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Day Three - Saying Goodbye to Beijing
The Summer Palace, Beijing Tour, and Flight to Xi'an
Today we checkout of our hotel. We had to have our checked luggage outside of our door by 7:00 A.M. for it to be picked up and loaded on the bus. Then we were responsible for our carry luggage. Zhang Lu explained all of the travel rules of China. Any bottles must go in checked luggage. Alcoholic beverages must be in checked luggage, but must be less than 70% alcohol content, anything higher is not permitted. Lighters or matches are not allowed anywhere. All umbrellas must go in carry luggage - never checked luggage. And all batteries must be in carry luggage. Anything with a magnet must be in carry luggage. Everything else is pretty much the same as we're accustomed to. We had our bags out early and went to breakfast. We didn't have to leave the hotel until 9:00 A.M. so we could relax a little bit anyway. Our flight wasn't until 6:00 P.M. so we headed off to the Summer Palace.
The Summer Palace is about 12km northwest of downtown Beijing. An Imperial Garden has existed on this site since 1150. During the reign of the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, he had canals built to bring water from the western hills to a lake now known as the Summer Palace's Kunming Lake. In 1707 the Kangxi Emperor began construction on the Old Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan). His son, Yongzheng Emperor, greatly expanded the gardens in 1725. In 1750, Emperor Qian Long of the Qing Dynasty built the ‘Garden of Clear Ripples’ here to celebrate his mother's birthday at enormous costs. He also renamed the hill ‘Longevity Hill.’ And Kunming Lake was enlarged again to imitate the West Lake in Hangzhou. This complex of palaces was famous for its extensive collection of garden and building architecture, and many works of art.
In 1860, during the second Opium war, the Anglo-French Allied Forces invaded Beijing and destroyed the Old Summer Palace. It is said that it took 3,500 soldiers to set the place on fire, and it burned for three days. Only 13 buildings remained intact.
In 1886 the Dowager Empress CiXi began to restore the gardens. This reconstruction lasted 10 years. It was then that she renamed it Yiheyuan - ‘Garden of Peace and Harmony.’ However, during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, either allied forces once again plundered and destroyed the new Summer Palace. Nearly all of the big temples were destroyed. Only one remained. The Dowager Empress CiXi returned to Beijing and began another full-scale restoration leading to the Palace as we see it today. The story of the Dowager Empress CiXi is a fascinating one. There is no time to go into it here, but I suggest reading the above link.
We arrived at the East Gate of the Summer Palace. The smog this day was the worst we had seen. We all had heard the terrible news reports of thick smog in Beijing, and were surprised to find that it wasn't so bad while we were there, however, you will see in some of my photos that the air was thick.
We walked a little way inside and found a meeting point. Then we were given an hour and half to explore on our own. This is an enormous place and we walked for quite a ways. In the beginning it was difficult because the path we were on was very narrow and had sharp turns. We would have to stop at the turns and fold up the wheelchair, walk around the corner and set up again.
Tower of Buddhist Incense (l) & Temple of Sea of Wisdom (r)
Red bridge leading to the Zhichun Pavilion
Ferry landing at South Lake Isle
Suzanne doing large calligraphy
Tower of Buddhist Incense behind Dispelling Clouds Hall
Small building to the right of the Tower of Buddhist Incense
This palace garden and lake are very popular with the local people as well as tourists. There are boats ride in. There are many beautiful bridges here and I would have loved to have taken a boat to get near them, but we didn't have that kind of time. I had to settle for photographing them with a telephoto lens - not very satisfying with all of the smog.
Kunming Lake Ferry Boat
Seventeen Arch Bridge
As with most places we've seen in China, there is sculpture everywhere. This place is no exception.
The Long Gallery is a covered walkway stretching 728 meters. It links the various attractions and has a commanding view of the lake and hills. It was originally built in 1750 by the Emperor Qianlong as a gift for his mother, so that she could walk outdoors no matter the weather. It also was destroyed in 1860, but rebuilt by the Dowager Empress CiXi. It is extremely ornate and beautiful.
The Long Corridor
The Long Corridor - Ceiling Detail
The Long Corridor - Ceiling Detail
Along the way it's not unusual to see people performing on traditional Chinese instruments.
Musician playing an Erhu - a traditional Chinese instrument with two strings.
As in all of Chinese decoration, the attention to detail is magnificent - from the great to the small or even in tiny insignificant things. Along the pathways there are areas of stone, but they all have wonderful designs placed in them.
Scorpion pattern in stepping stones
Centipede pattern in stepping stones
Dragonfly pattern in stepping stones
Fan pattern in stepping stones
They even cut the area around the tree roots rather than just a big hole.
After leaving the Summer Palace we drove to the Olympic Village area and had lunch. Then we just drove around the northern area of Beijing. Some of the buildings are very beautiful and all are interesting. There are so many that I'm putting them on their own page - following this one.
Finally we headed to the airport, this time to the Domestic terminal which is very different than the one we flew into.
Entrance to the Beijing Airport
Once inside, Zhang Lu showed us all where to go and gave us all our tickets and passports. He got everyone in line to check in and then took Reuben and I to a special line where we could check our wheelchair and make arrangements for the airport to pick us up in one of their wheelchairs. Everyone else headed off to the gate, but we were told to wait near the check-in counter. They left us there until very shortly before our flight. So much so that I was getting a little nervous. But, they did show up and got us through security and to the gate. Our gate this time had us on a bus going out on the tarmac to board the plane out there. That means everyone had to climb the stairs to get into the plane. But they brought one of the trucks used to load things onto airplanes. They rolled Reuben into the truck and raised it to the level of the plane where they rolled him off. I was not allowed to go. I had to climb the stairs. So this is the only photo I got.
Loading Reuben onto the airplane
The flight to Xi'an was about 2 hours and 15 minutes. In the beginning there wasn't much to see, but as the weather & smog cleared up, it was quite nice. You could see mountains and fields, and then as the sun began setting some beautiful clouds.
After getting all of our luggage and wheelchair, we then transported to our hotel. Zhang Lu was still with us, but we had a local guide to tell us specifically about Xi'an. And, we had another beautiful hotel. This time we were in the Grand Soluxe Hotel International.
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