Went to the Summer palace today… It’s about 12 km North-West of the centre. Took an audio tour round the grounds. It’s huge and about 2/3 is water. It was used by the Emporers to escape the heat of the Forbidden City in the summer. It is famous for being the residence of the Emporess Cixi who seemed to be very powerful in her day and often challenged the power of the Emporer.
The main part of the palace was closed for renovations, probably in preparation for the Beijing Olympics 2008 (for which practicallythe whole city is in preparation for!)
The lakes are massive and because it was winter they were frozen. Amazing! Such an expanse of solid ice. There were scores of people on the lakes despite the signs. I think it must have been about a foot thick and although I thought I heard one or two cracks (mind-tricks, I’m sure), it was a fantastic sensationto walk on it. I’ve never been on a frozen lake before!
A stroll on the ice
Slow boat to nowhere
On the way back in, I went to the Lama Temple. It’s the largest Tibetan Buddhist Temple outside of Tibet, which I thought was a little strange that it survived the Cultural Revolution when so much in Tibet was destroyed.
It’s a huge complex with a 9m high golden Buddha in the main hall. There were hundreds of people there offering incence to all the different Buddhas. It was nice to see it as a working temple instead of a dead museum. There were several monks walking round in their fine plain robes, pretty unaffected by the whole affair.
Also went to a vegetarian restaurant where all the dishes are named after their meaty counterparts but made with soy and tofu. Nice.