summer palace of the emperor
We set out pretty early, found the railway station, booked our tickets to Taishan the next evening, mike was there also, then went to the subway, mike split from us, up onto Tianamen Square once again. We wandered along and across the entire square, watching the guards and tourists, taking stupid photos until we reached the other end where shops sprung up and curled into small side streets with markets and more restaurants. We spent some time there, purchased the worst cigarettes we have ever tried, then made our way to the bus stops to catch one that went out to the summer palace of the emperor. It took about one hour to find the right bus, after asking lots of people who gave us the wrong instructions. We finally boarded the right bus, at around 3:30 pm, found out that the journey was about one and a half hour by bus and the palace closes its grounds at 6:30. We were all a little disappointed at the outcome, knowing that today was the only day we could do this since tomorrow we would be going to the Great Wall, but we bit the bullet and accepted that this would have to be the rushed tour.
Upon walking in the gates of the summer palace an immense rush of wonder and excitement washes over you. I felt like i was able to see and smell and feel for the first time in my life... all the treasures waiting to be uncovered were behind these majestic walls.. and we had to hurry. We spent maybe 30 minutes running like ants through all the small alleyways, through the temples, up and down strange staircases, even running through a toll booth (since that area had closed but we wanted to see it) and ending up with the women chasing us, but not being able to keep up with us in our ascent the the top of a beautiful temple which offered us a view of the whole compound. It was amazing.
We then climbed down, and spent more than one hour walking around the lake that sits in the middle of the palace garden like a mirror banished to the ground. This was my favourite part of the day, watching the sun sink his face beneath the gentle ripples caused by the lazy wind. The sun treated us that night, turning into so many shades and colours that we simply sat there gasping at the changes every minute or two. I smoked a cigarette and wrote the following poem while sitting on a rock at the lakes edge, where the willows fell over my shoulder and slept on the surface of the water.
as the trees rested in the waters reflection i looked
inside, and found peace. the mountains looked serene
as the sun passed them to his bedside abode, the swans
graced the lake, frozen in slow motion when i closed
my eyes. all around the wind spoke to me, in the
trees, through the rocks.. through the smoke of my
cigarette, reminding me that i was not alone, but more
complete than i had ever been, more loved in this
beautiful desolation than i had ever been in the
company of friends, more understood by the waters
murmurings than by the empathy of shared souls, more
at peace with the sunset than i had ever been gazing
into her eyes.. it was here that i was true, in this
painting of blue cast across a golden sky.
By the time we walked around half of the lake the sun had already set and we walked the rest in darkness, staring up at the stars of China. We made it back to the entrance where we met up with fredde ( he split up at the beginning to take his own tour) and walked to the bus stop. We arrived back in Beijing late and decided to go looking in the markets behind Tianamen. We ended up buying lots of souveniers, chinese silk...etc.. things we would be proud of bringing back but hated carrying the rest of the trip on our backs. We ate at a small cosy restuarant beside the road, listening to the drunks insulting each other in strange tongues. On our exit from the restaurant a couple of men in the bar opposite waved us in to play some drinking games but we were far too exhausted. We almost got lost on the way home, but eventually found our way to the subway. Due to what can only be explained as tiredness we got on the subway in the wrong direction (this is virtually impossible if you have any sense at all) and had to retrace our steps and return at the next stop. We finally got home, the others headed for bed, i sat and watched TV for a while with Mike and listened to his stories about a night out with a friend which ended in far too much beer. I then went to sleep.