Friday, February 21, 2014

My new found peace at Beijing’s Summer Palace

Spending summer at Beijing was just really exhausting, the humidity and the lack of trees to give you shade from the scorching heat was enough to make me feel beat all day. After going around The Forbidden City, I just found out the best place to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon – The Summer Palace.

Beijing Summer Palace
My welcoming view at The Summer Palace

Summer Palace (颐和园 Yíhéyuán), located at Haidian District of Beijing, is considered as the largest royal park in China that consists of vast collection of gardens, pavilions, temples, and lakes that covers a wide span of 2.9 square kilometers, most of which is dominated by Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. It has also garnered a spot at UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1998 noting its remarkable landscape design.

Constructed during 1750 and was originally named Qingyi Garden, it was built to serve as luxurious rest house for the royal family but was largely destroyed during the war. It was restored later in 1886 and was then renamed as the Summer Palace. The area is divided into four areas: Court Area, Front Hill Area, Rear Hill Area and Lake Area and is mainly composed of Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. It is said to contain over 3,000 structures such as temples, pavilions, bridges, and the likes.

Summer Palace
Suzhou Street, named after the famous province of China, Suzhou

I was glad that it was quite a long metro ride to Beigongmen station, the nearest exit point going to the palace. I was just happy to stay in place where there was AC. I noticed that the atmosphere around Haidian District was more down-to-earth as soon as I exited the station. Locals were exchanging smiles and happy conversations, which was a first during my stay in Beijing – it made me feel like something good was on my way. Even though my student ID didn’t work (I paid full price for the ticket), i just shrugged it off and didn’t decide to fight for the discount. I was just so excited to be around nature again, I was mostly visiting man-made sites during my 12-day trip and this visit to Summer Palace was the break I needed.

suzhou Summer Palace

As soon as I made my way to the entrance, my feet took me to Suzhou Street. I actually had no idea on what to see there since I forgot to ask for some map or information pamphlets. This strip was built recreating a famous market street in a province in China called Suzhou. The purpose of the area was to serve as entertainment to the imperial family who were forbidden go out of the palaces and experience ordinary life. Eunuchs and servants would play the part of shop assistants and locals while the Emperor observes the scene.

I actually took my time in here because I absolutely loved the place, I think I stayed here for an hour or so, just sitting idly and doing nothing. The place and was so serene and the lake was just calming to the eyes. To add to that, a Chinese musician was playing traditional flute music which just emphasized its relaxing vibe.  Most of the shops were not open but the architecture was nice to look at. It really looked like some quaint water village. What I saw here made me excited on what to see in Suzhou that was included in my itinerary on my next trip to China.

china Summer Palace

Summer Palace is a big complex, I actually had no idea where to go afterwards. There would be signs pointing to some interest areas but no description on what to see and still no maps! I used my best strategy: to follow where most of the locals go.

Little did I know I was soon headed for the Scenic area of pictures of weaving and farming lake, the walk going there was nice that I didn’t notice I was walking towards this pretty lake that has similar causeway with West Lake of Hangzhou.

My visit here got me thinking and resting again since sure enough, the tall trees were enough to give shade. It would have been perfect for a picnic, if only I had food with me, good thing I had the next best thing, music courtesy of my mp3 player. The area was almost deserted which made it the perfect spot ponder lonely thoughts. :(

lake Summer Palace
so calming, made me want to just stay there all day
nature beijing
some scenic views of Kunming Lake

Afraid I might finally doze off, I got my butt off and started walking again without any direction where to. Busy trails from locals led me to Sumeru Tibetan Temple. The area piqued my interest as it was my first time to actually see Tibetan architecture which was a breath of fresh air. I noticed that it was different to Chinese/Japanese/Korean temple design and the use of colors mainly focused on red, white and green. It would have been probably nice to explore more but we were prohibited to enter some areas.

china tibet temple
Sumeru Tibetan Complex
Sumeru Tibetan Complex
interesting landscaping
Sumeru Tibetan temple
red and white colors is the striking part of the design
Summer palace Tibetan temple

My last stop was at Tower of Fragrance of Buddha which was also located along the Lake area. I was reminded of my stay at Lei Feng Pagoda of Hangzhou, which had a similar effect overlooking West Lake, while this tower provides a grand view of Kunming Lake. Unfortunately, all my batteries ran out so I wasn’t able to take any shot of the sun setting but it was one of the most wonderful views I’ve had of Beijing. I later read that Kunming Lake was actually man made - dug by human hand! Yikes! It was really remarkable to think how much effort was put in to make sure the royalties have some entertainment!

Tower of Fragrance of Buddha beijing
Tower of Fragrance of Buddha

There are actually different paths you could take exploring Summer Palace, but everywhere is just full of gorgeous gardens and lakes, elaborately decorated temples and pagodas. I hoped I could have spent a whole day here, it would be fun to just wander off and relax while enjoying the beautiful view which you can get almost anywhere around the complex. Summer Palace and Great Wall are two of Beijing's tourist spots that make me want to go to China again. I really do hope to come back during autumn or winter next time.

nature china
here's me, off to Dreamland. zzzzz

How to go to Summer Palace:
Take metro and alight at Beigongmen Station, walk for around 5-10 minutes and you will reach Summer Palace’s North Gate.

Day 1: Datong City Tour

Day 2: Datong Yungang Grottoes

Hanging Monastery

Day 3: Pingyao City Tour

Day 4: Pingyao City Tour and Attractions

Day 5: Pingyao Architecture/Art

Day 6: Xi'An City Tour

Day 7: Xi'An Yangling Mausoleum

Day 8: Xi'An Terracotta Army

Day 9: Beijing Qianmen Street/798 Art District

Day 10: Beijing Nanluoguxiang/

Forbidden City

Day 11: Beijing Summer Palace

Day 12: Beijing Great Wall

Railway Train Experience Standing, Hard Seats, Sleepers

12 Day Trip Itinerary & Budget

More of China here

1 comment :

  1. I only had a short time here during my visit. I hope to come back and explore it further. Nice photos.


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