Beijing: Summer palace


Saturday, 24 September 2011

I set my alarm for 3:50 and at 3:55 discovered that Marta had not set up a conference bridge for her 4 AM meeting (well, it wasn’t 4 AM in California). So I got another hour of sleep before the 5 AM meeting….

As a morning person, I really like the fact that breakfast is available at 6. High up in the tower, I get a chance to take a good look at what I’m going to be breathing all day. Yes, as summer wanes, the air quality will improve, but it’s still pretty murky. Anywhere else, you’d think rain was likely, but here, it’s just the garbage in the air.

I have only ridden the Beijing subway once, when Denis took a few of us to a Russian restaurant he had discovered. So today is a good chance to learn the subway. My Siemens friend from yesterday mentioned the summer palace as one of Beijing’s standard tourist attractions. It’s off at the far northwest corner of the city: why not!

Busy subway, no chance of a seat until the last leg to Bagou, the end of the line. I have only a crummy throwaway map, but we are bounded by the 4th and 5th ring roads, so the likely foreshortening of the tourist map can’t be impossibly bad. And it looks as if there is a river or canal not far west of the subway stop that I can follow to the summer palace.

And so it proved to be. Boats full of tourists going to the summer palace. I photographed a few of them: not all of them were silly, but there’s no point in photographing ordinary watercraft.

Just like Beijing streets, two boats coming upriver at the same time: one honked hard at the other, passed him, cut in front of him and docked.

This is the back entrance, more or less. There is actually a subway stop at the north entrance, but I didn’t particularly want to change trains: this way is more interesting. Y60 for an everything ticket, plus Y10 for what I could have predicted would be a pretty useless map of the grounds.

Willows, trees, water, lots and lots of people. Very pleasant.

Well, even if some of the people were just a little strange.

I took the west causeway, an artificial levee in the lake that includes six bridges to make its way to the main section of the palace grounds, toward the north end.

There were boom-boxes. There were karaoke singers. There were jazzercise groups. No reverence in this crowd. There were flautists, but I couldn’t get a worthwhile picture. However, just a few steps on, a couple of women playing gourds. Or, well, some kind of gourdly wind instruments.

It isn’t just the teen-agers who pose for pictures with famous scenery in the background.

We all knew you could build boats out of concrete, right? But it’s interesting that this barge has a fake side-paddle wheel. Looks like something out of a petrified New Orleans.

Toward the north end is a hill, real rock with a level of difficulty last seen on the Yosemite falls trail. Of course only a hundred meters high, but it does get your heart rate up. At the top, temples built into rock, and a buddha temple, almost dark. The resident grump yelled for quite a while at the tourist who flashed the buddha. I dedided not to try a tripod non-flash, and there’s no chance of a handheld shot.

Not far from the north entrance is a Suchow street area, a strip of quite narrow sidewalk bordering a lake and fringed with every kind of shop that might appeal to tourists. That’s okay: I am a tourist, albeit one who doesn’t spend much money. I brought along a bottle of water from the hotel, but it’s pretty small. Sometime today, I will need to find more. (And eventually I did: outside the tourist area, paid Y6 for 800 ml of some kind of lemonade.)

The little map also shows Ruins of Yuanmingyuan Park not too far east, so I headed that direction from the summer palace. Busy street, veered through a hutong which was pretty bad (the encouraging sight was a kid on a three-wheeler delivering three boxes labelled HP and Epson), eventually back to a busy street paralleled by a canal. Turned off to walk beside the canal, and ended up in Peking university, nice enough place, but also under construction. There are Ming gardens here, but probably unlike the ruins of Yuanmingyuan, the park itself is the ruined part. Not maintained, not all that pleasant.

A university, modern buildings, with many more under construction, built with an acknowledgement of the Chinese artistic tradition.

From the east exit, I saw a sign to the East entrance of Peking university subway. Not shown on my map (called Chengfulu: name has changed), so I walked there to study the route map and try to figure out where I was. Past the Yuanmingyuan park, that’s where. Walked back.

Passed an area of continuous two-wheeler businesses. Some nice bikes, but absolutely nothing new with dropped handlebars. There were a few road bike frames on display, which could be built up on order, but clearly this is not a venue for road bikes. Mountain bikes and granny bikes, that’s about it.

The park looks like a big place, and it’s getting on toward 3 PM, time to be thinking about a beer. So I got on the subway (no sitting down on the Beijing subway), changed at Haidianhuangzhuang. They have good route maps in the cars, they make announcements in Mandarin and English. The cars and stations are as clean as could be expected: pretty good subway system.

Went one stop past my hotel, to the Liangmaquaio stop, where, yes, you guessed it: the Paulaner Braeuhaus is but three minutes walk. Nice to get off the feet for a few minutes while I enjoyed a richly deserved Weissbier.

And as I passed the US embassy on the walk back to the hotel, the (Chinese) guard said hello.

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One Response to “Beijing: Summer palace”

  1. Emad Says:

    Nice !


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