Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summer Palace

We woke up fairly early, still feeling residual "wake up early" benefits from jet lag, and after a nice bao ze, (steamed pork bun with vinegar and chilis), we headed toward the summer palace. The summer palace has a very troubled history thanks in no small part to empress dowager Cixi. She spent gobs of China's funds on the place at a time when the money was needed for the navy to help support the nation. She played a huge roll in the downfall of China into a place of deep corruption at that time. All that being said, the place is absolutely gorgeous! :)

Kerry, Mitch, and I strolled around the lush grounds until we found a nice little gazebo with a few old men singing and played a nice leisurely game of Scrabble with the board and tiles Kerry and I had thoughtfully tucked into our packs this trip. That little slice of time, just sitting listening to the birds and singing, gentle breeze, and slow game made for perhaps the best moment in the whole trip up to that point. It was just such a peaceful place to spend time.

After we wrapped up our game, we decided to head upwards toward the "incense tower" which overlooks a nice sized lake some distance below. Along the way we passed a vast collection of older Chinese folks playing instruments and singing in pockets of shade.

Eventually, we meandered up to the summit and began exploring the shrine seated there.

The view from the top was a really nice place to see vast expanses in China's sea of new, the skyscrapers and hazy sky, as well as the clusters of shrines and classically Chinese boats peddling around the waters. Looking up the hills you'd find green on green, and tall pagodas, and in the valley spilling out to the horizon was nothing but modern high-rise after modern high-rise.

After some popsicles, and some chill time from the heat to take in the site, we headed down the slope and finished out the day with a nice boat ride to the center island which housed an informative little museum which gave a fairly detailed account of the last emperor and the above mentioned empress dowager. The summer palace was definitely the most impressive and beautiful historical site in Beijing, and made for a really nice day!

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