Exploring Beijing, from a palace to the streets

Beijing, Summer Palace

Our favourite site in Beijing was definitely the Summer Palace, we spent a sunny day exploring this fabulous royal park and found it far more absorbing than the Forbidden City.

Maybe it was the glittering lake or the leafy parkland, whatever it was we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around.

Beijing, Summer Palace

Entering from the North Gate we were soon walking along Suzhou Street, a wooden boardwalk set along a diversion of the river, lined with shops and restaurants and designed to look like an authentic canal town.

It was charming, if a little like a film set.

uddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom

uddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom

From there the main path leads up Longevity Hill towards the Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom, a Tibetan Style building decorated with wonderful Buddha tiles and affording great views from its high vantage point.

Suzhou Street, cute photo opportunity

Suzhou Street, cute photo opportunity

Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom

Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom

The other side of the hill is ornamented with pavilions, halls and temples, we climbed so many stairs exploring them.

These all looked out over Kunming lake, dazzling with the winter sun. There were many peddle-boats and such like down on the lakeside but most were tied up for the low season, the luxury being that we didn’t have to battle with the crowds to enjoy the park.

Empress Dowager Cixi’s Marble Boat was a fine example of excessive wealth over practicality, an un-sailable ship.

On the northern edge of the lake, at the foot of Longevity Hill stands the Long Corridor, a wooden covered walkway, beautifully painted and over seven hundred meters long.

A pleasant place to promenade, and people-watch. We walked around part of the lake, to the Seventeen Arch Bridge where locals were flying realistic eagle kites.

Beijing, Summer Palace

Much of what we saw it the Summer Palace had been rebuilt or renovated. The place had been flattened in the 1800s by the British and the French during the Opium wars, we never learnt about that in our school history lessons!

There was a few photographs showing the destruction. Empress Dowager Cixi restored and enlarged the Summer Palace after this with money that should have been spent more wisely on the Chinese Navy.

One evening Chris, Caley and myself took a stroll down Ghost Street, romantically described in the guide book as a street where fishermen would sell their catch, lit by eerie lights in the darkness in years gone by.

These days it is a vibrant street of restaurants, a riot of colourful neon signs and beckoning restauranteurs, red lanterns light your way overhead.

Ghost Street, BeijingOut of sheer curiosity we ventured along Wangfujing ‘Snack Street’, in hindsight probably not the wisest idea for a vegetarian like myself.

Do I really want to see live scorpions impaled onto skewers, wriggling-ly waiting to be deep-fried? Or {dead, I hope} seahorses awaiting a similar fate?

I can’t even begin to understand why anyone would want to eat a starfish either.

There was plenty of meaty options for those not interested in sea food. The street was packed with Chinese tourists, feasting on these grizzly delights, the smells from the food cooking was rather unpleasant, needless to say we passed through this freak show with haste.

Deep-fried starfish skewer?

Deep-fried starfish skewer?

Wangfuling Snack Street, Beijing

Wangfuling Snack Street, Beijing

The Confucius Temple made a pleasing escape from hectic Beijing one afternoon.

The approach along a wide hutong lined with shops selling temple souvenirs, offerings and incense was wonderful and it smelt amazing.

These were most likely aimed at people going to the nearby Lama Temple, the Confucius Temple being more of a museum than a working temple.

The leafy, and ancient Confucius Temple

The leafy, and ancient Confucius Temple

The temple was beautiful in an old dusty way, it had an ancient, cobwebby feel and the marvelous gnarly trees growing within the complex of buildings added to the atmospheric charm.

Under tiled-roof pavilions were many tall stele, supported on carved stone tortoises.

Within the buildings were information boards and displays telling the life of Confucius and his philosophy, to which many still follow.

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BEIJING Summer Palace

Try these posts:

Exploring Beijing, Having Fun in the Parks There’s ballroom dancing and Bollywood!

The Great Wall is a Mighty Dragon. Wandering the Great Wall almost alone!

Food and Culture in the Muslim Quarter, Xi’an So delicious, so wonderful, so different.

The Army of Terracotta Warriors Burial planning to the extreme!

China’s National Treasure: The Pandas of Chengdu Yes, there’s baby pandas!

The Grand Buddha of Leshan
He’s ancient, and his toe is as big as you!

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4 Responses

  1. My girlfriend was in Beijing last year and said the food was amazing, though unlike you has no food restrictions. Were there any good food experiences you can share?

    • We found an excellent noodle bar, loved that we could choose our own ingredients from a huge range and it was so cheap! The tastiest food we found there!
      We stayed at a vegetarian hostel and the noodles we had for breakfast were excellent {I still think about them now!}. The hostel had a dumpling night once a week and they were fresh and delicious.

  2. Dave Rowley says:

    Looks like you had another blue sky day for your visit to the Summer Palace! Lucky after the days of smog!! We enjoyed the Summer Palace too, especially meeting a young Chinese girl there who was thrilled to talk with us about her love of Harry Potter. As for the snack street, yes we saw the same. We heard that the Chinese eat everything on four legs except a table, everything in the air except airplanes, and everything in water except sand!

    • Hahaha, four legs, that’s funny! My stomach churned at the thought of much of it, urgh!
      I love discussing British TV and movies here, so much love of a lot of it, from Dr Who to Downton Abbey. One guy told us he loved Sherlock because he liked the way they spoke 🙂