On this episode of A Springtime Story, we will visit the beautiful Summer Palace, watch a stunning acrobats show, have dinner like a boss in Houhai, ride on a Bei-bei (what the hell is that?) and discover first hand what China is very well known for worldwide – their rude antics.
The Summer Palace is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing, China.The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometres, three-quarters of which is water. UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.” It is said that the emperor use to come here for his summer vacations but is now a popular tourist destination that also serves as a recreational park.
Do not let these pretty pictures fool you, it took Zizi and me a lot of effort to get these picturesque shots because WE WERE CONSTANTLY PHOTOBOMBED! A very beautiful place but we were rudely welcome by a massive crowd that we found out were from the various province in China. We also learned that China was having a long national holiday weekend due ‘Tomb Sweeping Day’. This explains the cheap flight tickets.
This was our third day and I have somewhat seen and learned about their famous rude antics. But nothing would prepare me for the scenes of today. So here I have made a list to warn travellers to Beijing.
- They do not queue. They would push through to buy their tickets and drinks. Especially if they are from the province, do not expect them to have etiquettes.
- Two words – Photo Bombers. The scenic view and architecture in Beijing would stop you in your tracks in awe. But just when you take out the camera to snap a picture, someone would pop into your photo, sometimes a bunch of them and while digging their noses. Its extremely annoying and frustrating. They will not give you that space in between the scene and your camera even when you are obviously posing for a photo. So through this experience at the Summer Palace, we learned that if you’re going to take a photo in Beijing, make it snappy. I have the skills of taking fast shots now thanks to this trip.
- We saw a kid taking a poop in the middle of the pathway on the palace grounds! Lord knows the emperor must be rolling in his grave! This was the day I learned that young children here do not wear diapers, instead, their pants splits open when they squat. Talk about convenience. I pity the poor cleaners.
- They stare at anything that is alien to them without having any sense of pardon or sparing a thought. We walked by a crowd apparently very engrossed at a child that was screeching. Thinking it was a child in trouble, we looked over only to realise it was a Caucasian mother changing the diaper of her baby. This they stared. But the kid that shat on the pathway, no big deal.
- To further elaborate the last point, they stare. And I mean stare in your face. Especially if you’re like me, not Chinese or Caucasian, I was pretty much an alien specie there. There was a moment when Zizi and I were taking a break when a group of them stared at us and started talking to each other in mandarin wondering where we were from. Zizi saw a cleaner and asked her in mandarin if she would like to take her empty bottle, the group got stunned and started whispering frantically to each other, haha!
Overall, we felt we would fall in love with the Summer Palace as the architecture was truly mesmerizing if not for the crowd. So we headed to Xidan next in hopes for some retail therapy.
Xidan began to develop in the Ming Dynasty as an area alongside the passage for traders from Southwestern China to enter Beijing. Restaurants and shops were eventually built for these merchants. As the Western part of the city became the residential area for officials, Xidan became a commercial area. Currently, the area is known throughout Beijing as a shopping area. Many malls and department stores have stores within the area.
I was quite amused that the escalator did not have a shelter. Weather proof? Anyways, our attempt at retail therapy was unsuccessful as we didn’t find anything that we like and the crowd was a turn off (remember, long public holiday weekend). Had a late lunch after half a day of fighting the crowd.
A taste of “non-touristy” chinese food at a local hotspot in a shopping center there.
Chinese acrobatics consists of balancing acts and other demonstrations of physical skill traditionally performed by a troupe in China. Many of these acts have a long history and are still performed today.
If you ever come to Beijing, watch the Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatics Show, you will be amazed at the stunts that they’re capable of! I was at the edge of my seat watching and gasping! They got a standing ovation at the end of the show and they deserved it.
Right after the show, Zizi and myself took a cab down to Houhai to meet Amir and Elham for dinner.
Houhai ‘Rear Sea’ refers to a lake and its surrounding neighborhood in Xicheng District of central Beijing. Houhai is the largest of the three lakes, along with Qianhai ‘Front Sea’ and Xihai ‘Western Sea’, that comprise Shichahai, the collective name for the three northern-most lakes in central Beijing. Since the early 2000s, the hutong neighborhood around Houhai has become known for its nightlife as many residences along the lake shore have been converted into restaurants, bars and cafes. The area is especially popular with foreign tourists visiting Beijing, expatriates and the younger generations of locals.
There was a lady in bikini dancing on a pole in this club. Look at the amount of tee-kos outside eagerly waiting for their turn to enter. This seemed like the hottest club of the stretch and all it took was a pole, bikinis and stilettoes. And here, all we can think of was, “Damn, she must be freezing!”.
It took us quite awhile to decide where to eat and we were afraid that most of the restaurants were about to close so we decided to go to this ‘atas’ restaurant overlooking the lake with a big bright signboard at its entrance.
The food was good but we ordered way too many dishes while Amir smoked three sticks at a time in attempt to finish his cigarettes. Dining by the lake, wasting good food and smoking like a chimney. Now this is what we call #likeaboss.
After dinner, we decided to make our way back to our hotel. We flagged down several cabs but they were being snatched by people (getting pretty immune to the rude antics). So we decided to walk further down in hopes for a better chance at getting a cab. It was almost an hour long walk and just when we thought that that was bad, the street lights started to switch off on us one by one. It was about this time that we saw the Bei-Beis appearing.
What is a Bei-Bei? Back track to yesterday, while the four of us were walking around town, we spotted this tin-can lookalike mobile car. What is that?
Zilin: “Looks like a Tuk-Tuk”.
Me: “Tuk-Tuk of Beijing?”.
Amir: “Lets call it, the Bei-Bei”.
We learned that the Bei-Bei is supposedly an unlicensed mode of transport. So while walking down this street from Houhai, we spotted a Bei-Bei driving against the traffic! It immediately woke us up from our daze lol! There were a number of Bei-Beis that approached us but were rejected. But as it got later and the streets were getting really dark and quiet, there was really no other option. So there we were, taking the illegal mode of transport in Beijing. We split Bei-Beis and dropped off together at the same area near Amir and Elham’s hotel. It was a very bumpy and crampy ride with no seatbelts, much like sitting in a tin-can and it was impossible to take any pictures. But no complains, the Bei-Bei rescued us tonight.
Here is a picture of an empty Bei-Bei. It was very hard to get a picture of a Bei-Bei since they did move fast and are illegal so I suppose that explains it.
Day 3 has been a very stunning and long day, full of surprises. Three more episodes to go so stay tuned!