My legs want to leave me for a quadraplegic….I’ve been on my feet since 11 this morning, and only got back at 7…that was quite the hike.
Woke up early this morning to the sounds of the last of my group getting ready to leave. Had a sleepy goodbye and wished her luck in Shanghai before going back to bed for an hour (and basking in the nostalgic feel of having a room to myself again).
Had to get up early myself though, since I was probably going to have a busy day – the Summer Palace in the morning, quickly stopping off in the Hutongs again, and then Ritan Park. With that much to do, I tried to get as much packing as I could done in the morning – bemoaning my choice of bag. They say the full zips are best since it means you don’t have to yank everything out to get what you want, but I seem to be doing that an awful lot regardless. And I’m getting acutely aware of how little 40lt actually is – even with my extra backpack carrying the excess.
Yet on that same note, I only shudder to think how much crap I would have brought if I’d brought a larger bag. At least its light enough that I can carry it for a significant period of time – just can’t wait until I hit warmer climates so I can ditch the winter gear.
The icy weather of yesterday seems to have calmed down, though my legs are still hurting with that frosty kind of rash you get when out in cold weather with not enough protection. Layer up with fleece just in case and set off towards the Summer Palace – which is about as far as its possible to get from my hotel in Beijing and still be accessible by underground. Takes at least an hour and 3 station transfers, and only costs the equivilant of 20p! I love Chinese public transport.
I honestly didn’t know much about the Summer Palace when I decided to visit – only that a lot of people on my tour had wanted to but failed, and that it was apparently very beautiful. When I first got there, I wasn’t too impressed – first of all it has a 50 yuan entry fee (if you want to get into the buildings and not just the park) which was more than anywhere else I’d been, and when I first stepped inside, it was almost nothing but hawkers and shops trying to sell me tat. They even have a street (that if you haven’t bought the full ticket, you have to pay to get into no less) that is nothing but shops and restaurants. Although this area also had boats – so I’m guessing the price tag comes from them. Today however, they were trying to get the boats into the harbour, as yesterday had frozen the lake solid, and I got to watch 2 guys attack some very thick ice with hammers in sticks in an attempt to get the boat home.
Headed up the hill and my disdain continued as it seemed nearly all these buildings were boarded up. It was kind of pretty on this cliff face, but nothing that blew me away. I was starting to think the park was something of a rip off when I found the entrance to the Tower of Buddhist Incense. From my entrance, this requires you to go down some pretty steep steps, and gave me this amazing view.
The tower is incredible – like many buildings in this park its not the original (which was burned down in the 1880’s by the Anglo-French Allied Forces) but it feels more authentic than a lot of the buildings I’ve seen in China. Not entirely sure what that means considering its a replica, but I’m not about to start arguing that/
Clearly I went through an inferior entrance, because once you get to the Tower, the park just starts improving. I would have loved to come here in the Summer. In Winter its a nice walk, I can only imagine what its like in full bloom. The lake takes centre stage, but the walk around is just a nice way to spend a morning.
My favourite part however, was when I went into the Garden of Virtuous Harmony, which hosts a theatre that the Empress Dowager Cixi had built to watch Peking Opera. In its heyday, the greatest of Chinese Opera was performed here. Now however, they have performances daily – every half hour there is dancing, singing and musical performances. Assuming that in the winter the quality is toned down as the photographs outside were of far superior costumes and shows, but I still loved it. We first got woman performing with a cloth and fan, followed by a woman singing opera (although if I’m honest, relatively certain she was lip syncing), then a performance on drums and the bell instruments, and finally a simple dance involving long sleeved kimonos.
By this point I’d been in the park nearly 2 hours, and was getting ready to move on. Just had time to go check out the small museum (hosting a few relics from the Summer Palace in its prime) and get some last photos from the bridge in the centre of the lake before heading back to the underground and towards the Hutongs.
This is where things went downhill. I lost my map, so was relying on the underground map and the directions I got online. Clearly this was a mistake, because despite having been to the Hutongs TWICE, I couldn’t find them. I did find Hutongs, just not the market I was looking for. Gave up when I realised I was entering Llama Temple territory and decided to hunt for Ritan Park again.
I honestly have no idea where this park is! Triple checked the directions, used my compass to make sure I had the right direction, and this park still eludes me. I was so certain that I just kept walking, determined to find something. When the sun started to set, I finally gave up and picked a direction – was fairly certain I could see Jingshan Park’s hill in the distance – looking for an underground station.
When I did find one? It was one station away from the one I would be going to anyway. I’d practically walked home! With that in mind just kept heading South until I hit my usual station and walked the rest of the way. By this point my legs were making clear their displeasure with me, but I still had one last pit stop to go. I hadn’t eaten anything since 11:30, and the Night Market was just a few minutes away.
Sad to say I was going for cheap and filling over exotic – first thing on the agenda was the Peking Duck (since I’d missed the apparently great restaurant on the first day) followed by chicken dumplings, a corn on the cob, and some kind of chocolate and coconut dessert dumpling (which was pretty awful and half dumped in a bin). Would have risked the spiders or snake, but they were atrociously expensive and I just cannot haggle – buckle far too easily or end up insulting them to the point they actually chase me away.
Early night tonight – tomorrow I get to navigate the subway with my bags in the hopes that I can get my flight with no worries.