Beijing - Summer Palace
Our travelling troupe has settled into routines of incredible efficiency, and so is able to make the absolute most of every day.
This morning we had a wake up call at 7am, were down to breakfast by 7.15, fed, teeth cleaned and on the bus by 8am with all we needed for a full day out. Disembarking the bus and moving through weekend crowds are no trouble at all, and the children are fantastic at looking out for one another. The teachers have also been impressed by their interest in the history and sights of Beijing. They listen carefully to the stories and information shared with them and genuinely appreciate their surrounds. They are a pleasure to travel with, and are looking forward to sharing it all with you on our return.
The Summer Palace grounds were our first stop today, in the northwest corner of Beijing, outside the 6th ring road. A retreat for the Emperor and Empress, the palace is built on the side of a hill overlooking Kunming Lake. The grounds are immaculately manicured, with semi-bonsai’d trees that are hundreds of years old and a collection of unique rock formations from all over China.
We walked around the lake, along the Painting Walkway and then climbed the stairs to the Palace. Despite being 3 days after The Great Wall, there are still a few stiff legs and small groans when faced with another set of over 200 stairs. But, the views out over the lake were certainly worth it and we enjoyed a snack under the canopy of the forest with a few very cute squirrels.
After meandering back down to the lakeside, we enjoyed a boat cruise across to the man-made island, where we saw a much grander version of the courtyard housing estate than we had experienced in the hutongs of old Beijing.
From there we returned back to the southern side of the city, and descended upon the Pearl Market. If you were worried about the welfare of the Chinese economy, don’t be – our band of shoppers gave it a significant boost today!
There are a few natural hagglers in the group, and bargains aplenty were had. For those a bit more reluctant at first, they were all in full swing soon enough and vendors were lucky to get one third of their original asking prices. A ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo was taken at the market, but the latter cannot be published as it will give away the surprises. You’ll just have to wait and see what treasures lie in store.
Once again, the generosity of these young people shone through and many spent today buying solely for family and friends, making sure that loved ones were considered and gifts secured. Don’t worry, the ‘yuan’ (local currency) goes a long way, and we will have another couple of hours there tomorrow where personal shopping lists will be attended to!
On the return to the hotel, purchases and bartering highlights were shared, with everyone proud and excited by their retail prowess. Beds were covered with souvenirs and treasures, before being piled (neatly) around the room so they could climb in. Excited conversations continued for some time as they looked forward to tomorrow and the promise of pandas and more purchases.