Day 47 - The Summer Palace

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 09, 2013

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Friday, November 16, 2012

We had a leisurely morning. Breakfast at our favourite roost in the upstairs restaurant, doing a little research at the same time. The internet seems to have increased speed again, so perhaps we can get our blogs out with pics now.
We decided on a trip to the Summer Palace. It's quite far away from our hotel, so it gave us a chance to try out the Beijing underground.
It was a great experience, and with English signs, maps, and recordings its very easy to navigate. The system is super organized, and moves huge numbers of people, packing into the train. Our journey took us about 40 minutes with one line change and cost R5 for the both of us one way.
The Summer Palace was the retreat for the emperor in the summer. Its area is bigger than the area of the forbidden city, and it is 'out of town'.
We entered through a gate which took us to kind of to the back of the main hill.
A river road with shops and housing lining the side are the first stop.
The buildings of the palace start to show themselves as you start approaching the hill, looking very grand. We walked up lots of steps and enjoyed the buildings along the way until we where at the top of the hill.
A Buddhist temple with stunning old Buddha's is found at the summit. The temple was badly wrecked by Anglo-French troops during the 1860's - I think this was during the opium wars. Much of the palace was burnt or destroyed by the Anglo-francs - so it has been rebuilt to the original specifications where destroyed,
Wandering down the other side we turned into the Tower of Buddist Incense - a magnificent tower land marking the Summer Palace, and looking over the beautiful lake, the centre piece of the palace grounds.
The tower houses an impressive Buddha with many heads and hands.
The view of the tower from the bottom of the hill was splendid, and we took some pics here. We had reached the lake side, so we started along the bank. We stopped for a lunch of minute noodles and a sausage on a stick in a waffle...
The palace grounds are vast. We had paid a little extra to see the special sights not included on the general entry ticket (the tower was one) and the Wencheng Hall was another. An exhibition area of art and ornaments, while not all halls were open, we got to see a few, and enjoyed the porcelain, bronze and art rooms.
In the middle of the lake is an island sanctuary with a beautiful bridge to the main shore, so we walked along the lake front, enjoying the scenery. The willows were wind swept, and their leaves looked like hair in the wind.
On the island we grabbed a hot drink and enjoyed watching all the photographers shooting the scenery and getting into position to get the sunset over the lake. We found it interesting and a little funny how many photographers were starting to take over the bridge.
The sunset was our called to head home. We had a bit of a walk before jumping on the busy tube home. Luckily being almost at the start of the line we got seats for 90%25 of the trip, a big bonus.
We decided to get an early dinner close to our hotel down one of the Hutongs. Looking for, and not finding a steamy bun spot we saw previously, we decided to try a hot pot restaurant. An article from lonely planet stuck up on the door gave it a great review - so we felt it was worth a try.
Checking our bucks, we realized that we were running low - Anton headed out to try find an ATM - and after a bit of an adventure and Tess worrying, returned, wallet full.
The hot pot is a interestingly designed dish, which had a hot coal inner cone, heating an outer dish of stock water - comprising of leaks, ginger and stock powder. You then order plates of food you want to cook. We ordered beef, chicken, shrimp balls, noodles and spinach. You throw pieces into the stock to cook them, and then scoop them out when they rise to the top showing they are ready.
A sesame based, enormously delicious sauce is a must. A guy comes around every now and again to fill the pot with water as it evaporates. The owner of the restaurant was a really nice guy. The experience was great fun and very tasty.
We both really enjoyed the day.
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