We will be in Beijing for 2 days only, as Jeff needs to return to work in Mexico. We did spend 5 days in Beijing in 2009, loved it, and had hoped to spend more time here. We are staying at the Paragon Hotel just across the street from the Beijing Railway station. We have a room on the 7th floor overlooking the plaza in front of the station, which always seems to be packed with hundreds of people. The hotel is quite nice and sits above the Henderson Shopping Mall.
We decide to walk around the Shopping area of Beijing which is nearby on Wanfujing St just off East Chang’An where we are staying. It’s late Sunday afternoon and the streets are quite busy.
Within a few minutes, two young Chinese girls approach Jeff and I, and ask if we would like to have Tea with them. We say ‘no thanks’ and they let us move on but continue the sales pitch. Nearby, the vendors at the Dongamen night market are already open for business and the food looks very good.
As we are flying home soon, we play it safe and eat at a restaurant in the Oriental Shopping Plaza.
As we are returning to the hotel later that evening, we cross under Chang’An Ave and notice a man laying on the concrete having an epileptic seizure. A suitcase is laying next to him and he appears to be going to the train station. It is crowded in the tunnel but everyone seems to ignore this and walk by. We go to the tunnel entrance, find a policeman and take him to the person having a seizure. But a medical team has already arrived, so someone else must have handled it.
Monday May 16
We slept in today, which for us means we got up at 0730. Our plan for today is to visit the Summer Palace, and then walk through the Hutongs in central Beijing. The Metro in Beijing is one of the world’s best and very easy to use. For less than a dollar USD, we travel 45 minutes using lines 1 and 4 to get to the stop at XiYuan. We then walk for about 20 minutes and arrive at the East gate where we pay a fee of 60 Yuan($9) each to enter.
A little bit about the history of the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was used by the Emperor of China to escape the summer heat of the Forbidden City, his primary residence which is also known as the Winter Palace. It was built in the 18th century but was completely destroyed in 1860 by the British and French during the second Opium War, who were retaliating for the brutal execution of several British hostages. The original Summer Palace known as Yuan Ming Yuan, is mostly a couple miles east of the rebuilt Summer Palace. The current Summer Palace, known as Yihe Yuan, was re-built by the Guangxu Emperor, the Dowager Empress Cixi’s nephew, just to the west of the old one. It is said that the emperor built it as a retirement home for the Dowager Empress Cixi, as a way to keep her removed from the business of the The Court. The current Summer Palace was also damaged by the Allied Forces, including American forces, during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
The walkway near the Heralding Spring Pavilion leads to the Hall of Jade Ripples which was the Emperor’s residence. In 1898, the young Guangxu Emperor was placed under house arrest here by his Aunt, the Dowager Empress(Cixi), for a good portion of his reign. His liberal ideas and reforms did not sit well with the Dowager Empress and the Manchu Court. In addition, the young emperor tried to bribe the leader of the army to assassinate the Empress.
There is more than just history and architecture at the Summer Palace. This guy got in trouble for checking out the young Chinese shoujay walking by.
We walk a little further and come upon the Long Corridor, a magnificent covered walkway that leads to the Gate of Dispelling Clouds on Kunming Lake.
This leads to hundreds of steps through more temples and royal homes as we climb Longevity Hill. The Empress celebrated her many birthdays in this area.
After leaving the North Gate of the Summer Palace, we catch the nearest Metro and follow it to Xizhimen where we exit and start our own hutong tour.
Next: Beijing Hutong Walk