Would you rather live in a castle by the sea or a castle by a lake? I always thought I would want to live in a castle by the sea however, upon visiting the Summer Palace in Beijing I am thinking to changing my dream to a castle by a lake. The Summer Palace in Chinese is translated to Gardens of Nurtured Harmony and it could not be given a more perfect name. The summer palace is located in the far northwest of Beijing and it was well worth the taxi ride across town and the 30rmb entrance fee.  It is one of the most popular China travel destinations so be ready to fight for photos in some areas. But don’t let other tourist scare you off the summer palace is huge covering 2.9 kilometers of mountainous terrain that is mostly man made! So there is plenty of room to just hang out and enjoy the beauty of this place considering how natural it looks. Or if you are like me there is plenty of room to run around and climb up the hills, rocks and maybe one or two of the buildings for candid photos. It is one of the longest Beijing tours though so bring walking shoes, I had flip flips and I am regretting it today after the hundreds of stair I ended up treading upon. I am told by my friends that the walk we did at the summer palace is second in line to the Great Wall, if that is any indication of how large this park is.

Thankfully the summer palace is next to Kunming Lake which is a refreshing place to take a boat ride or just hang out and eat some ice cream by the water. On the tallest hill by the Temple of Buddhist Virtues is also a great place to take a break and stare out at the city of Beijing. You can even get ice-cream here, don’t ask me how the vendors get it up I could barley carry myself up this steep hill. And if you like art there are also artists at the top of this hill who will draw out your name on paper for 10rmb. The artists are my favorite because they know a bit of English and like to make jokes. For example I said to the one who drew my friends name “This is very beautiful”. She quickly replied “No bamboo E is strength not beautiful, O is Mickey Mouse means money this is beautiful”.  The people you will meet here and the beauty of this hidden palace is well worth the trip but don’t do it right after your Beijing flights land in the afternoon because it is a day trip in itself. Oh and if possible bring extra batteries there are so many photos to take my camera ran out 4 hours in. “Of journeying the benefits are many: the freshness it bringeth to the heart, the seeing and hearing of marvelous things, the delight of beholding new cities, the meeting of unknown friends, and the learning of high manners.” – Muslih-uddin Sadi

Jack Li

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