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by Kelly Kasic

If you’re headed to Beijing, this enchanting palace is a must see

 

There are many cultural sites that make Beijing a vacation destination; the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Linggu Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, the Temple of Heaven, and Tiananmen Square to name a few. I traveled to all of these sites, but none of them impressed me as much as the Summer Palace. Don’t get me wrong, the Great Wall is certainly impressive and not to be missed, but after about an hour of walking you still are looking at a lot of bricks.

The Summer Palace is located about 9 miles northwest from the heart of Beijing. This imperial palace sits atop a lush, green hill overlooking the large, blue Kunming Lake.  Originally built in 1153 under the Jin Dynasty, the palace received its name in 1888 when Empress Dowager Cixi used silver to repair and restore it. Walking through the palace you are instantly taken back in time.

In order to tour the Summer Palace, you must climb several small stairs that wind and cut through large boulders – but this cultural tour is not dangerous nor is it strenuous (there were even women performing Tai-Chi in a stone courtyard midway up the hill).  When you reach the top there is a breathtaking, nearly panoramic view of the Lake and the land.  But the tour doesn’t stop there.

Next you must walk through the vibrantly painted rooms and halls, past the towering pagoda, to the lakeshore.  There you will take a dragon-shaped boat across the Lake to an island. The neatly manicured island is attached to the 17-Arch Bridge. Cross over this magnificent bridge to a vendor-lined, cobblestone street.  Make sure to enjoy an ice cream treat before riding another dragon boat back to the entrance of the remarkable Summer Palace. You will want to have an empty memory card to take several pictures of this brightly painted Palace set atop a hill.

 

In the Know

Here are some Beijing travel tips that only an insider can provide

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Whether traveling to China for business or pleasure, it is helpful to know what to expect when you hit the ground. Starbucks is the first thing that you will see upon leaving Customs in Beijing.  This capital city is growing and updating rapidly; construction cranes decorate the horizon. Yet, red and pink roses beautify street medians, while trees line the immaculate sidewalks. The skies are clear and blue as the government has stepped up pollution control tactics.

As I traveled from one cultural icon to the next (don’t miss the Great Wall), I had no problem locating a good restaurant. While I preferred to avoid the ‘bat on a stick’ (seriously), I did make my way into several local restaurants. Many offer pictures or English on their menus, but for those that didn’t, communication was not too difficult and I was always able to order a delicious meal – often for less than eight dollars.  For those visitors that must have “American Food” while traveling abroad – McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Starbucks are everywhere.

The people of Beijing were very friendly, curious, and polite.  The taxis, however, were not – be careful as you walk down the street, taxis do not always obey road rules. All in all, Beijing is an exciting city that can accommodate nearly anyone.