About the only thing Amy and I had on tap today was the Summer Palace. For this, we took three subways and a (decent) taxi to the location. Total cost: about 30 yuan, and about 30 minutes. The palace entrance was crowed with about half the population of Beijing, it seemed. High for a weekday, but we soon realized why...
There’ve been storms here the last few days. Big ones. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a long time. The rains, it seems, have washed away the all the haze and pollution that’s been hovering around the area for the last few days. (We should have gone to the Wall today, but c’est la vie.) This made The Summer Palace near perfect for visiting today. It wasn’t too hot, there was a great breeze (almost to the point of calling it "windy") and the sky was actually blue (instead of the usual white with a blue tinge).
The Summer Palace was meant as a place for the royal family to escape the heat of the Forbidden City. It’s not hard to imagine why — all the walls there must prevent a good airflow. Out at the Summer Palace — easily three or four times the overall size — wind blows very easily. I’m almost surprised that the Forbidden City wasn’t just abandoned in favour of the Summer Palace. But that’s royalty for you...
We wandered all the way around the main lake, a distance of about five kilometres or so. The willow trees drifted in the wind, the clouds scattered the shadows about. Children played at the water’s edge while countless tourists and locals tried to escape the inevitable heat of the day. It’s a park now, with a bit of museum thrown in for flavour. It’s 35 yuan (about CDN$6) and worth every penny of admission.
After our ripoff cab ride, we went in search of dinner. The goal: Peking (Beijing) Duck. I’d had it before at Silver Dragon in Calgary, but Amy had never tried it before. We ended up at the same restaurant where we’d ate lunch about eight hours before, having ordered two places of potstickers that were easily three times the size of any I’d ever seen before (and boy, oh boy, were they good!). The place is down a back alley, on the second floor of an area that sells pretty much any food you can think of. The restaurant looks like an old community hall from Small Town Canada, and is sparsely decorated. That’s because the attention is put into the food.
The kung pow chicken was spicy, but tasty. The boiling wok of whatnot (mostly chicken, chilies, and celery) was yummy. The duck, which arrived 45 minutes after ordering, was great. You know you’re in a good place to order Peking Duck when it meets the following criteria:
- It’s not advertised outside the restaurant.
- The restaurant doesn’t have the word “duck” written anywhere in it’s name, especially in English.
- You see the locals ordering it.
I currently bear the battle scars of grease on my shorts. It’s a sign that the meal was good. My stomach might forgive me tomorrow. I doubt I’ll eat for a day or so, though…