Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Palace, Beijing, China

View of Summer Palace from far

A day when I visited the "Summer Palace", I ended up in "Fragrant Hills Park" first...

Fragrant Hills Park
I pointed the words of "Summer Palace" written in Chinese characters to the uncle taxi driver and asked him; ya? He responded; ya.

Confidently he drove passing the sign of Summer Palace in the highway and he dropped me off in Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Park). Whatever I'd say to him, I knew he wouldn't understand, so I better enjoyed this hill.
Shop - on the way to Fragrant Hills Park

The small ascending road leading to the hill is quite cute. There are souvenir shops on both sides. I didn’t mind walking uphill in the fresh summer weather with a bit of wind.  It was around 27 degree Celcius.

One of the shops around Fragrant Hills Park

Within 15 minutes, I saw the sign "North Gate" in English and other words in Chinese characters. Could it be the north gate of Summer Palace? I asked the aunty at ticket office: Summer Palace? She responded; “no, Summer Palace bus 303”.

North Gate of Fragrant Hills Park

Like any other traveller, getting lost might be part of the experience.  I could join a tour or go with a tour guide, but somehow I preferred to wander around myself.

Fragrant Hills Park is quite interesting... Big and nice garden, there is also a lake... Songlin restaurant looks like green and cute place to drop by but I have to find Summer Palace…

I saw a sign for Biyun Temple and was tempted to stop but again…. I had to stick to my plan to visit the Summer Palace. So, I exited through the east gate and jumped into another taxi to hopefully go to the right destination.

Fragrant Hills Park

Summer Palace

The second taxi driver of that day dropped me off at a very quiet gate of Summer Palace. I wish I arrived at either east or north gate but I didn’t think so… But at least I arrived at the imperial garden that was built in 17th century where the royal family spent their summer.

When I went in, I saw a huge lake and surrounding sidewalks and a sign says Tuancheng Lake area. There is another board of directions and as far as I recall I saw sign that Hall of Benevolence and Longevity is 3km or something and Bronze Ox of 2.8km! Chúa ơi.

I can see the top of the palace from very far away…

I decided to walk towards the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. It was truly a long walk around the lake. I saw many elderly couples sitting on the benches facing the peaceful lake. They seem to enjoy their moments; reading newspaper, having drinks or having their lunch.

After having walked for some time, I passed Jade Belt bridge which was built during Emperor Qianlong’s reign (17th century), another bridge called Binfeng Qiao or bridge of Pastoral Poems, and I noticed there are other bridges such as Lake-Dividing (Jiehu Qiao) – for sure there are six bridges (The West Causeway or Xidi).

Jade Belt Bridge

The walk continued and I was sure I was getting closer to the East Gate where I wanted to see the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity.  

Then I met a young Chinese woman who also got lost in this area. She asked me in Chinese and I responded in English, we were laughing and finally walked together… She is originally from Beijing and has come to Summer Palace for the second time, and still got lost -J

Finally we came near to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. Lovely!

Suzhou Street

I said goodbye to my walking friend, she had to wait for her mother to arrive from other side of the palace, I wanted to continue my trip to Suzhou Street. It an area inside the Summer Palace with many stores mostly selling souvenirs and some are tea houses. The history said that this area served as an entertainment place where Emperors and concubines could feel as if they were strolling on a commercial street. So there I was…

A corner in Suzhou Street

Here is the East Gate where I wish I would have arrived at the beginning…

Going back to the hotel was another challenge. I walked from the East Gate to the subway station. Half way, I began questioning myself if I was on the right track. I thought I waited until any foreign tourists passing by so I could her/him in English. My wish came true. Two tourists confirmed that I was heading the right direction where I saw Starbucks Coffee. Blessing in disguise!

That is day to day life… On that particular day, I learn a lesson to listen to my intuition. I should have followed my first intuition to go to Summer Palace by subway, but I took the taxi. I got lost and perhaps my path on that day changed… 

Anyway, I continued walking my journey, walking and walking… Sometimes I was in doubt if I was walking on the right ways. I started questioning myself. Deep inside my heart I knew that I was correct but still there was doubt. In doubt, I finally asked someone else and was confirmed that it was a right direction.  I was relieved…

Coming up next:
Still more stories on China... Shanghai, here I come!

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