The slow boat to China.........
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So let the story of our day trip to the Summer Palace being:
I'd read in the Lonely Planet that you can get a canal boat to the Summer Palace from various points in Beijing, thinking that would be quite cool I started looking up the locations. Andy is better at directions & route planning than I am, so got him to have a look too (because if it goes wrong it's not all my fault!!)
Got on the subway, and passed Beijing Zoo...... the station was closed, later we found out a few were (for example Tiananmen Square as it was so busy). We walked from the next subway, found the canal & a few boats going by, fantastic - let's follow the canal until we find the place to get on. No, not as easy as it sounds - a guard stopping us from walking any further who tells us we have to go around. It turned out that we had to walk the WHOLE way around, in fact around the whole zoo which is massive, to finally find the back of the exhibition centre where the canal boat set off from. Fighting our way through crowds & crowds of locals flocking to the zoo, getting bumped & pushed, negotiating our way through food sellers, stupid men with stupid bird sound whistles in my ear, one more & he'd have had it shoved where the sun doesn't shine...... yep, I was having a 'China' moment!!! Grrrrr!!
Great, we get to the ticket office, combined ticket for the canal boat & entrance to the palace, off we go. A busy boat, full of Chinese people enjoying their holidays & eating lots of strange smelly food in a confined space, open the window, perhaps not - a speed boat whizzes by creating a wash & lots of splashes!
A nice serene ride along the water & suddenly everyone is getting off, surely we can't be there yet?! No, we have to change boats - go over the lock, follow the crowds. Ok, we did. A massive queue & no boats....... slowly they arrived and the 4th boat / half an hour later / lots more pushing & shoving, we were on. Decided to sit at the back so we weren't surrounded by as many people, and off we went again. Looking at the map on Andy's phone, it still seemed quite a distance. The only good thing about the trip was a cute little boy in front of us who was fascinated with us, so we were pointing out & teaching him the English words for 'boat', 'water', '1,2,3' etc. helped by his Mum & Gran who were also amused by it all! I taught him the word for 'bus' rather than the northern version of 'buzz' so as not to confuse the poor fella......! He was a real cutie, and Andy kept showing him photo's on his phone & practisced various words, he was so interested in the phone he kept leaning over & nearly diving into it!! I asked if I could take his photo, and as the chinese do, put on his best pose & the 2 finger sign (victory / peace sign), smile, and click!!
So, the younger generation of China educated, we finally get off the boat and arrive at the Summer Palace, 3 HOURS LATER
Advice to anyone travelling to the Summer Palace - DO NOT take the canal boat!
The Summer Palace - it was a royal garden & a regal encampment of those fleeing the Forbidden City, and was enlarged & embelished by Qing Emperor Qianlong in the 18th Century. Three quarters of the park is a beautiful lake, and much the surrounding buildings had been damaged during various wars & it fell into disrepair, until a major overhaul in 1949. There are many pavillions, islands, lakes, bridges, towers & beautiful corridors to enjoy & walk around.
There is loads to see & a huge area to walk around, but is was incredibly busy being the holidays - looking around the edge of the lake and across the bridges, it was like ants running along, except for lots of the ants were tour guides waving big flags hurrying up their group, stopping at major passing points blocking the way. We walked around a large section of the lake to where the main sights were, but got to a point where we couldn't really get any further due to the bottle necks. When I went before in the winter, it was really quiet - so we decided that a return visit was due another day to explore properly. The scenery was stunning, especially across the lake to the mountains as it was such a clear blue sky day, not often seen.
Finally, we got what we wanted - a toilet (another traumatic experience in itself, but I'll leave it at queues of Chinese women so deep & shouting at each other that you couldn't get out of the toilet once you'd finally got in one!!), then heaven...
We then escaped, walked down the road & had some more beer & street food, kung pao chicken & dumplings, and caught the subway back - less stressful although pretty busy, 45 mins we were home.
Needless to say that I doubt I'll be left in charge of arrangements or 'great ideas' from the guidebook, or planning days out for a while...... discussion of the morning has been 'what shall we do today?' hmmmm.................. wait & see in the next installment of the Pez's do Beijing in holiday week!