Bruised and battered I stumbled back to the bus - relieved that I could tick "Great Wall" of my to-do list! Luckily there is nothing better to cheer one up like a bit of jasmine tea and some shopping, so after our “local flavor” lunch of fried calamari, sweet and sour chicken, oily veggies, friend rice, beef, fried pork dumplings and spicy tomato soup, (I am now, more than ever, convinced that Asian figures have absolutely nothing to do with “healthy food” and it all just boils –or rather fry -down to genetics!!!!!) I bought myself a pretty owl paper cutting! For the next couple of days it would be Chinese art that Id splurge on!!! Wined and dined, we got back into our bus but now, nicely fed and tired after our two hour hike up Great Wall hill, we fell asleep, one by one! “The Jerry” must’ve thought us all babies but gently woke us when we got to the “Summer Palace” – my personal favorite spot in Beijing!!!
The Summer Palace is a 2.1 square km garden of which three quarters is covered by water due to the magnificent manmade lake in the center. Used by the emperor as a summer retreat, and later prison for an empress (lucky girl), this beautiful piece of heaven dates back to the Jin Dynasty. Surrounded by a path along the water’s edge, willow trees, pavilions, halls, palaces, temples, bridges and beautiful gardens, the lake is used today for the production of China’s prettiest freshwater pearls. This is completely understandable if you keep in mind how happy these oysters must be to life in such a beautiful place. The Summer Palace literally took my breath away and entering the gates is like entering another world. Its truly the stuff that fairytales are made of – dragon boats sailing on the mirror smooth lake, willow trees dancing in the wind, lotus plants swaying in the water and then, of course, the millions of lanterns, porcelain flower pots with their pretty blooms and beautiful antique oriental architecture. Without exaggerating, the Summer Palace was really one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been and the one regret I have about China, is that I didn’t have enough time to go back to it again. It was truly magical!!!! We took a stroll alongside the river, euphorically admiring the beauty, eating ice cream and “ooh and aaah’ed”. Then we got into one of the dragon boats and “oohed and aahed” some more. Before I wanted it to be so, it was time to go and I was so sad to say goodbye. Gill and I decided that the Summer Palace was the one place that we should go back to on our free day. Unfortunately things didn’t work out like that (we had some shopping, a rickshaw ride and tea ceremony to do) but I would really go back to China just for the Summer Palace. My description and photographs really don’t do justice to this heavenly garden!...(to be continued)