China Trip Day Four – The Summer Palace

Since this was our last day visiting Beijing we decided to order the room service breakfast rather than picking up a quick pastry from the bakery downstairs. We only had to order one breakfast since the offering was so huge. We both found items that we could eat in the spread of Danish Pastries, eggs, bacon, yogurt, fruit and more. That would hold us for a while because we were headed to the Summer Palace and we weren’t sure if we were going to have too much time to eat along the way.

Art and I checked out of our hotel and stored our bags there so we could pick them up on the way back to the airport later in the day. We decided to take a taxi since we were unsure how to navigate the subway and it was a Sunday so traffic wouldn’t be too bad. And, it wasn’t. But, this was going to be a hot, humid and hazy day in Beijing and the Summer Palace is a popular spot on the weekends. Located along the banks of a lake with steep hillsides and palace buildings perched along the shoreline, the place was teeming with foreign tourists and native Chinese alike.

Pagoda at Summer Palace

Lake at Summer Palace

Unlike the pay as you go approach at the Forbidden City, you can opt to pay for the extra fees for special exhibits at the entrance and your ticket is punched every time you visit a particular exhibit or building. The Dragon Boats cruising across the lake were a popular option but we decided to focus on the buildings and exhibits since we did have to get to our flight in time.

We picked up a beautiful map that helped us somewhat but this was a big park and it was easy to get lost. And, although we did visit most of the exhibits on our ticket I think we only scratched the surface of this huge expanse.

Although the Summer Palace expanse was just as crowded as the Forbidden City was the day before the atmosphere was a little more relaxed.  Less pushing and shoving to things and an interesting assortment of food and snack vendors dotted along the pathways of the park.  Cucumber on a stick seemed to be a popular item along with occasional ice pop along the way.  We were still full from breakfast so we just watched other people eating. 

Dragon Boat

The exhibits here also seemed to be a little better organized and better kept than the ones located at the Forbidden City.   Overall, we had a wonderful time walking along the lake and checking out the buildings along the way.

Unfortunately, our taxi ride back to the hotel was less pleasant.  We were essentially scammed into getting a higher priced cab with a meter that was rigged to turnover the meter at a much higher rate than the normal taxi – so the ride back cost double the normal fare.  Of course, the driver didn’t point out the difference in the taxi (claiming we were in a luxury cab with leather seats and air conditioning) until we were well on our way in the middle of the highway in a part of the city we weren’t familiar with.  The seats were not leather (more like textured vinyl) and our previous cab had air conditioning so that wasn’t anything special.  When he decided to drop us off a block away from our hotel I pointed out that it was because he was probably too ashamed to drop us in front.  My father was a cabbie in NYC in the ’60s so I was quick to point out that what he was doing was not something a cabbie with ethics would do.  He didn’t argue when we didn’t pay him the full fare.  This was really the only negative experience we had with scamming in China so we weren’t going to let this episode ruin our trip.

The rest of our day would be taken up getting to the airport, getting through security (not much worse than the US domestic experience) and waiting for a delayed flight.  The flight delay was due to the weather so we just checked out our e-mail and ate at a Chinese diner type place in the terminal.  I’ve been asked several times if flying in China using Chinese airlines was safe and it certainly didn’t seem any less safe than some of the trips I’ve taken in the US.  But we flew on Air China (a free flight using United Miles), which is a large airline on a larger plane so the experience was no less comfortable than normal.
Our next stop was Shanghai in the pouring rain.  A different city with a different vibe than Beijing. 

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