Summer Palace & the Olympic Village

Beijing Travel Blog

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Summer Palace Entrance

Our first destination for this tour was the Summer Palace and I am really glad we had a tour guide to tell us about all the history.

It was amazing just how much history there was and just how extravagantly all the emperors lived, to the point that they ended up bankrupting the country a few times. Their extravagance also ended up preventing them from maintaining a military, including buying ammunition, and was easily defeated by a French/British alliance, late in the 19th century (I think).

Some interesting tidbits about the emperors:

- They ingested mercury to increase their lifespan. :o)

- The palaces here had a unique AC/Heater system that used ice or fire under the floors, with a unique brick.

- One of the Emperoress loved the peasant life so much that once a week she would have all her servants dress up and buy and sell things around a mock village on the ground.

- 1908 was the year of the first Imperial telephone system, that communicated with another palace in Shanghai (I think).

- Emperors are sometimes crowned at a young age that the mothers were intended to take care of the empire, until the child married to the woman that will be Emperoress (he also had many wives).

- Chandelier in the mother's chamber was made in Germany, not China (ironic given the present). 

- The lake could be lit up at night, like it was daytime, which is a good thing since that provided nighttime entertainment, for royal family, plus alcohol.

- There was a long covered path that is apparently the longest in China, which is made up of 273 rooms (a room is made up of 4 pillars) and it is an odd number because that was more positive. Even numbers are more negative and is typically associated with cemeteries.

- The Buddhist Temple is on the man-made hill and is associated with a birthday of Buddha. The hill was made from the land that was removed from the lake. The hill from the lake thing is a Feng Shui thing.   

After the palace we took the bus to our first lunch restaurant, which proved to be a typical type of lunch for us. I ended up really enjoying Chinese food and you will be glad to know that I hardly ever used a fork. I think the most interesting thing about the meals that we ate out is the concept of the "lazy susan" and the small individual plates.

Tah Chi Racquetball
It was really pleasant from individual servings on a big plate that we are use to in American.  

After lunch, we went to a black pearl factory, which was interesting in that we got to learn how pearls are harvested; but I believe this is a deal the Chinese government made with the tour companies since it is mostly to encourage us to buy stuff. This is just a warning if you go with a tour group. The positive side is the items in all the factories are guaranteed by the state, which you cannot say about the street vendors. This means that you get what you are told you get and not a cheap replicate.

After the factory we went to the Beijing Zoo to see the Panda's and only the Panda, which at first I thought was the whole zoo. The pandas, were what else cute and what you would expect. It was very cool to see some young pandas that were moving around, as opposed to the standard old position of sleeping and eating. It sounds like China being China they bring in younger pandas for big events. For example, there was a whole building built for the Olympics and another one apparently built for the 1990 Asian Games.

These are now home to the “older” pandas.

All this talk about panda's brings me to a joke I heard:

A panda was eating at a restaurant and after he was finished eating he walks away without paying. Well the waiter chases after him and yells, "Mr. Panda, you forgot to pay." When he finally catches up the panda turns around and shoots him. Finally, when the police come and asked him why he shot the guy, the panda said, "Look up panda in the dictionary." Well the policeman did and let then had to let him go. The entry for panda said "Eats, leaves and shoots."

Next, since we had the time we walked around the Olympic Village, which I know is not news to some of you; but it was really amazing to see and to see just how much space it all took up. We did not go inside any of the buildings; but just looking at these buildings in real life was amazing, especially "the bird's nest." It is however interesting to note that the stadium is so expensive to operate that no one can afford to rent it out, even for a day. I believe the government is trying to find ways around that, by possibly putting in vendor stations and other things.

It is also cool to see that the water cube is see-through. This is something I did not get from TV; but I guess it makes sense since the building is basically a giant bubble.

Before heading back to the hotel we stopped in a supermarket, for those who wanted to buy supplies at non-hotel prices. For me it was cool to just walk around and see the store. It almost looked like a Wal-mart in that it was not just a food store; but I know this one was not. There are apparently Wal-marts in China, thorough. I did not buy anything today; but I did end up finding it again from a walk another night.  

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Summer Palace Entrance
Summer Palace Entrance
Tah Chi Racquetball
Tah Chi Racquetball
Buddha Temple on man-made hill
Buddha Temple on man-made hill
United States of America (Beautif…
United States of America ("Beauti…
Chinas first phone
China's first phone
The rock that bankrupted China, ag…
The rock that bankrupted China, a…
Made in Germany. Please note this …
Made in Germany. Please note this…
Partial of the 273 rooms
Partial of the 273 rooms
Black pearls
Black pearls
Bird Nest and Downtown Beijing
"Bird Nest" and Downtown Beijing
Olympic Center
Olympic Center
Water Cube
"Water Cube"
photo by: Deats