Friday, February 18, 2011

Yeah Beijing! - Part 4

To continue the theme of excessive walking which permeated our visit to Beijing, on the Tuesday after we arrived we visited the Summer Palace, haven for Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty. The palace started out as the Garden of Clear Ripples and was first built in 1750, and it covers 290 hectares. The grounds are three-quarters water - in the form of the manmade Kunming Lake. The lake covers just over two square kilometres and is about a metre and a half deep, the excavated earth was used to build the palace's other major feature - Longevity Hill.

And now that I've bored you with facts cribbed from the internet, on to the actual palace. Entry is about Y30 ($6) and we paid an extra Y30 for a through ticket, which let us in to a few extra areas, like galleries and gardens. Like everything else in China, the Summer Palace is HUGE and we spent about 6 hours walking the grounds. It was a walk just to get to the palace in the first place, the entrance is located about a kilometre from the subway exit and we ended up just following the crowds as there weren't any decent signs and the Lonely Planet sucks (see the previous entry for more details about how much.) 

About here I have a confession. I found the Summer Palace to be a little boring. In part, it's because it's the Summer Palace. As we were in Beijing during the bleakest part of winter, the lake was completely frozen and the trees were leafless and the gardens were fairly blah. A lot of the cool activites you can do at the palace - like paddle boat across the lake! - were closed because it's winter. I was also suffering from what I call 'temple temple temple,' everything started to look the same and I couldn't appreciate the interesting bits because I was all templed out. In Europe this phenomenon is called 'church church church' or 'museum museum museum'. The third (and probably biggest) factor was that this was my fourth day of just walking around and looking at stuff. I'm lazy as hell and going from deskwarming to walking for 10 hours a day was a bit of a shock to the system. 

The highlight of our day here was the frozen lake. On one side of the island in the middle, you could rent some sled-type contraptions for Y25 ($5) and slide around the lake, which kept the four of us entertained for half an hour. Somehow I forgot to take pictures, probably because I was busy shrieking like a 6 year old after some raspberry fizzy. Below are a few pictures of stuff I liked.

The beautiful Seventeen-Arch Bridge leading to Nanhu Island.

View from Nanhu Island to Longevity Hill, across the frozen Kunming Lake.

Ignoring the 'Don't walk on the ice' signs everywhere, we walked on the ice.

Photo taken mid ice-walk, looking at the Jade Bridge.

Looking back over the lake. The cluster of black specks near the island are people on sleds.

The Marble Boat

The Long Corridor, it stretches for over 700 metres and has 14,000 individual paintings.

This guy. Look at those PANTS!

The steep ascent to the Tower of Buddhist Incense

To summarise: the Summer Palace would probably be magnificent in summer. It was pretty good in winter but I wasn't in the mood for it. I'm quite keen to head back to Beijing in summer so I can see it in the right conditions.

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