On Leo's suggestion, we opted to have a look at the Summer Palace, rather than the Ming Tombs, because he felt it would be more interesting for the kids. So Ken, our driver, set a course down to the Summer Palace. We really had no idea what it was before we got there. We had no idea that it covered 2.9 square kilometres. We were sort of aware that it was the summer-home of the royal family back a ways (1750 onward).
Once we paid our entrance fee, we saw more Jade Rock, which was quite pretty.
We saw some more pretty buildings and some magnolias that were just starting to come into flower:
I had an idea that there was supposed to be some kind of water feature. I mean, who goes to the Summer Palace with absolutely no clue? Um. Me! Anyway, we found water...
Oh seriously - there was WATER!!!!
The water was Kunming Lake - 2.2 square kilometres (0.85 sq miles) of man-made lake! Overlooking this immense inland ocean, was recently restored windows, each with a unique painting looking out over the water:
Then we spotted Longevity Hill - the spoil that was excavated to make the Lake was piled up and created this man-made hill. What else are you going to do but put a big Temple of Buddhist Virtue on top?
The amount of detail in all the buildings is just mind-blowing. They spent millions restoring it before it was listed on the World Heritage List in 1998.
If you're jealous of our travels, perhaps I ought to tell you we often skip lunch. We had quite a few of those sesame snacks we bought in Shanghai in the cab-ride from the Wall to the Palace. So, it was not surprising we were still hungry. Hubby had generously "allowed" me to have some Yuan, so when I spotted ice-cream for sale, I made a bee-line. I had green-tea and some kind of berry. Unfortunately, I made the rookie error of too strong licking and lost my berry scoop. I contemplated for half a second if the 5-second rule applied to ice-cream...
It was early spring. Signs of life were in the air, and it was the start of the "busy" season. So it was appropriate that we came across Heralding Spring Pavillion:
...and some other big building...
Panda Girl was also a tourist attraction in her own right (I say it's the hats):
We spotted paddle boats on the lake. Well, you just have to, don't you? Except we walked down and paid for a motor boat. Oh well, we had done lots of walking! We let the kids have a go:
|Note to self - Panda Girl will need lots of driving lessons...|
|Video Boy on the other hand has thankfully gained some skills out of Mario Cart.|
|17 Arch Bridge - which arch will we pick to go under?|
|Ferry, Summer Palace-style|
It was such a stunning afternoon. Not warm, as such, but not freezing and the most ethereal light (probably enhanced by Beijing pollution, but whatevs). If you can avoid the tour groups, it was totes amaze-balls (that's for you, Deb):
And so it was off the carpark to find Ken waiting where we left him - "OK!" Were we finished? Oh no, we were not! Stay tuned for the next instalment of our Big Day Out in Beijing...