blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 7 in Beijing: to the Summer Palace

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

At Xiuyi Bridge, Kunming Lake, Summer Palace

This was Chris' free day, another fine summer's day that we began by walking to a nearby ATM to draw some cash that we didn't need. Because we wanted to visit the Summer Palace (yi he yuan), we liked Howard's suggestion to take a river boat there, from the zoo, its north gate being a short walk from our hotel. So this time we entered the zoo on a fine day, and of course it was packed with young families. Our admission, including the boat fare, came to a tiny fraction of what we'd paid the previous week, only ¥65 in total, maybe because we weren't intending to visit the Aquarium this time. Who knows? Anyhow, as we had 45 minutes to wait for the next boat (chuán), it was pleasant to stroll around in the sunshine spotting a few more animals than before––a mongoose, a rhino, a cassowary and the Australian kangaroos. For some reason they had a great many tapir pens.

Hippos at the Beijing zoo
Speedboat and riverboat dock, at Beijing zoo
Plenty of fun to be had in this location! We could have had a thrill on the speed boats making waves on the Nanchang River here.

Our leisurely ride up the river took a whole hour, partly because we had to change boats at Zizhuyuan Park (near the National Library). The first boat was crowded, the second less so; a little girl in the seat in front made friends with us.

At the end of the ride we landed at the steeply arched Xiuyi Bridge that I remembered so well from our first ever day in China, in 2011, when Sha had taken us for a walk round Kunming Lake and the palace grounds. We repeated a lot of that walk this time, wandering slowly along the West Causeway (Xidi) with its six bridges, that replicates the walkway across West Lake in Hangzhou. Inevitably, we missed the company we'd had on that first occasion and felt nostalgic for Hangzhou as well, but these were happy and for me, very vivid memories. Like the Chinese ladies, I carried an open umbrella to keep the sun off. The views were splendid.

View of Kunming Lake with the distant hills and pagoda

The souvenir shop
I even remembered where the stall was where we'd found something to eat, back then, and it was still there, selling me hot pot noodles this time and some bing shui (ice-water) for Chris. After our lunch on a bench in the shade, watching the ferry boats and their passengers, and the families going by, some of them erecting little tents on the grass for the afternoon, we walked through the more populous part of the grounds. I remembered a little house there that sells souvenirs, and that our friends Rob and Sally had bought a CD of Chinese guzheng (zither) music there. Four years later, I did likewise, the music still playing in the background to encourage me. The owner of that shop calculated the change he owed me on an abacus.

Many boats seen from the north shore of Kunming Lake
Our legs and feet were growing weary by now, so we found a few further excuses for sitting down before reaching the park exit, beyond the long corridor or long gallery, 长廊, (nearly 800m long, built in the 1750s, now swarming with tour groups all following their flag-carrying leader, most of the westerners looking far less relaxed and more overwhelmed than we were by the heat and the crowds) and past a pretty little bridge and fishpond. At the East Gate we were near a new underground station. A cluster of modern buildings, hotels, shops and restaurants have been built at the station end of Tongqing Street, lined with bus stops, that leads from the East Gate, and we found a Starbucks there that incongruously sold lattes, chocolate brownies and panini. Not traditional Beijing fare, but making good business among westerners and young Chinese tourists alike.

Then we took a Line 4 train from Xiyuan all the way to Xizhimen. That was easy!

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