Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bei Hai Park and the Summer Palace

Random people wanting a photo with the foreigner!

On my last evening in Beijing I decided to take a walk through Bei Hai park which was recommended by one of the students in Nantong. Situated in the middle of Beijing this expansive area is basically two areas. The first is a beautiful park surrounding a lake with numerous walking paths and gardens. The park was very busy with many people out for a stroll. I sat on a bench for a while, people watching. One woman strode purposefully while loudly clapping her hands. A gentleman was following her but I am not sure if they were together or not. I made a mental note to look up this practice of loud clapping as I noticed others doing something similar with variations. Some of the strollers were clapping their chest or underarms. I assumed that this ritual has some meaning or else I had stumbled upon a park frequented by persons that have issues.

Beijing's version of the hot dog cart!
Another section of this area is a bustling nightlife area filled with bars, restaurants and people. I had a quick stroll around but being exhausted from my marathon hike on the Wall earlier, I opted to make an early night of it and head back to my hostel.
I slept in for the first time on this little adventure to China and decided to spend my last day visiting the Summer Palace. After a rather lengthy subway ride I exited the station somewhat disoriented. It is often difficult to determine the direction in which to travel when exiting an underground so I followed the crowd down a very busy street filled with every variety of "hot dog cart"  imaginable. Everything from peaches to cantaloup on a stick to roasted corn is available. Deciding to test my gastronomic constitution I purchased a wrappy thing with egg and what looked like a hot dog. Quite a delicious little snack.

The Summer Palace is an expansive park area surrounding
Summer Palace, Beijing, China
a lake with many restored buildings. To reach the Buddhist Pagoda I was once again faced with an endless set of stairs! Now I know why the Chinese are so slender - it's not the food, it's the damned stairs! The Palace was filled with many tourists and since seeing a white foreigner is still somewhat of a novelty to many Chinese, I was quite a celebrity with many children staring and others wanting to take a picture with me.
Everywhere I have visited in China there are the recycle people. Now I'm pretty sure that these individuals are not exactly hired as they are usually the very elderly and usually women. They roam the streets, parks, and tourist sites armed with a bag or basket and a pair of tongs. They sift through the garbage and walk the street and pick out water bottles from where-ever they have been deposited.
Recycle Lady
These people are everywhere. They seem to be lurking and hiding all around because as soon as you place a bottle into the recycle bin then they miraculously appear, snatch it out and deposit it into their container. As I strolled along the lakeside I noticed one of these women and handed her my freshly emptied water bottle. Now usually, I am quite sensitive about snapping photos of people and I could have pretended to take a scene shot and then zoom in on this woman at her work, but instead I made the international hand gestures for photo and pointed at her. She nodded and quickly smiled and posed for me. I managed to snap one picture and was about to snap another when a very loud angry gentleman waved his hand in front of my phone and began yelling at me. I can only surmise that he felt I was being impolite or else he does not want foreigners to know that the elderly in China need to work by collecting bottles. I said sorry and moved on before he grabbed my phone. When a large Chinese man yells at you with his arms waving it can be quite intimidating!

Best drink ever! Cold yoghurt in a glass bottle. Famous Beijing drink.

I finished my last day by revisiting Tiananmen Square and Mao's Tomb. Paying 15 yuan, needing to check in my knapsack (and therefore stuff every available pocket with my important items - money, passport, iPad, iPhone, credit cards), and undergoing a very thorough pat down by security, was really not worth the visit. Ended the day at Bei Hai park where I treated myself to some Beijing Duck before collecting my bag and heading to the airport.

North Gate 
I was at the airport early and sat at my assigned departure gate working on my iPad while smugly congratulating myself on successfully making it this far on my trip without any major problems. The waiting area had steadily filled and occasionally I would hear an announcement in Chinese followed by English. I continued to work away and assumed I would hear an announcement to board. At one point I noticed many people standing and hurriedly leaving the area. I started to become concerned when I saw that almost the entire area had cleared out so I quickly packed up my knapsack and headed to the desk where I was told that the Gate had been changed. The announcement had been made in Chinese but not English! Next came my mad dash with my wheely backpack to what seemed to be the other side of the airport. They were just finishing up with the boarding as I arrived. As I took my seat I mentally made a note that it is important to not become too smug and to stay alert!

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