Saturday, May 30th
The previous day I walked around a lot when I visited the Temple of Heaven and even more so when I went to that Irish pub. When I got back to the hotel my feet hurt, which shouldn’t be unusual. I mean I have been walking probably 6-7 miles per day (no joke). But when I checked my feet I noticed the inevitable pain that every walker hates: blisters. And I had some doozies.
Instead of taking care of them that night I decided to sleep. Again, I must have been tired because I slept until 10. I got up, showered, etc and then when to a local pharmacy to find some band-aids. I don’t know why but it took me about 15 minutes to find some. I went back to the hotel and proceeded to play doctor. I don’t know if you are supposed to pop a blister or not, but I did take care of these. Once I deflated them I wrapped my feet up and headed out to see the Forbidden City.
When I looked on Trip Adviser it recommended about 3-4 hours to properly do the Forbidden CIty. Um, Trip Adviser has it wrong. You probably need more than 3-4 hours to see everything. This place is huge. Now the Temple of Heaven is big, but it is primarily greenery and park space. If you want to see buildings, halls, palaces, and gardens, the Forbidden City is layer upon layer of that stuff.
Don’t get me wrong I love that stuff, but after hour 4 my eyes did begin to glaze over a bit. The Forbidden City is about 1 1/4 mile in length. And there are, I think, six different palaces within the city, plus buildings for the princes, government officials, and guards. Toward the back is the Imperial Gardens (beautiful by the way) and the Treasure Gallery, which is a maze onto itself.
I just spent the afternoon wandering and meandering through the various buildings, looking what was inside. I saw a group of students from a university I taught at. They were gracious enough for me to tag along for a bit. But at about 4 I got tired. I had been in there for almost four hours and I had enough. I could’ve viewed more, but I decided to go back to the hotel.
I just needed to rest. So I didn’t venture very far from the hotel that night. I found a restaurant close by and had a delicious pepper chicken with some meat noodles. Huge amounts of food for only about $10. Did I mention that it is ridiculously cheap to buy food here. Housing is extremely expensive, but food is cheap.
I went back to the hotel early, proceeded to watch a couple of Chinese soccer matches and fell asleep. I had planned to get up and go out about 11…just for a stroll. That didn’t happen. But at least the band-aids help up. No new blisters.
Sunday, May 31st
Now I had told myself that I was just going to rest today. I was going to do anything too strenuous. Maybe just find a coffee shop, read, drink some tea or water and just relax. Apparently, I talked myself out of that because I decided to go sight-seeing again. I had planned to be a bit more chill today because it was 95 in Beijing today and it supposed to be 98 tomorrow. So I thought I would just take it easy. Um, no.
So I got up later than normal about 10. And I guess I just didn’t feel like reading or working. I mean I only have really three or so more days to sight see because of my teaching schedule and because next week we are going to the Great Wall of China (can’t wait for that).
While I am here I better make the most of it. I went online to figure out what were some of the attractions I hadn’t viewed yet. At the top of the list was the Summer Palace. Now I was going to venture to the Summer Palace, but I thought I might do it on Tuesday. Nope, today was the day.
I read up on the Summer Palace a bit. Apparently it was built in 1752 during the Qing Dynasty as a way for the royal family to get away. It was destroyed by invaders in 1860 and then rebuilt about a decade later.
With that knowledge I set off. And let me tell you it was well worth it. The Summer Palace is composed mostly of a lake, but surrounded by beautiful greenery and a walkway that circles the lake. It is recommended that you give the Summer Palace about three hours. If you try to walk around it (which i didn’t….i am not that stupid) it could take maybe five or six. I mean it is huge. I tell you the imperial Chinese dynasties were not shy about creating huge palaces with grounds.
The highlight of the tour had to be the view from the Tower of Buddhist Incense. The TOBI sits atop a large hill that is worth the climb and it overlooks the lake. It was built as a place to worship and shrine to Buddha. And in the Summer Palace, unlike most of the other places, photography wasn’t allowed in most of the buildings. Most of the statues of Buddha and the other artifacts were off-limits to photos. No worries. Here are a couple of images. This is an image of looking at the tower from across the lake:
And here is a view from the top:
It was really cool. I mean really cool. I don’t know what it is, but I just love the water.
Another highlight was seeing the stage created for the Dowager Empress where she watched the opera and other theater items. They have box seats that surround the stage and it was the largest stage created in all of Imperial China. You could almost imagine royalty reviewing the actors from the boxes and the stage.
I do recommend that if you go that you take the boat ride. It really isn’t much. It is just a boat that takes you from one lake to the other side where you can see another set of buildings. But it was fun. You can also rent an electric or paddle boat if you want. But since it was just me I went on one of the biggest boats with other people.
I spent another four hours wandering around the Summer Palace, hadn’t seen all of it, and decided to call it a day. I spent another hour or so walking home. Maybe tomorrow I will actually stay closer to the university. It is supposed to be 98. My feet could use the rest and we start teaching again tomorrow. That said, I only have about three days to sight see. What am I going to do?
Monday, June 1st
Today was the first day that I really didn’t do any sightseeing and it was just fine with me. I spent the morning getting some work done, watched a movie on my computer, ate breakfast and just relaxed. At noon, my colleague Wing-kai, along with his three students, came to our hotel and we had another festive lunch with a combination of faculty and students. Like many times before I was quite full by the time we were done.
I, initially, was going to head to a part of Beijing to do a bit more shopping, but we all agreed to meet in the lobby of our hotel at 4 and we would wander down to another touristy shopping area. By the time we got down there I think we only spent about an hour and a half of just shopping or just looking around. No one was really buying anything. We were just being show around. We saw people eating scorpions off of sticks, high-end shops and a mixture of old and new. Some of it reminded me of Chinatowns in the U.S. if you go down some of the alleys.
Let me say that my colleague Wing-kai is an awesome tour guide. This guy knows every nook and cranny of Beijing and has this place down. He is a whirlwind. He will be 75 and have more energy than 25 year-olds someday. Anyway, Wing-kai took us to a very nice restaurant (in the mall) where he ordered a variety of delectable dishes. Lots of food for such an inexpensive price. I do wish, among other things, I could bring that back to the U.S.
It is late. I am tired. Tomorrow, I teach, will try to shop a bit, and more hanging out with students and colleagues. It is going to be a good day tater.
More Observations and Lessons
1) I don’t know why I notice this, but a lot of Chinese parents don’t put diapers on their kids. Not sure why that is, but there are bare bottoms abundant.
2) Many Chinese men and women like to carry their backpacks like a baby bjorn. The pack is in the front not in the back.
3) Also, a lot of parents with kids seem to like to carry their children. While I do seem some parents with strollers, it isn’t all that common. I would say 50% or more carry their children and don’t use a stroller or some other device.
4) There are bikes and mopeds everywhere. And I want one.
5) I am amazed at all of the little food vendors and people who set up quick little places to shop later in the day/early evening. You can walk down any major Chinese street (at least where I am) and find dozens of street vendors. The industriousness of it all is simply amazing.
6) There are malls everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You can get off at one train station and there will be two different malls on either side of the station. I don’t know how they stay in business, but they all do.
7) I have figured out that I need to pay attention to the exits on the subway. Each station is so huge that if I go out the wrong exit I am on the either side of the street and it takes 10 minutes to walk to the other side (this happened to me the other day).