Dynasty- the new Beijing soap

Having returned from the Great Wall rather late we didn’t much feel like exploring so Jane, Enid and I just went back to Cafe 1901 for coffee and cake. Joyce meanwhile stayed in the hotel room watching Batman on the TV.
After a better nights sleep we had to be ready again at 7:30am for another packed day around the sights of Beijing.
Today we started our tour at the Summer Palace. This was the Summer residence of various emperors over the ages and was a short distance from the centre of the city. When we arrived there were rows of coaches already lined up and crowds of people waiting to go in. Most of the people are Chinese tourists of all sorts. School groups, olds groups , tiny ethnic minority groups. It was very loud and hectic and really rather unpleasant. Lots of the Chinese tourist guides speak to their groups through blaring electronic systems and unfortunately their voices sound rather aggressive and screachy.
In we went and walked around some old rooms and looked at some brass lions etc. The buildings are very splendid from the outside but nothing much to see inside. An impressive feature here is the long corridor which is in fact the longest painted corridor in the world (official Guinness book of records). It is open to the elements and runs alongside a large lake. It is 728m long and covered in 14,000 scenic paintings. I’m sure back in the days of the Emperor it was very tranquil but today it was packed with rowdy tourists. Still the views over the lake were pleasant enough.
We learned a bit about the various Dynasties (Ming, Qing, Tang, Song, Jin, Liao) and how they’d lived in this Palace. Well, the others may have done but once again I am afraid to tell you that I wasn’t listening. I think I really will have to catch up by watching The Last Emperor when I get home. There was, however, a lot of talk of the Dragon Lady who seemed quite a good character and was famous for keeping the Emperor of the time in check.
To finish our visit here we had a trip on a large Dragon Boat. This was at last a little more peaceful and we had good views back from the Kunming lake to some of the other buildings on Longevity Hill.
After our visit here we needed a coffee break so Yan said we could have one in the Forbidden City. On the drive over here we had a brief stop at a flyover where we got a view of the Olympic Park and the Birds Nest stadium. Then onto the next stop -our official Tianenmen Square visit.
This started in the Public toilets which obviously most guide books tell you to avoid. We braved it anyway and to be fair it was ok. We of course all had to queue to use the one Western style loo with a seat as opposed to the 30 squat style cubicles. The sign that said ‘no sitting’ did slightly confuse us. I imagine they just didn’t want people making themselves too comfortable in here.
Right- into the square we went and part of it was closed off today. We’d already sussed that this was something to do with the Tour of Beijing cycle race and just as we arrived the whole entourage rolled into the square. It was an impressive sight although nobody we recognised. We then walked quickly through the square without any guidance from Yan. I think she figured we’d already visited ourselves and so we could just whizz through. This suited us fine as we needed coffee and were already getting weary.
On we went under the big main road and towards the entrance which is next to the big picture of Chairman Mao. There was a lot of security around here including some very poor undercover detectives.
Once in we then proceeded to go through a series of very large gates and walls moving from the Outer Outer courtyard, to the Outer Inner Outer Courtyard, through the Inner Outer Outer courtyard…..you get the idea? Yes lots of different areas that all looked very similar. Yes this building was bigger than that building but basically….all the same! It went on Forever.
Apparently what was ‘Forbidden’ here was having a cup of coffee until you’d gone into some sort caffeine detox trance. Yan just kept us marching forwards.
Of course this made it all the less likely that I would learn anything about Emperor Ming (isn’t he a character from Flash Gordon?). Apparently there was talk of concubines and eunuchs and all sorts of goings on. In each courtyard Yan invited us to look through the windows into the various rooms. Enid wanted to get her duster out because all we could see was some rather dusty old furniture. Hm.
Eventually we arrived at the Hall of Mental Cultivation. I wasn’t really in the mood for that so it was lucky that it actually turned out to be the Hall of Coffee and Snickers bar. Hurrah… I was human once more. Jane decided to go for the slightly more dodgy option of pink sausage on a stick. Like a hot dog only tasting of Chinese Five Spice. Nasty. Joyce and Enid meanwhile marvelled at the wonders of 40p Sprite.
Fully mentally cultivated we now continued our wander. Finally coming out into the small Emperors Garden. He had a bit of a funny idea of gardening as mostly the garden was full of large volcanic rocks. There were, however, some really beautiful old trees.
This completed our tour for the day and we were dropped back at the hotel nice and early. After a bit of a breather we ventured back out to find a restaurant for the night. Now I know we’d turned up our noses at Burger King the day before but today we opted for Italian. Another of Jane’s recommendations up in the Hutongs in the HouHai area of the City. This involved a taxi ride and we began to wonder about our choice when the first 3 taxis refused to take us to this address. We think it’s just because they get paid a fix amount and this was quite a way out in the rush hour traffic. Eventually the hotel doorman found one who would take us and off we went. We got dropped off on a main street and the taxi driver waved his hand vaguely down an alley. We braved it and wandered in and this was more like the Hutongs I’d expected. It was a dark alley with mopeds and people walking around. Just a short walk along we found the quaint lights if this tiny Italian ‘Mercante’. We had a lovely meal and a couple of glasses of red and all was right with the world. It really felt like could be back in Florence. We made it safely back too which is always a bonus I find.

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Dynasty- the new Beijing soap

  1. Mike

    That’s not a corridor, it’s the world largest pergola

    • Mike, I stand corrected!! I think I’d like one in our garden.

      • Mike

        Another odd thing. You would have thought the Chairman would be able to get some better fitting headphones wouldn’t you?

  2. Laura Henderson

    Jane’s hair looks fabadabadoozie

  3. Amanda

    Brilliant pictures and excellent commentary – I’m amazed you’re allowed to write some of that…… But expect the authorities will ensure you aren’t allowed to export your decadent opinions back to the West and will stop you at the airport. Xx

    • Oh dear….I have found that I can access WordPress via the App but not through normal Internet. Wait til I really express some opinions!

  4. Enjoying your commentary and the pictures 🙂

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