My colleague in the China office had arranged a driver for us to use in the morning so we took advantage to head to a spot farther out, the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was much bigger than I expected – Ernie had told us it would take about an hour to walk around the lake, but upon arrival we encountered a lake the size of Lake Union, not Greenlake. With only a couple hours to spend we meandered up the hill towards the Buddhist temples which provided a great view of the expansive retreat, despite the thick omnipresent haze around Beijing.
We walked down the steep stairs towards the lake in search of a giant marble boat we had read about in the guide book – unfortunately it was covered in scaffolding and tarps for remodeling. Disappointed we hopped on a Dragonboat to take us across the lake to a Bronze Ox statue Mar wanted to check out since she was born in that year.
We walked over the 17-arch bridge and around the lake a bit more before heading back out to our driver who we only had until 2:00pm. The Summer Palace is amazing and I totally recommend it – you could easily spend all day there wandering around the lake and gardens.
Our next planned stop for the day was the Forbidden City but first we needed some lunch. Our driver dropped us near the “egg” (aka the Opera House), and we walked around it over to Qiamen, an ancient stretch that connects the Forbidden City with the Temple of Heaven now a busy shopping stretch with lots of restaurants. We popped into a small dumpling shop (surprise!) that had actually been around for hundreds of years – the emperor used to stop here on his way to the Temple. Seriously.
After some lunch we walked past Mao’s mausoleum through Tiananmen Square, As we were standing at the national flag, a lady actually jumped the rope and rushed towards the flag, dropping her bag and shouting something we couldn’t understand. Six guards quickly descended upon her, moved her into a paddywagon and drove her away as her companion picked up her bag. Unexpected excitement and bewilderment about what will happen to her.
We walked through to the Forbidden City but it was almost 5:00pm when it closes, so we needed to recalculate. We decided to hop in a cab over to the Adidas store where EC wanted to shop but that was easier said than done. There were virtually no cabs in this area and the ones we did see were already full.
After trying for awhile we eventually hiked over to the Metro and hopped on, during rush hour. It was packed but it got us there – it was pretty surreal to transfer at a large station in a large city at rush hour, moving through the tunnels and gates with the amoeba to get from train to train.
After this unexpected hour of busy transit we were ready to to sit and take a break – luckily a recommended bar was nearby, Apothecary and it was happy hour!
Refreshed, we wandered through the fancy shopping area and met up with Ernie at Adidas where EC bought some new sneakers. For dinner we took a break from local cuisine and ate outside at Lets Burger where I had fish & chips. As much as I love dumplings, it was nice to take a break.