Beijing: Botanical gardens

by

Sunday, 25 September, 2011

I learned yesterday where Yuanmingyuan park is. I could go there today… but I already know how to get there. More of an adventure to go somewhere I don’t know, for example the botanical gardens. The throwaway tourist map really gets pretty useless out here at the periphery, but I did take a look at google maps before I left the hotel.

Took the subway to Beigongmen, the north entrance to the summer palace, and walked from there. With the completely inadequate map, I took several wrong turnings, but had help from various people who either volunteered or responded to questions. One pleasant young woman offered to help me get a taxi or a bus, thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to walk.

She was probably right. Including the misdirections, it took two hours to get there, much of it pretty uninteresting. I did pass a display of stones; irregular and interestingly shaped stones are greatly prized here for decoration, and rightly.

When eventually I arrived at the botanical garden, I strolled aimlessly around, looking for interesting things. There was a separate admission charge (Y10) for the butterfly garden, and from the outside it looked like a no-op. But Y10 isn’t much… and what I found in the first part of the round justified my suspicion that it wasn’t worth it.

Then I found the area with the live butterflies. Wow!

There is also a tropical conservatory, but I decided to skip it. Thousands of orchids, doubtless worth seeing, but the outdoor humidity is already 94% according to this morning’s weather report, and I’m not sure I want to go into very many hothouses.

Decided to try the Penjing garden instead. Only Y2, I guess it doesn’t get much press. Too bad; it was one of the most interesting places. Penjing art is the blending of plants, rocks and ceramics to form poems of form. Really impressive.

And no one to grump at me for using a tripod.

The vegetation is not really bonsai, which is what I had expected, but it is definitely dwarf. The star attraction is a gingko that dates from the 1300s.

Having spent a good hour indoors and out at the Penjing garden, I wandered further uphill. Beijing is on the flats, with foothills to the west, leading eventually to the mountains where we would find the great wall, if we went a bit further.

So the country here is a little bit hilly, and with my limited knowledge of the area, probably the prettiest part of the urban environs. This could explain why there are lots of parks, why the subways are jammed in this direction on the weekends.

Eventually, I found myself invited to ascend cherry valley, a fairly narrow canyon with a stream, sequoia or cedar forest, and a boardwalk along much of the trail. Very, very nice.

I have been looking for small animals, haven’t found much. High up along this trail, I found a large number of black and white beetles (unfortunately, the photos didn’t turn out very well), and an enormous population of brochymenas! Great!

There was a construction area on the way down. Who needs grammar? We understand exactly what the meaing of this sign is.

Well, it was getting late, and I was at risk of someone else drinking all the beer. I thought I might catch a taxi back to the subway station, but of course there aren’t many taxis out here in the boondocks, and the ones that exist are already taken. The good news is that, without mistakes, the walk back was only an hour and a half. Even so, it was almost 5 o’clock when I got my Weissbier at the Paulaner Braeuhaus.

To give an idea of the murky air, here is the sun, well above the horizon, and perfectly safe to look at.

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