The gate and bridge leading to the Summer Palace going over Suzhou Street.
Aquiring the visas is the simple task of filling in the mandatory forms and then wait for them to be processed. It goes without any problems. To the surprise of most, we find out that we from Norway pay almost half of what the others have to pay for their visas. Of course, you usually have to get an invitation from DPRK to be eligible for a visa. Well, we have now paid the entrance ticket to the country. Tomorrow, we will fly there for real.
The two towers of Four Great Regions.
With the necessities for today finished, I once again venture out into the vast expanse of this huge city. Looking at my map, I make a decision of where to go, but it is a long ride on the subway from where I am.
The Temple of Sea of Wisdom.
One of the Buddhas inside the Temple of Sea of Wisdom.
The Summer Palace (Yíhéyuán) is an Unesco World Heritage Site that consists of a large park and lake with several palaces and temples within its confines. Once an imperial garden, in the Qing Dynasty. The lake, called Kunming, covers 2.9 square kilometres and is all manmade. The Chinese used the excavated soil to create Longevity Hill (Wànshòu Shān), upon which the majority of the buildings of the Summer Palace was built.
Tower of Buddhist Incense.
View from Longevity Hill, Dispelling Clouds Hall and Kunming Lake below.
From the northern entrance, walking into the place is like walking into a separate world. You climb up and then stand at the bridge overlooking Suzhou Street. This street is a shopping street resembling Shantang Street in Suzhou. Only instead of a street with cars running between the shops, there is a river or canal. It is just as busy as a shopping street though, but a lot more scenic. I love walking along the canal on the narrow pavements.
The Pavilion of Precious Clouds.
The Bronze Pavilion with the Tower of Buddhist Incense above.
There is a multitude of paths leading up to the top of Longevity Hill, where the Temple of Sea of Wisdom resides. Some are actually paths going through the forest, but I still follow the winding stairs through the towers and pavilions of the Four Great Regions, made to resemble the Samye Monastery in Tibet. I suspect to fully see everything that the Summer Palace has to offer, you have to invest a lot of time. With all the various paths, Longevity Hill may appear like a labyrinth.
The southern side of the Tower of Buddhist Incense.
Bustling with people near a paifang at the Kunming Lake.
If you has read about my pilgrimage in Japan last year, you know that I am truly fascinated by the Buddhist pagodas. So, there is no wonder that it is the eight storeys tall Tower of Buddhist Incense that catches my eye at the top of Longevity Hill first. It is splendid. I really would like to climb to the top of it, but I guess that it is not possible. From the front of the pagoda there is a wonderful view over the Dispelling Clouds Hall and Kunming Lake below. I do not count the number of stairs I go down on.
Interior of the Great Opera Hall.
The Great Opera Hall.
Down by Kunming lake it is teeming with people, and the Long Corridor is filled with a bustling crowd. I had hoped to have time to walk around the lake, but seeing the size of it is making me reconsider that hope. I would be pressed for time. Anyway, I make my way through the numerous halls on this side of the lake and go towards the small island I had seen from the Tower of Buddhist Incense, Nanhu Island. Out on the lake there is a variety of boats, small paddleboats for hire and the larger ferries carrying people across the lake.
Kunming Lake with Longevity Hill.
Kunming Lake, Jade Spring Hill with the Jade Peak Pagoda in the background.
After going around Nanhu Island and visiting the temples and pavilions there, not to mention looking at Longevity Hill from across the water, I cross back over the bridge with 17 different arches on it. Abandoning my hope of going around the lake, I settle for taking one of the ferries across the lake instead. It is a pleasant alternative, going slowly over the water looking at the magnificent buildings of the manmade hill. I reach shore near a boat made of marble, which replaced a wooden boat that burned down in 1860.
Longevity Hill seen from Kunming Lake.
The Marble Boat.
Time has then left and I find myself again going through the maze on Longevity Hill, on a different path this time. I really did not know about The Summer Palace before I journeyed here to Beijing and so it was a truly wonderful surprise. My only regret is of course that I did not have enough time to see it all, but then, that is making a pretty good bait for a return trip to Beijing. And I might find some time too when I return from North Korea.
One of the towers of Four Great Regions overlooking Beijing.
Four Great Regions.
In the evening, I join Roger and Paula for dinner and we got for a short night walk through the streets. Then we return to our hotel rooms for our last preparations before the journey into North Korea.
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