Published: July 1st 2010July 1st 2010
View from halfway up the hill.
Day 66 - Summer Palace
Finally the weather was bright and sunny (but not clear by any means!) so we hit the Summer Palace. This is basically the former residence of the Emperors and is some Palace. Is it just outside Beijing (maybe 20kms) and one of the main sights that had been recommended to us, also nice to get out of Beijing for a bit.
The Palace itself covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is the lake.
Entry here was not to expensive, like equivilent to about £6 each and it is a BIG place so one can easily spend a day here.
To get to the lakes of the Palace you need to do some serious climbing, up stairs, rocks and paths and in the heat it was not easy. It probably took us about 20 minutes to get to the highest point on Longevity hill (about 60 metres up). Unfortunately the visibility was still not amazing but still good views. We then headed down the other side which is basically a huge lake which you can walk around. We spent most of the time looking for areas of shade and
drinking water as was just so hot. Some of the sights worth seeing are Long Corridor which runs the length of the lake, the Marble boat and the Tower at the top of the hill.
Managed to get back to the Forbidden City late in the evening to take some night shots as it just looks stunning in twilight. Chinese people I have also found are very curious and NOT shy, I took one or 2 pictures and before I knew it I was surrounded by Chinese people taking interest in my pictures! Bit uncomfortable at first but then showed them the pics and they were most friendly. Headed back to the Hostel and then watched the Kiwis draw with Italy, bit of a result!
Day 67 - Great Wall
So for our final day in Beijing we probably had the best weather of the whole week. Looking like about 34 degrees and clear blue skies so perfect for the wall. We decided against doing the wall independently (though it is probably 50% cheaper this way) and took a tour from the hostel. This way you get a decent aircon bus, guide and breakfast and lunch so
probably worth the extra money. The only winge we had with the tour for some reason they only spend 3 hours on the wall, where is we would have definately stayed longer if on our own. There are several different sections of the wall you can visit and we went for the Mutianyu part, less touristic, further from the City (maybe 70kms) and in pretty good condition, so the walking was supposed to be pretty easy without need to scrambling on hands and knees! As this was the northernmost barrier it served as a defence against the capital and the imperial tombs. Mutianyu Great Wall is older than the Badaling section of the Great Wall and Badaling is definitely more touristy. I also read Mutianyu is the best quality among all sections of Great Wall so I was ready to check it out!
Also what you can do if you want to save your energy is take the chairlift up to the top of the wall, and take the tobogen down. We both felt it was cheating (plus was expensive tour already) so out of the whole group we were the only ones who walked up and down but
Summer Palace bridges
Views from one of the many high bridges
comon it is the Great Wall you have to walk it!! The walk up was not to bad like 20 minutes and under shady trees but the first real glimpse of the wall made it all the more worthwhile. We could see some 10 watchtowers along the wall and some seriously steep stairs from watchtowers numbers 6 - 1. We decided to tackle this first then try to come all way back to the 21st watchtower which is the entire section of this part of the wall. Still this would be a good 4-6km hike up and down and less than 3 hours to do it meant we were in a hurry! Ania was not best pleased as I pushed her further and further without much remorse. The watchtowers 6 - 1 are also all different styles where the others were all the same so this was definitely the more interesting section.
The steps going down over the hills and up were horrendously steep and one section of it almost felt like you were climbing a ladder it was so steep (be wary if you get Vertigo!). Probably a bit of an exaggeration but check the pictures. After a lot
Runs the length of the lake at SP.
of huffing and puffing we finally made it to Watchtower 1 and there was some view here. It really is a rugged landscape and beautiful and made me wonder how those Mongols got through these defences, the land was also covered with trees and the wall itself was some 7-8 metres high. Also the watchtowers were put in strategic locations so they could view the land for threats, when the Chinese saw an attack from the distance they could easily use smoke to alert pretty much the entire section of the wall very quickly.
From Watchtower 1 there is a off the beaten track path to a part of the wall not yet open to Tourists so I gave this a shot and walked to the next watchtower. Amazing views from here and could see many different sections of the wall from this point, just stunning. Ania did not brave this section, probably wise but again this was recommended to us by people coming down. (even though it is closed to tourists)
After this section we headed back towards Watchtower 6, this took us a good 20-30 minutes to get back to basically to where we started. We
The old market where only the Emperor (and friends!) were able to shop.
then had about hour and half to go to as far towards WT 21 and come back to WT 6 to walk down. Pretty tall ask and I was begining to think perhaps I was not being quite realistic about it. Anyway we managed to get to WT 14 and decided to finally call it a day and headed back. Still we saw a good 75% of this section of the wall and would fully recommend this and meant to be a lot better than Badaling, anyone has any experience of this part?
Had the buffet lunch which was like 9 different chinese dishes, had some fantastic sweet and sour but that got snapped up pretty quickly so one had to act fast. Then headed back to Beijing, it was so hot by this time (2pm or so) and glad to have the AC bus. Did not do too much in the evening as had our train to Hong Kong leaving tomorrow afternoon so time to shop for supplies :)
There are more photos below