My dad often met up with a calligrapher on holiday. He passed him on the way to and from a small convenience store*. I didn’t get the chance to have a chat with him, unfortunately. However, my dad passed on a few tidbits of their conversations from time to time.
What I liked best were along the lines of…
Calligrapher: Why don’t you come in?
Dad: I can’t. I have to go to the shop. I don’t have any money to spend here.
Calligrapher: Ah. Your wife, huh?
Calligrapher: You know why they don’t give us any money?
Calligrapher: They keep all the money so their husbands don’t go and find new wives.
I also liked…
Dad: My wife, daughter and I are going to the Summer Palace soon.
Calligrapher: Did you know, the emperor gave his wife a lot of money to go and build a navy. She built the Summer Palace instead.
Those aren’t transcripts of the actual conversations that they had. Please don’t take them to be.
Sufficed to say, mum, dad and I liked hearing about dad’s conversations with the guy. We got a good laugh out of them. The one about the Summer Palace particularly amused us. How like a woman to splurge on a fancy holiday home instead of military re-inforcements. I can see why, of course, Běijīng is so far from the sea and all. However, you know, the Sino-Japanese War…
The Summer Palace is my favourite tourist-y thing that we did while in Běijīng. Sure, it was boiling and we were melting and there were tons of steep steps, but it was the best. It was by far the best.
We arrived at approximately quarter to, or quarter past, three at the North Gate after travelling via subway. When we arrived we were surprised, and more than a little disappointed, to learn that we were a quarter of an hour late for the ‘full entry’ ticket. So make sure you get there before half two. I do believe that they stop selling tickets entirely past four. I believe that it closes either half an hour or an hour later.
Remember, when a place is closing, it is closing.
We didn’t go far in the Summer Palace. Mostly because my family and I are not at all what you would think of when the word ‘fit’ comes to mind. Also, it was over thirty degrees, it was humid, it was blasting its heat down onto the concrete of the streets, we were still incredibly jet-lagged and in Scotland people are out and about in shorts and crop tops and sweating like mad at fifteen degrees (maybe less).
However, there was this beautiful, beautiful little waterside area. I adored it. You will adore it too.
Let’s go back a bit first.
Once you have your tickets you pass under an archway and out onto the other side. You have a bit of manoeuvring to do here. The lookie-lookie men are on the prowl, but you should be on safe ground. Incidentally, this is the view from what I’ve deemed the Bridge of Inviolability. That is the view to the right.
This is the view to the left.
Most of the little rooms have been turned into shops. You can get a lot of tourist-y stuff from there. I got a decorative hair pin that I don’t know how to put in… There are some restaurants too if you get hungry.
We spent a lot of time down there. It was much nicer, and cooler, than hiking up and down and around the buildings. As beautiful as they are, we were still far too unfit and far too exhausted. My fear of heights may have been a factor as well…
It’s hard to see, but the sky was blue with puffy white clouds. The air was also quite nice. The pollution, much like the smog, is mostly in the Greater Běijīng area.
Down by the water there were a few of the little shops dedicated to serving drinks. We stopped in at a lady’s shop and she let us sit down and relax in there with her as we drank. There was a fan on. It was so nice and so cool!
Also, don’t be like my dad. Don’t be fooled by what’s on display. They are for display only. There are lovely ice cold bottles of beautifully fizzy drinks. Dad and I had a fizzy orange drink and mum had something like Sprite… Actually, it was probably was Sprite… Or not. I really can’t recall.
As we sat in her little shop we just drank, cooled and enjoyed the views…
(I was actually sitting with my back in this direction, but I don’t have any photographs facing the other way…)
If I had to really push for you to visit something I would say the Summer Palace. It would be entirely for the waterside. I can tell you about the quaint little souvenir places, or where I bought my traditional Chinese flute (which I’m sure is a Xiāo), or the dress-up Manchu clothes photography sets – but it was cool. That was amazing. There was literally nowhere else that we went that offered us the coolness and the tranquility and the beauty of that setting.
Though… The one thing that I would say is to be careful where you put your feet.
That’s my only ‘complaint’! It’s fantastic!
So, go and enjoy it. And take photographs too!
Just Inside the Entrance
The Bridge Area
On Longevity Hill
(Nearest the North Gate)
*A supermarket is a store that sells more than one type of item.