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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Beijing...the last days

CHINA | Tuesday, 22 July 2008 | Views [965]

Mon 21st Jul - Seeing as I have booked an extra day here, it gives me some other opportunities. One of the big ones is the 'Summer Palace', which I will visit today. A long but direct bus does the 18km journey from the main road by the hostel (bus 690 or 826), so very convenient and cheap for 1 Yuan. Takes about 40 minutes depending on traffic. The buses stop fairly close to the main East gate entrance. Entry fee 60 Yuan and there was a really nice guide for 30 Yuan done in old world style, and containing good descriptions of the many attractions. Once inside you can buy a simple map which is actually more usefull for 10 Yuan!

The grounds are vast and wouldn't even attempt to get around it all today. A majority of the grounds are occupied by Kunming lake which is busy with a number of types of craft, from ornate pagoda style ferries to pedaloes. I followed a route along the top end of Kunming lake going west, along with almost everyone else! There is a path which allows easy access to most of the important places and is under cover for a long section, referred to as the long corridor. A fair few of the places are high on 'Longevity Hill' and involve climbing lots of steps....something i'm in good shape for after the Great Wall. They all have really great names, such as.... Hall that dispels the clouds....Realm of popular fragrance....Hall of listening to Orioles...Site of devastated Xumi Holy land. A few real highlights of mine were the 'Clear and Peaceful Boat'. A largeboat carved totally out of marble! Another was the climb to the 'Tower of the fragrance of the buddha'. As superb view of the lake and surrounds. The main highlight though had to be Suzhou street. What a beautiful place. It is actually a canal with lovely buildings around it, a large stone bridge that crosses in the center and smaller ones at other points. A shop selling chinese musical instruments was nice as the owner was playing a chinese flute that echoed around the whole street to create a mellow soundtrack. An old man with typical whispy white beard and blue outfit was doing calligraphy of peoples names. Other shops were dressing up people in traditional clothing for photographs. I stopped for a meal in a small restaurant overlooking the canal and had a lovely meal washed down with jasmine tea. Replenished, set off to complete the loop of Suzhou street...magical!

Headed south through to the lake and down to the 'Seventeen arch bridge', passing another broad swathe of lotus flowers in full bloom. They are eveywhere and add a nice touch with their broad vivid green leaves and bright pink flowers. Spent about four hours wandering around before heading back for the bus to return to Beijing.\

Fancied my last night in Beijing at a nice restaurant, so caught a bus to Tiananmen square to see it lit up. Adds a nice athmosphere and no tourists about as it is cordoned off. Also, there were workers welding together another stand with a world on it...They are going non stop across the whole city!

Walked towards one of the busy areas and found a nice restaurant. As luck has it, I met a lovely group of chinese girls out for a meal so joined them for a chinese hotpot. A communal arranement with a gas burner in the center of the table and a split stainless steel pot. One half plain soup and the other spicy. Loads of dishes are then brought in, which you briefly cook in whichever side you fancy and then dip into a bowl of sesame sauce that is provided for each person. A really tasty meal...the bill was a it of a shocker but, it was my last meal here, so went out in style.

The buses had stopped by the time I had finished, so had to catch a taxi back. The streets were deserted...no buses for a change, and a fraction of the time too.

Tue 22nd Jul - Moving on to Xi'an tonight, so got some of the day to make use of. Close to where i'm staying is Bei Hai Park so headed off there after checking out of the hostel. 20 Yuan entry fee. It is one of the oldest gardens in China. Entering from the north is nice as the first part you see is the shaded bamboo lined pathway that leads to the ornamental garden. Surrounding a rugged pond and crossed by a stone bridge it is a typical chinese garden. Jagged rocks surround the pond and weeping willow to give it a calm feel. Like the summer palace yesterday, a large percentage of the grounds are water, but in this case some of the larger ponds are filled with lotus flowers in full bloom. A manificent sight. The dominant feature of this park is the 'Jade Islet', a 36m white 'Dagoba' or stupa, and was originally built in 1651 for a visit by the dalai lama....ironic considering the current issues regarding the dalai lama.

The true beauty of the park was accentuated by the people there today...a guy playing an accordian whilst his partner sang in an operatic voice....another couple singing to each other....familes playing games....a young boy going crazy chasing soap bubbles. As a foreigner you also get used to attracting attention, and today was no exception, as it is a regular event to be asked to have your photograph taken. They are just lovely people. As beijing goes into overdrive in the build up to the olympics, foral displays are being sandwiched in everywhere, so it is a really pretty time to be here. Nice to see the beautiful chinese girls posing for photos by the displays.

Along the front of the main lake is the stunning Fanshan restaurant, which they let me into to look around. Bedecked in golden everything and attended by traditionally dressed girls, it is one of those upper class places that would be magic for a special occasion. It took a few hours to complete a lap of the park and headed for some shade for a break.
Decided to go east to the 'Worker's stadium'. Glad I did as on the way to catch a bus I took a detour through another Hutong area and found a lovely games park. Watched the old men playing chinese chess and many folk playing table tennis. They had some really funny bronze statues there too.

Got the 823 bus that stopped outside the stadium and almost immediately was approached by a chinese guy (68yrs old) who wanted to talk, so we went off to find some shade and sat down for a while and talked about all sorts of stuff.

After a wonderful time just chatting, started to feel hungry. Fortunately, there was one of the world's great institutions nearby....in the form of 'Hooters Bar'. For anyone who hasn't heard of them...guys will have....it is a bar full of lovely girls who wait on you and periodically perform a dance routine. They were true to typical form and were just, well, stunning. It must be my birthday today as I got a personal photoshoot with them all. Yippee! I needed that cold beer!
Back on the bus to the hostel as need to chill a bit before heading off on the overnight sleeper train to Xi'an. So, that's about it from Beijing. It has been an excellent time to be here and could stay even longer, but time is ticking away and have to move on.......


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