Monday, August 25, 2008

Beijing Day 10 - Summer Palace

As Scott previously mentioned, we ditched our official tour guide and decided to do the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven on our own. Neither one of us wanted to spend another day with Shall's lecturing (we believe she was reading the signs back to us). So today, we headed off to the Summer Palace. Once there, we were very glad we didn't try to do the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven in one day. Both are massive. We spent 4 hours walking around the Palace, got lost a few times and still managed to cover only about a quarter of the structures. We purchased this awesomely illustrated map that was less than helpful in finding out where you were and how to get to the next location. We were again thanking our trainer for all the squats and lunges that we having been doing. We'd have never made it up and down all the hills and stairs without them. Even so, there were a couple of places I thought I was going to die before we reached the top of the hill. Steep, steep, steep and stairs that are about half as deep as modern steps and twice as high.

Beijing Day 10 — Summer Palace — 43

The architecture is pretty much what we saw at the Forbidden City which I thought was weird. If you want a summer retreat, wouldn't you like new or different walls to look at? Scott guessed that it was to impress upon people that whoever was in the Summer Palace had the same power and authority as those residing in the Forbidden City. Scott has pictures to post and they tell most of the story. There were easily 50 different buildings, several galleries of artifacts where the newest items was more than 100 years old and lots and lost of opportunities to buy souvenir crap, including at least 6 Official Olympic shops.

Scott made the comment this park and the buildings had been here for hundreds of years, that you'd think that every Chinese person alive would have already seen then and wouldn't need to visit them again. I think he was just frustrated at the crowds. It was more crowded than the Temple of Heaven and all the areas where you could get away from the crowds, you had to be a billy goat to get to.

Beijing Day 10 — Summer Palace — 31

After walking around for about 3 hours, we took a short boat ride across the lake. The Summer Palace is more than 20 hectares in area (don't ask me what that is in acres) and more than three-quarters of that area is lake. We rode across to a little island and then walked across a bridge with 17 arches and then kept walking until we reached the gate where we came in, taking detours and meanders whenever we saw something interesting.

Beijing Day 10 — Summer Palace — 75

At the gate, we went to go catch a taxi. There were about 6 of them lined up. We showed them our hotel card and one guy that wasn't dressed in a taxi driver uniform grabbed the card and said he'd take us. He started leading us towards his car which was black and didn't have a taxi sign on it. We hesitated and asked if was a taxi. We'd heard of scams where drivers wouldn't have a meter and they take you to your destination and demand an outrageous amount of money. If you called the police, you'd always lose and end up paying and apologizing to the driver. He claimed he had a meter and when we took back the card and tried to show it to another real taxi driver, he said something to them and they handed it back to us without a word. Against our better judgment, seeing that he did have a meter, we got in the car. He kept talking about what a nice car he had and how it was so much better than a normal taxi. Right. When we go to the hotel, he charged us 4 times what a normal taxi would and insisted that he had a nice car. In reality, we are only talking $20 USD difference in fare, but it's aggravating being taken advantage of. Again, we wish we would have been able to learn more Chinese so we could have told him to bug off.

The rest of the day was spent showering and pre-packing. We just had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants (they have three) so that we were eating "safe" food. It was really good Chinese food, but cost about as much as it would in the U.S. Neither one of us was willing to take a chance with intestinal distress right before such a long travel day.

We'll be up again at 3:00 am local time to finish packing and catch the shuttle to the airport. That'll be noon on Monday Seattle time. Barring any delays, we should arrive in Seattle at 9:30 am on Tuesday, one hour after leaving Beijing based on local time. We are going to time travel again.

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