Yet another grand day (Friday) in China! We started off the morning by visiting Jingshan Park. Normally, tourists visit this park directly after visiting the forbidden city, because there is a large hill that gives a wonderful view of the Forbidden City. Unfortunately, as mentioned, it was raining yesterday, so our guide didn’t want us to slip and fall on the steps. Luckily, our hotel is within 5 minutes of the park, so she told us to stop by before they came at 10:30 to pick us up. It was a really fun experience.
Not only did we get the wonderful view of the city, but we also got to see the morning rituals of some of the locals. As mentioned, many old people like to do evening exercises. Little did we know, but they also like to do morning exercises as well. We saw many couples walking around the park, some were doing dances, some were meditating, and one man was even performing Kungfu on a tree. The view was stunning. We could see down into the forbidden city, we could see our hotel, we could see many skyscrapers and different communities all over. It was amazing.
Next, we were picked up by Sue and another new driver to head off to the hutong. Hutongs are essentially alleys that house local markets and restaurants. This particular hutong was gorgeous. It surrounded a very large man-made reservoir with boats afloat, some small temples, and some beautiful parks. Little did we know, but this weekend is a national three-day holiday, so there were a TON of Chinese tourists everywhere. We felt like we were constantly swimming in a sea of Asian Tourists. We peaked at some of the souvenirs, but nothing seemed of great interest, so we headed off to our next destination.
Our next visit was the Panda House in the Beijing Zoo. I honestly have no idea why this was part of the tour, but it wasn’t the worst thing ever, if anything, we got a better perspective of how things are as a Chinese tourist. The panda House wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was fun to see the pandas and understand that the climate we’ve been hiking around in is their natural habitat. Overall, the “people watching” was where all the fun was. People here in China have very similar mannerisms as us, but there was the occasional difference. The largest difference we noticed, was the kids. We saw a four-year-old in a stroller, we saw little kids in cute oriental clothing, we saw children pants with a large opening on bottom, we saw little kids throwing big tantrums (just like in the U.S.) and some of the babies were SO cute. Overall, even though a zoo will never be the same after going on an African Safari, it wasn’t a complete disaster
We then went to get some much-needed lunch. We had what Sue called a pie. . . but it was more like a quesadilla with Chinese flavored food in it. It was really good. We then had a soup similar to the one we had yesterday. It was also very tasty. It had lots of mushrooms, lots of pork with too much fat, lots of tofu, and a bunch of other stuff. It was another competition between us and the chopsticks. Naturally, the chopsticks won.
Following lunch, we headed off to visit the summer palace. Back in the 1800’s or 1900’s. . . I honestly can’t remember when. . . there was an emperor who died, and his soon was too young to rule, so his mom took over. The son grew up, she didn’t let him get married (cause if she did, he’d become emperor) and the palace became his prison. Long story short, he snuck out and died of a STD. The Empress then decided to nominate her nephew as the next emperor. He was 4. So, she remained in power for quite a long time. She had the summer palace finished and chose to reside there while the young emperor grew.
On the grounds of the temple, there were a few special features. There was a man-made lake that was very beautiful, there was an island with cool buildings and a bridge leading out to it, there was a bankruptcy boulder, a very beautiful temple up on the hill, and lots of other cool buildings. Coolest of all, though, was the painted walkway. As legend would have it, the empress-lady would eat her meals, then would walk a long way to aid digestion. Apparently, she was bored on her walks, so she had a long, open-sided corridor created with paintings. The paintings were meant to tell stories and keep her entertained. This is the longest painted corridor on earth. The whole thing had unique paintings on all sides of it and stretched for probably about a mile. It was incredible.
After walking along that for a while, we exited the palace grounds and made our way back to the hotel. Because it was only three o’clock, we decided to take a nap, then we headed out to go explore the city. We ended up stumbling upon a MASSIVE mall. It was essentially a four or five block street with giant 10 story shopping centers on both sides. It was pretty cool. After exploring the mall, we ran into a very excited Chinese lady. She seemed very excited to talk to us. Before coming to China, we had done research and found that encounters like this can be very dangerous and can even result in kidnappings/robberies. She seemed harmless, though, and she never showed any signs of the normal things people would do in those dangerous situations. We talked to her for a few minutes, she helped us find a couple shops, she asked us if we wanted to get some drinks together (we declined), and then we parted ways. That was our entire experience with our friend Monica.
The rest of the evening was peachy. I wrote on the blog, we relaxed, we visited our nest-door convenience store for dinner, then we crashed. Ready for another great day in China tomorrow!