On my arrival in Beijing, I slept for a few hours and then headed out to the Summer Palace on the clear opposite side of town. I took the Line 1 and then the Line 4 metro out – it was nearly 90 minutes of transit but only cost 2¥ and it wasn’t crowded. The most curious thing I found on the Beijing Metro: TV screens on the walls of the tube OUTSIDE the metro windows. It was freaky – the image was not very stable and seemed to follow us for a few minutes. This occurred about three or four times during the way out. I have never seen anything quite like it. When I got out of the Metro, there was no sign to indicate which direction to go towards the Palace. I instinctively headed left out of the station and was rewarded by the entrance some 300m away across from a McDonalds (yep, Beijing has McDo, BK Lounge, KFC, Pizza Hut, and gobs and gobs of Starbucks!). The entry was something like 15¥ (about 3€) and I bought a map for another 10¥ that was rather unwieldy and.too thick to fold. A word of advice should you head out here – the map is more or less devoid of any useful content but it is a nice piece to take home to show the kids so buy it AFTER the visit so that you don’t have to lug it around all afternoon. As for things to do, basically, I think that the best way to enjoy it is just to walk around. Immediately after paying, there is a big hill with some nice temples and palace structures but once you are at the top and head back down again, you see the large and beautiful Kunming Lake. There honestly wasn’t anything to visit (and certainly nothing in English) apart from a little shopping village on either side of a little river that reminded me of the ghost town in Chihiro by Miyazaki so since it spooked me a little, I descended towards the lake and decided to circumvent it on the nice walking path with the other tourists – overwhelmingly Chinese and probably Beijing residents – that were perambulating similarly. (Wow, I finally got to use perambulate in a sentence!) It is a most pleasant stroll with weeping willows, small temples, nice views, an island to visit, loads of picturesque bridges…ideal for a romantic afternoon I felt. It seems that the palace was actually buildings scattered all over and around the lake and not one particular building. There was a picture gallery to the left after coming down from the hill, but as it was a beautiful day, I skipped the intellectual stuff for once and just enjoyed walking around. I have scant memories of my visit about 10 years ago to the Temple of Heaven which I also loved, but this particular walk was perhaps even nicer because it was less crowded and the fact that walking next to a lake was so calming. A definite must to take in besides the obvious Tian an men Square and the Forbidden City.
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