Day 18 Olympic Stadium, Summer Garden
My knees and thigh were starting to twinge yesterday evening, but they seemed fine this morning. Clearly, the time I've spent walking daily on this vacation have toughened up my leg/feet muscles such that a 'short' jaunt up the Great Wall is no longer an ordeal. XP
Anyways, this morning we made a stop at the plaza where all the Olympic buildings were. We didn't actually go inside any of them, though they are supposedly open. We did take some photos of the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube, and the... Dragon hotel thing (with the IBM office on the 'head'!).
After that we headed off to the Summer Palace, entering through the eastern gate. We passed a couple of halls, and I think but am not sure we found the courtyard where Dowager Empress Cixi had supposedly imprisoned one of the late Qing emperors (where was our guide?!).
The trip down the Long Corridor was cool. I tried to pick out all the images that I could recognize the stories of, and had fun telling the tales to the twins. Unfortunately, I spent so much time talking that I didn't get to take as many photos of the corridor pics as I wanted to. I did note that there was a huge variation among the quality of the art - some of them look very obviously restore/repainted, while others look like they are still in their original state from the Ming/Qing. Our tour guide said that the whole corridor had been restored recently in '06-ish, but given some of the other inconsistencies that I caught her at, I wasn't sure if her statement was accurate.
(BTW, if anyone can tell me, is the "official" story still that Cixi used money that would have gone to the Qing military to build/restore/expand the Summer Palace, or has that been reduced to a vicious rumor?)
All too soon, we finished the Long Corridor and hand lunch at a place where they supposedly serve authentic Imperial cuisine (or is it just cuisine served in Imperial style?)... Frankly I wasn't too impressed with the place or dishes, but then, I guess I prefer minimalistic aesthetics to a lot of the gaudiness of the Ming/Qing styles.
My aunt had her heart set on visiting the Suzhou Street area toward the north side of the garden. Our tour guide tried to talk us out of that plan on various reasons including that there was nothing much to see and it was too long a walk. In the end, my aunt had her way, and the kids actually enjoyed the climb over the shallow hill over to the Suzhou Street area (they love to climb, period *shrug*). Since we didn't get to visit Guilin/苏杭 on this trip, it was a cool intro for the kids of China's version of Venice. I snapped quite a few photos as well.
After that, we made our way back to the shore where we took a dragon-boat ferry over the artificial Kunming Lake to where we were to exit the park. Hopefully, my photos from the boat/shore will come out ok, since the camera does horrible when shooting against the light, and I have not had too much luck in forcing a flash on the darned thing.
Today is the last of our guided tours in Beijing. Tomorrow and the day after, we'll be completely on our own. My aunt has already decided that tomorrow we'll be going to the Capital Museum (or whatever it's called). We'll probably want to take the subway since it might be easier than to get two cabs to take five people. I don't think it should be harder to navigate than Shanghai's subway...right?