The Summer Palace In Sub-Zero Winter

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Friday, our penultimate full day in Beijing was spent visiting the remaining sight recommended to us; the Summer Palace. Not too dissimilar to the Temple of Heaven or the Forbidden City, it’s a grand site with plenty of temples, impressive architecture and vast amounts of frozen water. Most of which had people ice skating on, but being the sensible types, we decided against it. To me & knowing my luck, it would be a quick ticket home. Norm’s the name…

There were several impressive sights though at the Summer Palace, mainly the marble boat which was built using money the emperor was supposed to use reforming the Chinese navy hundreds of years ago. I can’t imagine it floats very well but it looked good. Money well spent I reckon and after all, who needs a navy? Probably only Mr Cameron agreeing with me there.

Around the Palace, it was pretty quiet but there’s the usual street vendors trying to sell you butterfly stickers, bird whistles or comedy glasses. There’s also locals practicing their singing and dancing. We can’t help but imagine the whole of Beijing is a very different place in the summer when there’s a lot more life in the gardens, the people and the water. A lot busier but a lot more to see.

After the Summer Palace, we hopped on to the subway back to the hostel. Coming to the end of our time here, I think we’re still being impressed with how efficient, clean and simple the subway system is here; for 19p per trip anywhere in the city, it really trumps all over the London under ground and it’s a real triumph for Beijing, especially when it’s considered to be the older, more traditional neighbour of a modern Shanghai.

Back at the hostel, we had made plans to meet up with some guys to go out for a drink over at Hou Hai lake. This is where the young Beijing residents go for their Friday nights. A massive lake (of course, frozen over) lined with bars, restaurants and nice clubs. It was a tricky place to find at first, but worth the 15 minute walk from the subway station.

Drinks vary in price; having heard stories of 35 to 50 Yuan for a beer, we were planning to be sensible again and watch our pennies. When we got there though, we hit the first bar, paid 35 for a local Tsingtau beer, which is expensive for Beijing we thought (£3.50) so we sat back, enjoyed the live music and then moved on to a reggae bar called Roots Bar.

The music was much better, the atmosphere more lively and the beer much cheaper, back to the £1.50 we had become accustomed. A few in here and before we knew it, home time. Not before stopping for a quick MacDonalds, and yes, for those that may be wondering, a Big Mac tastes just the same in Beijing as it does back home, possibly better.

I think the Big Mac is possibly the only meal in the past few days we haven’t shared. A week in and we’re already aware of the savings that can be made by sharing a bowl of noodles or Sweet & Sour Chicken. Money that can be put to good use else where, like behind the bar maybe.

Today has been a quiet day, watching movies in the bar (although, who really wants to watch Hostel when you’re on a trip like ours?), catching up on photo uploads and blog posts. Saving money & energy for tonight’s party in the hostel. All you can eat & drink for £5.80 each. With a 24 hour train ahead, it’ll be a good opportunity to fill up on food.

Tomorrow should be interesting to say the least, we’ll be joining the masses as they leave Beijing in time to get home for Spring Festival/Chinese New Year. 24 hours from Beijing to Hong Kong in Hard Sleeper class. Apparently, it doesn’t mean the beds are hard (although we’re not holding out much hope), but you’re not really in a cabin, just a carriage full of people in rows of bunk beds, 3 beds high. Could be a true test of our patience with each other and a fair few Chinese people.

And that’s us, all up to date on the blog and as we sign off here, the photo uploads are coming to an end too so don’t forget to check out Flickr. Laters!

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