Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Summer Palace & Beihai Park: In Pictures

The day before yesterday we went to Beijing's 颐和园 - pronounced yiheyuan. For many years it served as the summer getaway for the Chinese imperial family. Its built up in the hills and the views of Beijing are beautiful!

To get to the summer palace, we had to take a 40 minute subway ride... even though the summer palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Beijing's most popular historic sites, the subway was, for once, super empty. I took a picture because its crazy that there was hardly anyone on there and I somehow doubt I will ever see it that empty again. Usually there is barely standing room let alone open seats!

I just thought it was a cool shot

Gorgeous view!

A respite from the heat

Our "taxi" back to the subway station. With the way they drive around here, I was scared... but we made it unscathed!

A close-up of the pretty door from my other post. Here you can see the Buddhist carvings really well. It was really interesting because there was a woman who would bow in front of things like this. At one altar, which we weren't allowed to take pictures of, she would donate money, but first would lift the money up in front of her and present it to the statue, then put it in the pot and bow again. It was really cool to witness this cultural aspect & religious display.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, clear skies & sunny, so we took a taxi to 北海公园beihai gongyuan, or Beihai Park. Beihai Park is an imperial garden that was originally built in the 10th century. The structures inside were built to replicate famous sights across China.

I loved all these pretty red lanterns.

These were hanging in the trees, its the Chinese character 福, or fu, which is a symbol of fortune.

She was practicing her calligraphy. People do this periodically throughout parks, usually away from crowds, and for their own practice, not for money.

These pavilions were so cool, they were packed with Chinese people playing traditional Chinese music and singing Chinese songs. It was so much fun to catch a peek into this aspect of their culture.

And my favorite picture of the day, because there is just something so China about it - this is no longer in the park.

A couple more tidbits:

1. I used my first Chinese toilet. I felt like this was somewhat of a hurdle and I am proud to say I have my first use out of the way and it wasn't so bad! You don't have to touch anything in the stall so its actually really clean. I promise I will stop talking about using the bathroom from now on.

2. Eating here is so, so cheap. We can pay a little over a dollar for about 12 baozi - a delicious steamed bun, usually with meat or veggies inside. But, I also paid 1.50 USD for 1 mini-size snickers bar. Going to have mom send me some.

3. Speaking of baozi, I ate at my first not-quite-street-food-yet-not-really-a-restaurant. It was delicious, and I didn't get sick (fingers crossed!)

4. Taxis here are SO cheap. We spent at least 35 minutes in a taxi yesterday and only paid 5 U.S. dollars. Imagine that in New York! Not to mention hailing a cab is 1. totally easy and 2. extremely fun.

5. My husband stumbled on a "dating market" the other day. He was shooed away before he could get pictures. Chinese parents go to this park, set up booths "advertising" their son or daughter - their sex, age, educational background, hobbies, etc. - and set them up on blind dates with the children of other parents who are there. Its a really interesting cultural phenomenon - can you imagine your parents going to a park to do this in order to find you a match? We are going back this weekend and I will get pictures for you guys!

6. We are planning our first trip within China. Next month we are going to Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. I know this is probably a long shot, but have any of you been? If so any recs? At first my husband had me on an overnight bus... I told him he has to break me in slowly since this is our first trip, and to a somewhat remote place at that! hah. We are going to stay in a Mongolian Yurt for a couple nights. Wish me luck.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!



  1. LOL! The summer palace was the first place we went. Gorgeous pictures! How did you go so m=long without using one of the toilets? I actually ended up liking them better.

  2. Amber - through good planning, that is how! and minimal water drinking, which I learned is not a good plan... I'm dehydrated! I am so thirsty I am gulping water down. My friend who has been living here agrees that she prefers them.

