going to be late.  But that story...that story is on the way...

Daily Stats - 22,200 steps, 9.52 miles

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