The Summer Palace itself was absolutely beautiful. I wouldn't rank it as high as the Great Wall but it was a highlight of the trip. We were still pretty energetic and not beaten down by the crowds or sickness this early in the trip either so we had a very pleasant day.
The more animals on the roof the more important the building is.
A shopping street so the royals could see what it was like to be a commoner...kinda.
These two little girls were adorable with their princess headgear.
One of several temples in the palace.
For 10 yuan (about $1.50) I dressed up as a royal princess.
Sunday our plan was to take our bags to the train station and put them in lockers and then go to the Forbidden City. Then head back to the train station to catch our overnight train to Xi'an. We had scoped out the route and where the lockers were our second night in Beijing. This was a perfect plan on paper. But in reality we were at the wrong train station. Beijing has six million different train stations apparently and we were supposed to be at West not at Central.
Thank God I can read some Japanese because the girl trying to explain we were at the wrong station could only say, "Not here." So we hopped in another taxi and got to the right station. Where after a little trouble and finally some help from a very cute attendant we were able to get our things in a locker. Then we tried to look for the non-existent subway station that is on the map but hasn't been built yet. Completely frustrating! Throughout the entire trip the train stations were crazy - packed to the rafters with people inside and outside. A lot of them were from the countryside and they carried these large sacks of who knows what (we never did figure out what was in them) and they stared at us like they had never seen a white person before (which they probably hadn't.)
Now I'm used to be stared at in Japan. People stare and tell me I'm beautiful and I have a high nose. My tactic here is to either stare back or to say hello. This usually gets me an embarrassed hello back and the staring stops. In China they wouldn't stop! Even after I said hello and stared back. I was having staring contests with strange Chinese men who weren't just looking at my face but undressing me with their eyes. It was soooo uncomfortable.
So after losing several staring contests and wanting to punch someone or something we finally figured that we needed to take a taxi back to Tienanmen and where to catch that taxi. We get to the Forbidden City and it too is absolutely packed to the gills. It was a Sunday after all and it felt like everyone in Beijing had decided to see the Forbidden City that day. So already tired, frustrated, and striking out on all aspects of our plan we abandoned it and caught the subway to the Pearl Market where some coffee and a little retail therapy perked me up. (Dad had tried en route but I warned him that any comfort he tried to offer would just make me turn my frustration at the situation onto him. Maybe this is why I travel better alone?)
We had a card for a pearl retailer named Kathy from our friends back in the States and she offered us rock bottom prices. I bought birthday presents for my sisters, several necklaces for myself, earrings, and talked my mom into getting me a beautiful string of pearls for my birthday. It was a relief not to have to bargain and I only ended spending $60 for a huge haul. The market had more than just pearls and I also bought a jade stamp with my name carved in English and Chinese, some Diesel shoes, and some new ear buds.
Then we headed over to the Temple of Heaven park to relax before heading back to the train station (Beijing West!) The park was beautiful and also packed with people. There was a large group of people dancing. A choir performed and local people wandered up and joined in. Groups of young and old were playing hackey sack. I saw about 20 different cards games going on and several people had brought karaoke machines and were performing. We watched all of the activity for awhile and then found a quiet spot to relax for a little bit.
Then we caught another taxi back to the train station where we were frustrated again trying to find a place to sit down. It took us awhile to figure out that our first class tickets gained us admission to the soft seating waiting hall but once installed there we comfortably waited for our sleeper train. Then it was off to Xi'an!
Next up: Terracotta Warriors, Muslim Quarter, and the Bell Tower.