  3. Something funky is going on with the comments. It shows 2 comments, when you click, 0. Weird.

  4. how exciting! My hubs did a tour of China and went to the different palaces for the various seasons. Including this one. He loved China. We still have the huge China art scrolls which he loves to stare at and daydream. ha.
    He said they really stared at him like he was an

  5. GAH I have no idea what is up with the comments!

    April - a lot of them definitely do stare!! hah. When we were at the summer palace, TWO groups of 20 tourists (Chinese from other provinces) stopped us and took pictures with us. We were surrounded by them, holding their peace signs.. so funny. I wish we had a pic but we have an expensive camera and don't like to give it to people we don't know to take our pics! Anyway, I still haven't been out alone yet! Its sort of intimidating, sticking out soo much... but, any day now I will HAVE to venture out on my own. Its silly. I am glad your husband enjoyed it here!!

  6. Lovely pictures, Steph!:D

    I know, right, food is really cheap in Asia!:D

    Happy Thursday!:D
    ...and everything girly under the sun!

  7. Pretty pictures! You are such a good photographer. Love the pavillion shots. :) You and your husband make such a cute couple.

  8. So cool. I think mostly everything is relatively less expensive there. With the number of people there is always someone who will offer services and products for cheaper. My friend works at a Four Seasons in Shanghai and she says it is not as expensive to stay as in the states. Curious, your internet access doesn't seem to be affected, I have heard that there are restrictions.

  9. Couture&Crayons - my internet access is definitely affected, but I have a way to still use this, & google, & FB... but I don't want to get into how;) But yes there are big access issues! I checked the price of the Ritz for this weekend, actually and a normal room is 278 USD, so I think its cheaper but not drastically so.

    Diaryofashopper - thank you! I have a good camera so its easy to take pretty decent pictures... lol! I actually know nothing about photography & TRY to be artistic, but often fail, haha!!!

    Marie - thank you! yeah the food price is amazing!

  10. Very nice photos! love to read your stories!

  11. I look forward to these posts. I love seeing photos of your adventure and reading about cultural quirks. The dating park sounds like a hoot! And the scenery and architecture is breathtaking!

  12. Thank you Phuong!!

    And Jessica - so sweet, thank you so much! I am really happy when someone enjoys these posts!

  13. I can't believe this dating market thing !!
    Sounds like you guys are having a great time, I'm so happy for you :)

  14. Thank you for sharing! I love reading your blog! Hope you keep having nice weather with good air quality!

  15. Your pictures are so awesome. I love all of the color in everything. So much better than the concrete jungles over here.

    Sounds like you are having a blast!

  16. Great photos... This place is simply amazing!
    An hug *_*

  17. I love baozi, yum! It is very inexpensive to eat out there, it's awesome. I didn't know about the dating booths, that's hysterical! Love your pictures and updates, keep them coming!

  18. Love these pictures! I love learning so much about the culture, can't get over the dating booth! Parents do know best though right ;)

  19. GORGEOUS photos
    you have a great blog, keep it up
    and thanks for the comments, they mean the world!


  20. Steph!! Isn't the Summer Palace off the hook?? Sooo pretty! I loved the doors too. Took TONS of pics of doors. :) I didn't make it to inner Mongolia, but I had friends who did and sometimes the overnight buses/trains are the best. Because they go ALL the time. You have a private car take you, sometimes they are not as experienced. I will say that your use of the squatty potty is awesome! The first time I used one, I almost slipped on what I hope was water and almost landed IN the floor. :) hahahahahaha. YIKES! Do they have Ke di's in Beijing? They had them all over Shanghai and Snickers and Skittles were a big thing there. The snickers never tasted the same, but it didn't matter, it was chocolate! :)

    Your doing great so far friend!

  21. So interesting! And I just love the photos. That close up of that door is amazing! I can't stop looking at it :)

    Hope u have a wonderful weekend! xoxo

  22. There's a tag for you on my blog


  23. Hi MsHark! I am so enjoying your photos and accompanying narrative. So pretty! I heard about the dating market on a US news show before and I think whatever helps is a good thing, unless of course, the parents totally get it wrong!

    Have a great weekend and much love,

  24. Wow, I truly know so little about China, their culture just seems so intriguing and so, so foreign.

    Although I might not mind if getting a date was as easy as sitting in a park with my bio displayed, haha.

    Chic on the Cheap