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A place fit for an Emperor

Summer Palace and the Hutongs

View Doyle and Dan's Adventure on doyledan's travel map.

The Summer Palace is one of the most tranquil places we have been to in China, despite the crowds of people. It is simply beautiful! With over 75% of the park dominated by the shimmering Kunming Lake you can easily imagine why royalty chose this as the place to come to escape the summer heat at the Forbidden Palace in the heart of Beijing.


The Summer Palace was the main home of the emperor's mother which is shown in the statues within the grounds. The Phoenix represents the female and the Dragon represents the male. Normally the dragon takes priority and holds a ball of power, but here as it is the emperors mum who rules the roost his ball of power is missing!
Some girl power with the Phoenix!

Many locals come to the Summer Palace to relax and several people were practising how to write chinese calligraphy with big brushes and water on the stone ground. It was mesmerising to watch the sweeping movements. They made it look so easy but it takes years of practice to master the symbols and to get the strokes just right.


The Long Corridor is the longest walkway in the world and runs next to the lake beneath Longevity Hill. It is decorated with paintings of Chinese scenery and paintings depicting tales from Chinese history.


We then went up to the top of Cloud Dispelling Hall which after climbing many steps rewarded us with an amazing view over the park and lake.


Some of us opted to get a pedal boat and explore the lake. After a few dodgy steering issues at the beginning we were on our way navigating between the Dragon Boats and other inexperienced pedal boat drivers. We each took turns to pedal and steer the boat and there were a couple of near misses but Jude expertly steered us back to the jetty (although the boat coming in behind us were not as skilled and bumped into the back of us).


We then took rickshaws to explore the Hutongs. Hutongs means narrow alleyways. Criss-crossing Beijing over a million Chinese (10th of Beijings population) live in these areas. The houses tend to be one storey with courtyards and can be home to more than one family. We were invited into one of the Hutongs and were told about life there. Our host was the fifth generation living in this house which had been handed down through his family and was shared with 16 family members. The central courtyard offered space to relax and where they could grow vegetables. Minor birds are a popular pet to have, although his was shy and did not want to speak when we were there.

As well as being his home he also did paper cutting in a small studio off the court yard. It can take over a month to make one of these intricate works of art and when it is finished it is glued on to silk. I bought one of a dragon and a Phoenix encircling each other which is a good luck symbol for couples. Quite fitting for our trip and future.

We were invited into another home for a home cooked lunch. It was the best lunch we had had yet of traditional Chinese dishes including beef and carrots, pumpkin, garlic pork with green beans and a firm favourite dumplings!

In the afternoon we were taken to an indoor market which was insane. Spread over 4 floors you could buy anything from electronics and shoes to tea sets and pearls although majority of the goods on sale were fakes with classics such as sumsang and Cath Kidcup. It was like running the gauntlet being pulled in every direction and having goods thrust in your face. Some of the girls got some good deals, all I wanted was a small badge of a Chinese flag which initially was 95 yuan (9 quid!) but after some haggling I got it for 15 yuan. A couple of us opted for the calm of the roof terrace followed by a cooling McFlurry and Dan went on a mission to quench his Oreo craving.

We were all starving and tonight began our free time without our guide Jason so we were on our own to find somewhere to eat.


We confidently headed out to a street we had been recommended and soon were seated at one of the many restaurants but once the menus came out we became a bit unsure. The huge selection of dishes was a bit daunting but fortunately the menu had pictures which was a good thing as we could steer clear of the turtle and other dishes where the heads stayed on! After some complicated ordering we were relieved when the dishes arrived although we had over ordered slightly! It was a great meal and on the way back to the hostel we enjoyed some traditional dancing and music which seemed to have spontaneously started in the street.

Just a side note for those not aware Facebook is blocked here, I think our blog updates are going up automatically but you won't get any replies from us on Facebook until November


Posted by doyledan 22:02 Archived in China

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I have considerable sympathy with the Dragon at The Summer Palace. Being surrounded by women at home it and I have a lot in common!

by barristerman

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