The Summer Palace

We woke up to another beautiful Beijing morning. We had been warned that we might experience a lot of smog in the city, but we had clear skies the whole time we were there.

We didn’t have to leave the hotel until 8:30 so we had a nice leisurely breakfast. Brad had time to send an e-mail to the kids before we left … he’s become the resident tech expert, helping people solve problems when they couldn’t get to their gmail accounts because of the government’s firewall.

We had another traffic-clogged drive to the Summer Palace. I certainly wouldn’t want to drive the busy streets in Beijing. It’s just a bit too different from the way we drive at home.

Along the way we stopped at a Freshwater Pearl Factory. They showed us the different type of pearls available in the world and how they are harvested. They also showed us how to tell if a pearl is real or not. We weren’t swayed by the smooth sales pitch, but did enjoy wandering through the showroom admiring the beautiful jewelry. A few people did buy something to bring home including a beautiful gold pearl pendant (before this visit I had no idea there were gold pearls!)

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We finally got to the grounds of the Summer Palace just before noon. It was gorgeous! We entered through the west gate to a beautiful view of Kunming Lake. Boats of all sizes dotted the lake with people obviously enjoying the cooler breezes out on the water.

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Walking past a few shops we headed to the Court area where the Emperor and the Empress Dowager conducted state business and entertained. A beautiful fan-shaped rock separated the visiting area from the living quarters.

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We wandered along the Long Corridor (728 meters to be exact) mostly with our necks craned to look at the hundreds of unique traditional paintings on the ceiling. Built to provide shelter from the rain and snow for those who wanted to enjoy the grounds, we certainly appreciated the shade it provided from the hot midday sun.

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Looking north up Longevity Hill from the pavilion at the middle of the Long Corridor we could see the beautiful Tower of Buddhist built on the mountainside. We could see people in it, but try as we did, we couldn’t find a path that got us up there.

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We continued along the Long Corridor to the Marble Boat. Built only for decoration, it is really just a carved pier that has never been navigable. It is now a tea room where visitors can sit and enjoy the view of Kunming Lake.

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While a few of us would have loved to continue our walk around the lake, we boarded a small ferry that took us across to the east side of the lake. We passed a number of other boats along the way, many decorated with dragons on their bow.

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We passed the Seventeen-Arch Bridge and landed right near a huge bronze ox that looked out over the lake. It was put there to forever protect the palace from flooding.

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Leaving through the east gate, Kathy bartered with a hat seller to get four reversible paper hats to take home to some kids in her neighbourhood. They cost 10 Yuan and she paid with a 50. Fran was sure she’d been given bogus money back, and sure enough, she had. The money was real, just not Yuan and worth much less than the change she was due. So buyers beware! If you’re going to buy from hawkers on the street, make sure you have small bills!

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